September 24th, 2013

Tuesday’s lineups: Tigers at Twins

The numbers for Scott Diamond this season are fairly bad. The numbers for Scott Diamond against the Tigers are fairly good aside from Miguel Cabrera. This should be a good test for how deep the Tigers’ recent struggles with left-handed starters go.

TIGERS (career numbers off Diamond)

  1. Austin Jackson, CF (4-for-20, 3 walks, 4 K’s)
  2. Torii Hunter, RF (2-for-11, walk, 2 K’s)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 3B (10-for-21, HR, 2 walks, 3 K’s)
  4. Prince Fielder, 1B (3-for-17, walk, 4 K’s)
  5. Victor Martinez, DH (3-for-14, K)
  6. Omar Infante, 2B (3-for-12, HR)
  7. Matt Tuiasosopo, LF (1-for-7)
  8. Alex Avila, C (1-for-5, 3 K’s)
  9. Ramon Santiago, SS (0-for-4)

P: Doug Fister

TWINS (career numbers off Doug Fister)

  1. Alex Presley, CF (1-for-3)
  2. Brian Dozier, 2B (5-for-9, HR, K)
  3. Trevor Plouffe, 3B (2-for-17, HR, 2 K’s)
  4. Josh Willingham, DH (6-for-20, 2 HR, 3 walks, 4 K’s)
  5. Josmil Pinto, C
  6. Ryan Doumit, RF (2-for-11, walk, 2 K’s)
  7. Chris Parmelee, 1B (2-for-8, walk, 4 K’s)
  8. Clete Thomas, LF (0-for-3)
  9. Eduardo Escobar, SS (0-for-3, K)

P: Scott Diamond

Phil Coke returning to Detroit for MRI

A day after Phil Coke threw off the bullpen mound at Target Field and felt good, seemingly feeling fine and ready to return to the Tigers relief corps, things aren’t fine anymore. He’s heading back to Detroit for an MRI on his left elbow, which tightened up on him again overnight.

“Today it was tight and sore,” Coke said. “And before I threw yesterday, I didn’t feel anything.”

Coke will undergo an exam Wednesday afternoon. What happens there is anyone’s guess, depending on the results. Even the best-case scenario, treatment and rest rather than surgery, seemingly leaves little to no time to get him ready for the postseason, which leaves the Tigers bullpen devoid of experienced lefties.

Coke is hoping for the best, but it’s clear he’s understandably nervous about what he’s going to find out, among other emotions.

“I’m incredibly disappointed right now just because the way it’s been going,” Coke said. “I feel like I’m letting everybody down. I don’t deal well with being in this current position.

“It’s a whole what-if thing. I mean, what if I told them to shut me down sooner? Where would we be right now? I don’t know. That’s what makes it so difficult.”

What Coke means is something he has said in recent days: He has been dealing with some degree of elbow discomfort for a while, as long as last October.

“I’m really apologetic to the fan base for the season having gone the way it has, because I’ve been fighting it all season, and I was fighting through soreness in the postseason last year too,” he said. “That’s what I was attributing it to, because I was able to go out and do my job and get it done and no major problems. That’s what I felt like I was doing throughout the season this year, but it must be a little bit different than I thought.”

He became a postseason hero last October when he stepped into save situations during the ALCS to mow down a lefty-heavy Yankees lineup. With today’s news, it’s looking more and more like he’ll miss his chance to repeat it and put a frustrating regular season behind him. At the very least, the Division Series seems tough to pull off if he needs any significant amount of rest.

“I was really, really hopefully that today was going to be the best day,” he said. “This is the definitive time. If you’re going to proceed forward, you need to be doing your job.”

Verlander throws Twins a curve (or 20)

Justin Verlander’s outing Monday night could go a long way towards easing the concern about him for the playoffs. They just have to get there first.

The latter should happen in the next day or two. If there’s a postseason spot hanging on his next start in the regular-season finale Sunday at Miami, they’re in trouble. If not, the outing will all be about getting him ready to roll for October.

Verlander has been talking about it for weeks, calling the postseason a deadline for him to get his game together. He’ll face way better, more experienced lineups than the Twins fielded Monday, but if he can throw curveballs like he did Monday, the caliber of hitters probably won’t make much of a difference. When he executed, he could get outs at will.

It was a tight, sharp breaking ball rather than a big, loopy curve. The movement, moreover, included a little action diving outside from right-handed hitters, which really seemed to throw hitters off. He felt good about his curveball last outing, too, despite the results. This time, the strikeouts backed up his point.

“I think I had the best breaking ball I had all year,” he said. “It was really sharp. I was able to go to it when I wanted to, throw it for strikes and expand the zone with it. Fastball location was better than it has been, and I was able execute for the most part.”

Verlander threw 20 curveballs, according to brooksbaseball.net, and threw 11 of them for strikes. He induced just three swings and misses from them, but spotted seven others for called strikes. It took him an inning or two to get it going, and he needed his slider to get him through that stage until he could feel comfortable going to the curve for strikes. Once he got it going, though, he was throwing them ahead in counts and daring opponents to try to hit it. They didn’t.

That success made up for a drop in his strike percentage on fastballs. He had been pounding the zone at a 70 percent rate on his fastballs over his previously two or three starts, but threw strikes with just 30 out of 47 fastballs Monday (63.83 percent). Seven of those strikes were swings and misses.

Add in 22 changeups and 18 sliders, and Verlander had one of his better mixes of the year going for him.

“Verlander had great stuff tonight,” Brian Dozier said. “The last time we faced him at their place, he was sharp. But he was back to his old self tonight. His curveball was really working tonight and punched out a lot of guys. So our goal when he’s going like that is to make him work and get to the bullpen.”

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