Tag: Phil Coke

2012 ALCS: Justin Verlander Dominant Again as Tigers on Brink of Sweep

This looks, well it looks far too easy. Justin Verlander was dominant again this postseason, going the 8 1/3 innings of three hit ball for his third victory in these playoffs, as the Detroit Tigers defeated the New York Yankees 2-1.

With the win, the Tigers moved to within one game of a stunning sweep and their second World Series berth since 2006.

Delmon Young’s second solo-blast of the series, making it 1-0 off Phil Hughes in the fourth inning, gave Verlander all he would need for eight innings. 

Hughes would depart shortly thereafter with a back injury. And while the Yankee bullpen was solid the rest of the night (5 IP, 4 hits, 2 walks, one unearned run), it ultimately did not matter because Verlander stymied New York’s offense.

As a matter of fact, the only hitter to reach base until the ninth inning was Ichiro Suzuki, who went 2 for 3 with a pair of harmless singles.  Eduardo Nunez hit a solo home-run to left field in the top of the ninth to cut the deficit to one.

Verlander only struck out three, but in many ways was more dominant against a more balanced Yankees lineup than the one he overpowered in Oakland six nights ago. Mixing his fastball with a change-up all night, the Yankee hitters simply could not square up the ball for the first eight innings. 

The insurance for Detroit came by way of MVP candidate Miguel Cabrera, whose double in the fifth plated Quintin Berry.

Berry reached to start the inning on an error by third baseman Eric Chavez, who was playing for the benched Alex Rodriguez. Rodriguez and Nick Swisher were benched by New York manager Joe Girardi in an obvious move to get some production out of those spots in the order.

It obviously did not work.

Having extended Detroit’s starting pitchers scoreless innings streak to an incredible 30 1/3 innings before letting up a home-run to Nunez, Verlander managed to retire Brett Gardner on a tapper back towards the mound to get out number one. 

Detroit manager Jim Leyland then removed him after his 132nd and final pitch.  Phil Coke then retired Suzuki and gave up a pair of singles to Mark Teixiera and Robinson Cano (snapping his 0 for 29 slump in the postseason).

But with the tying run in scoring position, Coke bounced back and struck out Raul Ibanez on a 3-2 slider to end the game.


With the win, Detroit is in position to sweep its way into the World Series for the second time in seven years.To do so, they will have to beat Yankees ace CC Sabathia.

The Tigers will counter with Max Scherzer as they attempt to win the American League pennant.

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Phil Coke in the Rotation Brings Smiles, Detroit Tigers Can Proceed With Plan

Phil Coke nestling in the Detroit Tigers’ starting rotation is looking better and better.

It’s been bandied about for months, that the Tigers are about to pluck uber-reliever and southpaw Coke from the bullpen and plop him among the rotation that includes hard-throwers Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, and Rick Porcello.

With this week’s free agent signing of Tampa’s Joaquin Benoitthe Tigers have essentially replaced Coke with one of the best set-up men in baseball last year.

That means Coke is free to join the rotation, which needs a lefty in the worst way.

Fortunately, making Coke a starter is doing it in anything but the worst way.

Coke was part of last off-season’s larceny that GM Dave Dombrowski committed, when he traded popular CF Curtis Granderson and enigmatic RHP Edwin Jackson and brought in Coke, CF Austin Jackson, RHP Scherzer, and LHP Daniel Schlereth.

You don’t need to wait the requisite several years to know that DD hit a home run with that deal.

All Coke did was appear in 74 games, pitch 64.2 innings, surrender just two home runs, post a fine 3.76 ERA, and stabilize the Tigers’ pen, especially in the season’s first half.

Coke was the most reliable reliever the Tigers had overall, so it was a little off-putting when the rumblings began that he might be moved to the rotation.

Robbing Peter to pay Paul, you might say.

But that all changes with the addition of Benoit, who in 2010 was as lights out as an army barracks after 10:00pm.

And if Joel Zumaya defies the odds and stays healthy next year, the bullpen will miss Coke even less.

