There's a level of familiarity between division opponents that can't be equaled, especially between two rivals with as much shared history as the Tigers and White Sox.But from Chicago's perspective, Detroit may be getting a little too familiar with closer Player Page for David Robertson's knuckle curveball, after Tigers outfielder
There's a level of familiarity between division opponents that can't be equaled, especially between two rivals with as much shared history as the Tigers and White Sox.
But from Chicago's perspective, Detroit may be getting a little too familiar with closer Player Page for David Robertson's knuckle curveball, after Tigers outfielder Justin Upton hit one 421 feet into the left-field stands as projected by Statcast™ on Sunday to deliver a 7-4 walk-off win for the home side.
According to Statcast™'s pitch-tracking data, batters had gone just 3-for-31 against Robertson's knuckle curve this season until Upton dug in at the plate with a pair of runners on and one out in the bottom of the ninth. Robertson's .097 batting average against his hook was the seventh-lowest in the Majors among pitchers who had ended at least 30 at-bats with a curve or knuckle curveball, and it looked as if that figure would drop even further when Upton swung and missed on an inside curve for strike one.
"I wanted that one back, but you don't get them back," said Upton, who entered Sunday's contest having gone just 4-for-24 in 2017 against curves and knuckle curves. "So, I continued to battle."
Emboldened by the first-pitch whiff, Robertson went after Upton twice more with his breaking ball, but the Tigers' slugger fouled them both off. After missing with a cutter, Robertson came back inside with his curve, but this time Upton was ready. White Sox left fielder Leury Garcia didn't even take a step as he turned and watched Upton's no-doubt blast sail deep into the seats.
"It was back and forth," said Upton. "We had to battle for runs; they battled back. For us to come out on top, it was huge for us."
Upton's walk-off was certainly the perfect capper for the Tigers' weekend sweep of the White Sox, and it also may help build their confidence against Robertson later in the season. One of the other three hits against Robertson's knuckle curve this year was also a home run -- hit by Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez on April 29.
In fact, of the six extra-base hits Robertson has allowed on his curve over the past two seasons, the Tigers now own three of them. Nicholas Castellanos homered off the pitch on July 24 last year.
Closers are built to have short memories, and one can be assured that Robertson will approach his next encounter with the Tigers with the confidence that he can get them out. But Detroit's sluggers will have their own confidence when they step into the batter's box; after all, they've shown the ability to attack Robertson in ways that other teams have not.
Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.