Robertson pitches 3 scoreless innings, Tigers lose to Astros 11-10

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KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP)—Nate Robertson is all smiles these days.

The 30-year-old lefty signed a three-year, $21.25 million contact extension with Detroit this offseason and became a father for the first time on Feb. 28.

Robertson showed what a feeling of stability can do on Tuesday, pitching three scoreless innings with four strikeouts in the Tigers’ 11-10 loss to Houston.

“The Tigers were great to me and my family and we got that three-year deal done,” said Robertson, 9-13 with a 4.76 ERA last season. “That says, ‘We believe in you to be here and we know you can go out there and win ballgames for us over the next three years.’ That brings a lot of peace of mind into a situation. It’s a nice feeling.”

Robertson struck out the side in the second inning, all on swinging strikes.

“I think he looked sharp,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “(Robertson) is a quality pitcher. He gives you innings and that’s what you need.”

Astros ace Roy Oswalt, meanwhile, struggled in his second start of the spring.

He surrendered a home run to Ivan Rodriguez on the first pitch of the game and gave up first-pitch hits to Placido Polanco and Edgar Renteria during Detroit’s three-run first inning. Oswalt worked three innings, while allowing four runs on five hits. He struck out one and walked none.

“I know Pudge and Magglio (Ordonez) are first-pitch swingers and I threw some fastballs out there trying to get first-pitch outs,” said Oswalt, who will be the Astros’ opening day starter for the sixth straight year. “Pudge got a hold of the first one. I was trying to get first-pitch strikes and then get some work in on my other pitches.”

Houston manager Cecil Cooper shrugged off Oswalt’s outing.

“Once we get into the regular season, his location’s going to be much better and he’ll be able to mix in some changeups and curveballs,” Cooper said. “But for now, we’re not concerned with how hard he gets hit or how much he gives up. We’re just interested in getting his pitch count up.”

The Tigers took a 6-0 lead, but Todd Jones, Detroit’s 39-year-old closer, allowed six runs on five hits in one inning. J.R. Towles delivered the big hit with a three-run home run.

“Closers are never good when they’re coming in during the third or fourth inning,” Leyland said. “That’s been going on for 100 years and it’ll go on for the next 100 years. We just want him to get his work in and today it didn’t work too good. We’re not concerned at all.”

Notes

Astros closer Jose Valverde earned his first victory of the spring after working a perfect fifth inning. … Astros SS Miguel Tejada committed two errors behind Oswalt, giving him three on the spring. … Tigers OF prospect Wilkin Ramirez hit a two-run home run in the eighth inning, his second homer of the spring. … Justin Verlander will make his second start of the spring on Wednesday when the Tigers play Philadelphia in a split-squad game.

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