This sort of thing usually works the other way around; it’s the traditional starter who will shift to relieving.

You’ve heard of Dennis Eckersley, Dave Righetti, Goose Gossage and John Smoltz?

All starters—and good ones—who became outstanding relief pitchers.

Coke started the Tigers’ final game last season, in Baltimore—his only big league start.

It didn’t go so well.

Coke lasted just 1.2 innings, coughing up five hits and two runs.

But that ought not to dissuade the Tigers from moving forward with the Coke Experiment, and it appears that it hasn’t.

Of course, Benoit is a righthander and Coke is a lefty. So who becomes the Tigers’ primary lefthander in the bullpen?

It could be Schlereth, a strikeout guy who has a world of potential.

It could be Fu-Te Ni, but Ni didn’t pitch for the Tigers after June 29.

It could even be Andy Oliver, should he not be traded or considered worthy of the fifth spot in the rotation.

But with Benoit, if he comes anywhere close to repeating his magical 2010 season, it might not matter if you have a consistent left-handed presence in the pen or not. It could be “lefty by committee” and that might be good enough—especially if Zumaya comes back strong.

Free agent pitchers traditionally make me squirm with uneasiness. Seems an awful lot of them go sideways as soon as the ink dries on their new contract.

Troy Percival, anyone?

Maybe Benoit, who survived surgery and missed the entire 2009 season recovering, has already had his physical calamity for his career. Maybe his terrific 2010 season is proof that he’s back and isn’t to be derailed.

The Tigers have 16.5 million reasons to hope so.

Meanwhile, Phil Coke as a starter is looking peanut butter and jelly-ish in its compatibility.

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Monday Morning Manager: My Weekly Take on the Detroit Tigers

Last Week: 3-3
This Week: at NYY (8/16-19); CLE (8/20-22)

So What Happened?

The Tigers began their new role as AL Central spoiler in grand style, taking two of three from the White Sox over the weekend, with both wins being of the come-from-behind variety.

There were also fireworks—and MMM doesn’t mean the kind spewed from the U.S. Cellular Field scoreboard after White Sox home runs.

Tigers starter Armando “Nobody’s Perfect” Galarraga got into a tussle with catchers Alex Avila and Gerald Laird in the dugout Sunday after the first inning.

The incident was captured by Chisox TV while Fox Sports Detroit chose to ignore it, which MMM finds troubling.

“Maybe this is the spark we need,” Laird said afterward about the confrontation, which threatened to turn physical and ugly before peacemakers rushed in.

All parties brushed it off as a “misunderstanding”, or some such rot. Tigers manager Jim Leyland said, “I kind of liked it.”

The Tigers have won three of their last four after starting the week ominously with two losses to Tampa at Comerica Park.

Hero of the Week

MMM has two on its radar.

First, the runner up: Ryan Raburn.

As much as it pains MMM to type this, Raburn is…Raburn is….he’s…ho….ho…HOT.


Raburn is on a bit of a tear, slugging home runs and slapping hits and driving in runs.

He’s 8-for-17 with three homers and four RBI in his last four games. His BA is “up to” .238.

But for all that prowess, MMM is going with lefty reliever Phil Coke as its weekly hero.

Coke had to play the part of Jose Valverde in Chicago, recording the final out in both the Tigers’ wins.

Valverde is nursing a sore abdomen.

Coke entered Saturday’s game in the eighth inning, and was the pitcher of record as Avila slammed a stunning two-run homer in the ninth to grab the win.

On Sunday, Coke was set to close the game again, warming up with the Tigers protecting a 9-8 lead in the ninth. As it turned out, the Tigers scored four times, negating a save situation. But Coke pitched the ninth anyway, and after a slow start (a leadoff walk followed by a 3-1 count to the next hitter), he shut the Pale Hose down.

Maybe in some people’s eyes, what Coke did wasn’t as impressive as Raburn’s hot streak. But with your All-Star closer out unexpectedly, it’s nice to be able to turn to Coke, who’s been outstanding this season in his usual role as utility man in the bullpen.

