October 2012

Phil Coke in the interview room yesterday

In case you missed it yesterday, here’s the footage of Phil Coke’s stint in the interview room Wednesday afternoon. The clip starts off with him answering a question about the young core of the team and whether that makes this success they’re having more sustainable.

And yes, this is pretty much the Phil Coke we deal with on a daily basis.

 

When (if at all) do you go back to Big Potato?

Got home from the rainout last night in time in tune in MLB Network for Cards-Giants highlights, but also caught an interesting take from Larry Bowa, who said he would use Jose Valverde in the ninth inning of Game 4 if the Tigers had a two-run lead or more. If it was a one-run game, he would still with Phil Coke.

It brings up an interesting point: IF you’re going to try to ease Jose Valverde back into the closer’s role, do you try to do it with the chance at an ALCS sweep? Do you give him a save situation at all for his first game back?

Keep in mind, it’s a different question now than it was last night, because Coke should now be available for Game 4. For that matter, Joaquin Benoit and every Tigers reliever other than Coke haven’t thrown in three days.

Why Game 4 was rained out before the rain

The skies were dry over Comerica Park as first pitch approached for Game 4 of the American League Championship Series. The tarp was nowhere near the infield. But it became obvious something was up was there were no players on the field, either, 20 minutes before game time, when they’re usually warming up. Nobody could be seen in the dugouts, and neither starting pitcher was playing catch, let alone warming in the bullpen.

Moments later, the delay was announced. Little more than an hour later, with just a few drops of rain having fallen, the game was called.

What gives?

If you remember Game 2 of last year’s ALCS, the rainout in Texas (where it actually didn’t rain at the ballpark until late that night), you know that MLB is using an abundance of caution in the postseason nowadays to try to ensure that a nine-inning game gets in. If you remember Game 1 of last year’s AL Division Series in New York, where the game was suspended after an inning and a half of a highly-anticipated pitching duel between Justin Verlander and CC Sabathia, leaving both teams to cover innings with their bullpens the next day, you know why.

If it was a regular-season game, there’s a far better chance that game starts. But MLB doesn’t want postseason series decided by teams forced by rain into long relief if they can at all help it. And they’re not going to call a clinching game in the sixth inning on account of rain. That’s not a Yankee thing, because it also happened in the Phillies-Rays series of 2008, when commissioner Bud Selig used the “best interests of the game” clause to suspend Game 5 in the sixth inning with the Phillies ahead.

The storm system coming up from Ohio was big, judging from radar images, and it was strong enough to cast serious doubts on playing through it. So initially, they made the decision to try to wait it out in hopes that it would pass through. Once it became clear it wasn’t going to move through fast enough, they decided to call it. Eventually, around 10pm, the rain picked up enough to make it look like they couldn’t play through.

Bottom line: If you know you’re not going to be able to finish a nine-inning game until tomorrow, you’re better off waiting to start it until then. There was definitely some frustration over it, including in the clubhouse, but to get a nine-inning game in without burning through the bullpen, it’s what they have.

ALCS Game 4 lineups: Tigers vs. Yankees

No chance from the usual lefty lineup for the Tigers, which in this case is a good thing. Omar Infante is back in the lineup after suffering a right thumb contusion when he made an attempt at that Mark Teixeira single up the middle with two outs in the ninth.

On the Yankees side, Alex Rodriguez is again out, and now so is Curtis Granderson. Brett Gardner replaces him in center, with Ichiro and Nick Swisher on the corners.

TIGERS

  1. Austin Jackson, CF (6-for-24, HR, 12 K’s against Sabathia)
  2. Omar Infante, 2B (6-for-29, HR, 10 K’s off Sabathia)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 3B (10-for-28, 2 HR, 12 RBIs, 8 BB off Sabathia)
  4. Prince Fielder, 1B
  5. Delmon Young, DH (8-for-34, HR, 9 K’s off Sabathia)
  6. Jhonny Peralta, SS (2-for-20 off Sabathia)
  7. Andy Dirks, LF
  8. Avisail Garcia, RF
  9. Gerald Laird, C (10-for-24 off Sabathia)

