Game 102: So much for that closer search

In a previous scenario, this was supposed to be the weekend the Phillies showcased Jonathan Papelbon to the Tigers ahead of next week’s nonwaiver trade deadline.

That scenario, of course, involved the Phillies finally falling far enough out of the NL East race that selling off big-contract veterans became inevitable. That hasn’t happened. Nor has the scenario where Papelbon picks up his past role as one of the game’s great closers.

Neither, though, has the scenario where the Tigers become desperate enough at closer to overpay for a proven arm. Joaquin Benoit has become the veteran closer, even if the experience that makes him a veteran reliever includes very little closing until this year.

In reality, Friday was a pretty good showcase for Benoit and what he has brought to the job. With a one-run lead, a pitching duel the Tigers led only with a two-run double from Alex Avila and eight very strong innings from Doug Fister, Benoit took a save chance to the brink and converted it.

In the process, he had the kind of steps would have once made fans panic about Jose Valverde, from a single to the leadoff batter to back-to-back stolen bases from Jimmy Rollins to put the tying run on third base — albeit with one out when he stole second and two outs when he stole third.

“As long as the runs don’t score, I don’t really mind,” Benoit said. “They can get three hits, and if they don’t score, I’m fine.”

Better three hits than three walks. He didn’t so much as reach a three-ball count Friday, extending his streak to six consecutive appearances without walking a hitter.

He has walked three batters over 14 innings since becoming the closer in mid-June, allowing one run on 11 hits with 19 strikeouts. He’s 7-for-7 in save chances in that stretch, and 10-for-10 on the season.

If you put more stock in one-run saves, wanting to know how a closer works with no room for error, Friday was Benoit’s fourth of those. Two of those came in April, one of them saved when Brayan Pena withstood a collision at the plate with Justin Smoak in Seattle. His other one-run save since claiming the closer job was a 7-6 win in Toronto July 2, retiring the Blue Jays in order.

As a result, every indication is that the Tigers are a better candidate to trade for a setup man than another closer. That doesn’t mean they won’t deal for a closer if the opportunity is too good to pass up, but they like their setup now, and they’re comfortable adding relievers to support Benoit closing rather than bump him from the job.

Play of the night: As defensive plays go, Laynce Nix’s mad dash and leap to reach into the right-field seats and bring back a foul ball for an out was pretty impressive. Whether it was a poor job for fans going after the ball is up for debate, though none of them were even looking over and thinking Nix might have a play.

Out of the night: The biggest outs of the game arguably came in the third inning after Michael Young’s single through the left side gave the Phillies their first lead since last Saturday. With two runners, one out and the middle of the Phillies lineup (such as it is) looming, Doug Fister regrouped and struck out Kevin Frandsen and Jimmy Rollins. He rolled from there.

Strategery: Jim Leyland couldn’t write Miguel Cabrera into his lineup again, and he had to scratch Torii Hunter with his Achilles injury. Sitting Don Kelly and starting Ramon Santiago, though, was his decision. He said he went with hitting coach Lloyd McClendon’s feeling that the switch-hitting Santiago is swinging better from the right side. He didn’t do it all evening, but he got his double when he needed it.

Stat of the game: 3 — Number of games Detroit has won scoring two runs or less this season. The Tigers won four such games last regular season, plus one in the ALCS. They won seven such games in 2011.

23 Comments

I always thought Benoit had it in him (and never bought the “Benoit said he doesn’t want to close” stuff that was circulating). Glad to see it’s worked out about as well as we could have imagined since handing him the job.

I gotta tell ya other people might have not been nervous in the 9th but I was. Not that I don’t think Benoit can’t do it, but a wild pitch coulda scored a run ya know?
.
I think those fans shoulda been kicked out fr not making it hard on Nix catching that foul ball. Shame on them lol.

Comments on the previous post about the lineup not expected to pull off a win, well the Phillies are missing big bats from their lineup as well so it make things pretty even. I take that back I think our lineup was still better and we had a pitcher who is having better year pitching than theirs. We won a game we should’ve won.

phillies road record vs DET’s home record. nuff said. we gotta win this series!

“As long as the runs don’t score.. channeling his inner Todd Jones

DD needs to keep very vigilant regarding late inning (LHP) relievers. If for nothing else than to keep the Indians from acquiring same.

out of curiosity does anyone have a list of available late innings left handed pitching? On another note, the indians are no good at hitting RHP.

Seattle’s Oliver Perez and the Angels’ Scott Downs are two of the most mentioned guys. Miami supposedly is willing to trade Mike Dunn but I don’t know if they will. By all indications, Minnesota will not trade Glen Perkins.

There was a stretch when Benoit was giving up home runs. Now he is getting the outs. This one one of the first games in a long time that i was NOT nervous. Avila steps up after looking bad on the first pitch. Great Team effort! Go Togers!

Oh Yeah, Just like JV is having an off year, so is Prince. They will be long time Tigers so let’s funnel some positive energy toward them. Prince did have that 3 run homer and JV in his next start will pitch a 3 hitter!

Can’t take Valdes lightly. We have trouble against ALL lefties—particularly at this point in time.
2E has his job on the line IMO. If his bat goes dead look for the Tigers to call up Avisail before September.

A few could be:
Darren Oliver
Oliver Perez
Javier Lopez
Mike Gonzalez
Glen Perkins
Charlie Furbush

Darren Oliver is interesting. He just gets the job done and would drool at the chance to pitch in post-season once more.

From John Wagner of the Blade:

‘Jeremy Bonderman pitched a scoreless 1-2-3 eighth inning. The raw numbers for Bonderman were pretty good: He threw 12 of his 15 pitches for strikes, throwing mostly fastballs and sliders with one split-finger fastball. Bonderman’s fastball sat mostly at 92 mph (two at 90, one at 91, six at 92), and he threw strikes with seven of his last fastballs (two swings and misses, four fouls, one put in play). He threw five sliders that sat at 81-83 mph (two at 81, two at 82, one at 83), four for strikes (two fouls, one swing and miss, one put in play). The one split-finger came in at 86 mph and resulted in a groundout to first base.

Bonderman had good command of the fastball, moving it around the zone. The slider, in general, looked more like a “short curve” with more up-and-down movement than true slider break. The one really “good” hitter Bonderman faced, Mauro Gomez (leads International League with 28 home runs, IL MVP last season), fouled off six straight pitches before lining out HARD to third base.’

Seems to me with an off day coming up Monday that it would be prudent to sit Cabby out today and tomorrow again. Maybe PH?

Those who go to the games might remember the gentleman who had the hulk hand and cheered “eat em up Tigers eat em up”? Well he and another man were killed in a hit and run accident last night. So sad.

i am not trying to be funny: do you think having a moment of silence for him would be OK with the front office/league? I mean – if you’ve been to more than a half dozen games you’ve seen him. :( i’m so sad i can’t believe this :(

I don’t see why not.

Mike Isbored‏@mike_is_bored5h
Immediately following the anthem. Pass it on. RT @adam_rickert: We need to start an #EatEmUpTigers chant at the game tonight

Cabrera playing 3B. Hunter RF

Morosi mentioned that the Tigers could be searching an infielder. That would be wise:uncertain return of Infante or Peralta situation and backup for 3B

Polanco.

Why can’t or won’t the league review the slide by Rasmus and determine it “dirty” especially now that Infante has been out longer than normal for the injuries he sustained. He was having a career season and may not be back for another 14+ days. I would like to see Rasmus suspended for 15-30 games!

Jay

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