Goat of the Week

First, Jim Leyland nearly landed here.

His decision to pull Johnny Damon for defensive purposes almost came back to haunt him Sunday. Damon delivered a clutch two-out, two-run triple in the eighth inning, nudging the Tigers ahead 8-7. Then he was lifted for Don Kelly.

In the top of the ninth, with the White Sox within 9-8 and the bases loaded, Damon sat helpless on the bench while the light-hitting Kelly batted in his place.

But Kelly stroked a two-run single, giving the Tigers some breathing room.

MMM could almost hear the Tigers fan base screaming at the TV when Kelly came to the plate. Why you’d take a guy with over 2,500 hits out of the game in a slugfest is beyond MMM.

But the goat is Brennan Boesch, who was 0-for-Chicago and who is simply hurting the team right now. MMM feels for the kid, but if Boesch was named Raburn or Kelly or Inge he’d be getting blown up by the fan base for his God awfulness.

Boesch is 13-for-107 after the All-Star break, which just might be one of the worst stretches of 100+ at-bats ever seen from a Tigers player since Ray Oyler circa 1968.

Yet he plays everyday because Leyland has no one else.


Upcoming: Yankees and Indians

MMM thinks the four days the Tigers will spend in the Big Apple this week will either be pleasantly surprising or a freaking nightmare—no in between.

The Yankees look strong in their bid to repeat as World Champs. They are holding off a good Tampa Rays team. They are as talented and as deep as ever. And they play very well at home.

This has four-game sweep written all over it; MMM gets that.

But baseball is a funny game, and it will be interesting to see if Sunday’s dugout skirmish has any effect on the Tigers’ countenance, and whether that translates to success on the diamond.

As for the Indians, what can you say?

The Tribe are who started the Tigers’ freefall, sweeping four games from the Bengals in Cleveland coming out of the break. But they’re still a bad team, made up of AAAA players. Kind of like the Tigers!

The Tigers usually beat the Indians at Detroit; it’s one of the few scenarios where the Tigers are successful within their own division.

BTW, the Tigers optioned 1B-OF-DH Jeff Frazier to Toledo and recalled lefty reliever Daniel Schlereth.

That’s all for MMM this week. See you next Monday!

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Detroit Tigers Need Reliever Ryan Perry Now More Than Ever

The Detroit Tigers are in a tough predicament. They are one game behind the Minnesota Twins, one game ahead of the Chicago White Sox, and they have lost one of their best relievers in Joel Zumaya.

Zumaya fractured his right elbow throwing a 99 mph fastball against Minnesota’s Delmon Young. And just like that Zumaya was done for the season.

Zumaya had a history of injuries with the Tigers. In the past three seasons he has ruptured a tendon in his right hand and injured his right shoulder multiple times.

Zumaya’s injuries in the past few seasons have been disappointing. However, this season it is especially unfortunate considering how much he was contributing to the Tigers’ surprisingly stellar bullpen. Zumaya had an ERA of 2.58 with 11 holds and 34 strikeouts, but now the Tigers have to move on with out him.

It’s not the end of the world Tigers fans, but Detroit will need to rely on some young arms to carry the team to the post-season. One pitcher that could the club is particularly looking for some help from is Ryan Perry.

Although Perry is currently on the DL, he is expected to return to the active roster soon. He was put on the DL for bicep tendinitis in his right arm, but Jim Leyland said that it was more of a break Perry than recovery from an injury.

This is Perry’s second season with the Tigers, and since he has been in the bigs he’s accumulated an ERA of 4.32 with a remarkable 78 strikeouts.

Perry would bolster the Tiger bullpen and join fellow mid-relievers Fu-Te Ni, Phil Coke, Casey Fein, and Eddie Bonine.

With the AL Central race moving full-throttle past the first half of the year, the Tigers will need help from Ryan Perry and other young relievers more than ever to stay in the competition for a post-season birth.

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