P: Max Scherzer

YANKEES

  1. Ichiro Suzuki, LF
  2. Nick Swisher, RF (2-for-10, 5 K’s off Scherzer)
  3. Robinson Cano, 2B (3-for-13, HR, 4 K’s off Scherzer)
  4. Mark Teixeira, 1B (3-for-17, HR, 4 K’s off Scherzer)
  5. Raul Ibanez, DH
  6. Eric Chavez, 3B
  7. Russell Martin, C (3-for-17, 3 K’s off Scherzer)
  8. Brett Gardner, CF (0-for-9, 4 K’s off Scherzer)
  9. Eduardo Nunez, SS

P: CC Sabathia

So is the ALCS over? Tigers don’t think so

First, the numbers:

  • The Tigers are the fifth team to take a 3-0 lead in a best-of-seven ALCS. One team, the 2004 Red Sox, came back to win it. The other previous teams, three of them, won Game 4 and pulled off the sweep.
  • Teams with a 3-0 lead in the NLCS are 5-0, with two teams going on to sweep it in four.
  • The 23 teams to take a 3-0 lead in the World Series have won it all 23 times.
  • This is the first time the Yankees have ever faced a 3-0 deficit in a best-of-seven ALCS. They were down 3-0 in the World Series in 1922, 1963 and 1976. All three times, they ended up swept in four.

Now, the matchups:

  • CC Sabathia heads into his Game 4 start for the Yankees having not taken a loss in a postseason game since the 2009 World Series. Two of his 15 wins this season have come at Comerica Park.
  • Sabathia owns the last Yankees victory this postseason, having tossed a complete game four-hitter to beat the Orioles last Thursday at Yankee Stadium for his second win of the AL Division Series.
  • He steps in against a Tigers lineup that has struggled mightily against left-handers this season.
  • However, Sabathia gave up four runs on seven hits over 5 1/3 innings in his start last Division Series in Detroit, walking six Tigers in a wild outing that ended up a no-decision for Sabathia and a 5-4 loss for New York.
  • Max Scherzer threw 119 pitches against the Yankees in April in the Bronx without getting out of the fifth inning, because he walked seven batters. However, he pitched 7 1/3 innings of one-run ball in last year’s AL Division Series against the Yankees, and didn’t allow an earned run over 5 1/3 innings with eight strikeouts in his ALDS start in Oakland last Wednesday.

New, the quotes:

  • Verlander: “It’s great to be up 30. We have to win one. But against this lineup, against this team, you never know. And I think the rest of the team takes the mentality that I take, that I took into this game, being up 20, people asked me if I was comfortable, and I said no, because you have to treat this as a mustwin. Every game in the postseason is a mustwin. You have to keep momentum on your side. And hopefully we can go out tomorrow and shut this down.”
  • Delmon Young: “Being up 30 is a great benefit right now. And we have Scherzer going tomorrow versus Sabathia. But we’re not looking at it as we can clinch tomorrow. We’re just going in there to play a baseball game. If we win, we can punch our tickets to the World Series; if we lose, we have to come back out here Thursday.”
  • Alex Avila: “I mean, we’re one win away. It’s obvious. You’re not going to get around that. It’s the mentality of getting one win at a time. That’s what we tried to do the last three games and we’ve been able to come out on top.”
  • Yankees manager Joe Girardi: You look at this and it could be a number of different things besides 03 for us. We have gotten good pitches all the way throughout the playoffs, and we will need it again tomorrow if we want to live another day.”

ALCS Game 3 lineups: Tigers vs. Yankees

If you were expecting changes in the Tigers lineup compared to their other postseason matchups with right-handed starting pitchers, you haven’t been paying attention. It might have been a little tempting against Phil Hughes, who allowed a .308 batting average to right-handed hitters to compared to just .211 to lefties.

The big lineup news tonight comes from the Yankees, who replaced both Alex Rodriguez and Nick Swisher. In their place are Eric Chavez, who hit the ball all over the fence during the Yankees’ four-game series here in August, and Brett Gardner, who could give New York an extra speed threat to try to manufacture some offense.

