Leyland on Smyly vs. Konerko
Drew Smyly owns two saves this season through the three-inning rule: If you pitch the final three innings in relief in a victory, you earn a save, no matter what the margin. He hadn’t entered to finish out a one-run lead before, but with Joaquin Benoit off on Sunday, Smyly got the chance to stay in for the ninth after striking out Adam Dunn to end the eighth with the potential tying run on third base.
Konerko, a right-handed hitter was 4-for-6 for career off Smyly, all singles. He also entered Sunday batting .317 (20-for-63) off left-handed pitching with four doubles, three homers, nine walks and 10 RBIs. Yet he had been slumping badly for the entire series, to the point that Leyland was more worried about Conor Gillaspie, the left-handed hitting rookie behind him who had two solo homers off Tigers pitching this season.
So Leyland took a shot and kept Smyly in, with right-hander Jose Veras warming in the bullpen. Konerko was 0-for-2 off Veras, but with two walks, both this year.
“Obviously I know Konerko was 4-for-6 off of [Smyly],” Leyland said afterwards, “but he had no extra-base hits, and Gillaspie’s hurt us with a couple long balls. I wanted to be in a situation where if they wanted to leave him in to hit, I’d have the left-hander. I didn’t think it was impossible for Konerko to get a hit obviously, but I thought he’d keep him in the ballpark, which he didn’t do. So then as they changed their lineup, you’ve got Gillaspie and [Jordan] Danks, two lefties back to back, so you’re hoping to get that first out.”
Clearly, it backfired. Smyly felt like he made his pitch, but Konerko got it.
“It was an 0-1 fastball down and away,” Smyly said. “I looked at it on video. Couldn’t be in a better spot, but he turned it around. There’s nothing you can do about it. That’s why he’s such a great hitter. Cap call to him.”