Thursday, October 13, 2011
Tigers' pen down to Coke and a smile
By Jeff Caplan
DETROIT -- Tigers manager Jim Leyland ruled workhorse relievers Joaquin Benoit and closer Jose Valverde out for today's crucial Game 5, a potential damaging blow to Detroit's hopes of staying alive.
"Truthfully," Leyland said, "I want to try to get through this game today with Verlander and Coke."
Leyland wasn't smiling.
Detroit's skipper is putting full faith in ace Justin Verlander, a 24-game winner who has proved mortal so far this postseason, can take it deep enough to hand off to Phil Coke to finish the job and return the series back to Texas.
Coke has allowed one hit in 1 2/3 innings of work in the ALCS. He retired both batters he faced in Game 4.
Verlander is just hoping he can pitch a game without it being interrupted and then shortened by rain. He pitched eight innings in Game 3 of the ALDS, but lost a 4-2 lead before the Tigers' offense came through for the 5-4 lead with Verlander wearing his heart on his sleeve and throwing 120 pitches.
Benoit has thrown four innings over the last three games, including two in Game 4. Valverde also pitched in the last three games totaling 4 1/3 inning. That burden caught up to him in the top of the 11th Wednesday night as the Rangers struck four four runs, including Nelson Curz's three-run blast that busted the game open.