TIGERS

  1. Austin Jackson, CF (1-for-12, 5 K’s against Hughes)
  2. Quintin Berry, LF
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 3B (9-for-22, 4 HR, 9 RBIs off Hughes)
  4. Prince Fielder, 1B
  5. Delmon Young, DH
  6. Andy Dirks, RF
  7. Jhonny Peralta, SS (10-for-20, 5 RBIs off Hughes)
  8. Alex Avila, C
  9. Omar Infante, 2B

P: Justin Verlander

YANKEES

  1. Brett Gardner, LF (5-for-11 off Verlander)
  2. Ichiro Suzuki, RF (17-for-55, 12 K’s off Verlander)
  3. Mark Teixeira, 1B (3-for-35, 12 K’s off Verlander)
  4. Robinson Cano, 2B (7-for-38 off Verlander)
  5. Raul Ibanez, DH (3-for-29 off Verlander)
  6. Russell Martin, C
  7. Eric Chavez, 3B
  8. Curtis Granderson, CF (4-for-20, 8 K’s off Verlander)
  9. Eduardo Nunez, SS

P: Phil Hughes

Leyland: Valverde could close tonight

The first question asked of manager Jim Leyland Tuesday afternoon was whether Jose Valverde would be the closer for Game 3 if the situation warranted. The answer was maybe.

It could simply be managerspeak, leaving the opposing team guessing how his bullpen would unfold. Nevertheless, he wouldn’t rule it out.

“I’m going to wait and see how things play out,” Leyland said. “It could happen. I’ll wait and see how things play out, how the lineup looks, who’s coming up.”

Later, Leyland said he had “two or three plans in place” for how he’d go in the ninth inning. Valverde is part of at least one of those plans.

“I can tell you right now I don’t have a definite closer etched in stone tonight,” Leyland said.

World Series tickets go on sale Wednesday

By now, you know the deal: The Tigers and other Major League teams sell tickets for the next playoff round early. With a 2-0 lead in the ALCS and Justin Verlander on the mound tonight trying to give them a 3-0 advantage, though, the timing seems fitting to put World Series tickets on sale.

Tickets for potential Tigers home games in the Fall Classic go on sale Wednesday morning at 10am ET. As with tickets for the other two postseason rounds, they’ll be sold online at tigers.com and by phone at 866-66-TIGER.

Unlike when ALCS tickets went on sale last week, we know what days the Tigers would be at home for the World Series. Since the National League won the All-Star Game, the NL champion has home-field advantage. The American League champion, whether it’s the Tigers or Yankees, will host Games 3-5, scheduled for Saturday-Monday, Oct. 27-29.

Ticket sales will be limited to four tickets to one game, per buyer.

Leyland hopes Valverde’s ready “in the very near future”

There was no off-day workout in Detroit on Monday, so the media access was limited to conference calls. That included manager Jim Leyland, who continued to carefully walk a tightrope on Jose Valverde’s status.

In title, as expected, he remains the closer. In actuality, the Tigers still have a closer by committee for now, and he’s going to play the matchups. But Leyland sounded like somebody who didn’t plan on having Valverde on hiatus for long.

“I am hoping that Valverde in the very near future is ready to take back over,” Leyland said. “As I said, that is pretty important that we have him.”

Leyland has talked about the importance of getting Valverde back as a part of this bullpen. Monday was the first time he directly referenced getting him back closing, other than saying he’s the closer.

On that same conference call, however, he sounded like Valverde’s still very much a work in progress.

“We have to make sure we get Valverde straightened out,” Leyland said. So you do what it takes to win the game. Whatever you think is your best option, that’s what you do.”

Valverde wasn’t available Monday, but he said after Sunday’s win that his pregame side session with pitching coach Jeff Jones went well.

“It’s good — so far,” Valverde said.

Ticket update: Games 3 and 4 virtually sold out, about 1,500 left for Game 5

Word from the Tigers as of Monday evening was that Games 3 and 4 were sold out, though Game 3 single tickets and some pairs were popping up online at tigers.com as of late Monday night. Technically, a team can have limited tickets available and still have the game considered a sellout for attendance purposes. So if you want to go see Justin Verlander face the Yankees with the chance to put Detroit on the doorstep of the World Series, it looks like there’s still an opportunity.

About 1,500 tickets remain available for Game 5 Thursday afternoon, according to the team.

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