April 23rd, 2014

Game 18: Ausmus aggressive with Krol, Avila

Ian Krol has already stepped up in some big situations out of the Tigers bullpen, notably the 10th inning with a one-run at Dodger Stadium two weeks ago after Joe Nathan’s blown save. He has not had very good splits against right-handed hitters, either this year or in his brief big-league career, but he has shown the stuff to get right-handed hitters out.

With the bases loaded, two outs and a right-handed hitter at the plate, manager Brad Ausmus made the decision to stick with Krol after he retired Jordan Danks. It was as much about the hitter looming on the bench as it was about the pitcher in the game.

“I’ve said it before, Krol’s got the ability to get righties and lefties out,” Ausmus said, “and there was a switch-hitter behind Semien as well. And bringing him in when we brought him in also, I think, gave us the opportunity to keep [Adam] Dunn on the bench. That was part of the thought process.

“There’s only certain spots they’re going to pinch-hit. I thought they might use Dunn in [Tyler] Flowers’ spot [two batters earlier], but they didn’t. … We were trying to keep Dunn on the bench, because we certainly don’t want to see him up in a situation that can change the game.”

It was a decision that backfired once Krol fell behind on a 3-1 count and had no place to put Semien. Much like the decision to stick with Krol, the decision by Krol to go after Semien with a fastball was an aggressive one. It was a pitch Semien could drive out.

“Two-seam fastball,” Krol said before second-guessing himself. “I didn’t want to walk Semien, but now that I think about it, it probably would’ve been a better idea. But yeah, it was a 3-1 fastball, kind of just laid it in there and it was up. What every hitter’s looking for 3-1, to be honest with you. Made a mistake there.”

It was indeed what Semien was looking to hit.

“I was sitting dead red there,” Semien said. “He missed a couple up on me and one of them I check swung but that was lower and I just got extended on it.”

Said Krol: “I was thinking about throwing a changeup there [on] 3-1. Even if it was a ball, the outcome probably would’ve been a little better than what it was. But it is what it is. Short memory. You get back at it tomorrow.”

It was an aggressive decision by Ausmus, who made another once Matt Lindstrom fell behind on a 3-0 count to Alex Avila. That one had some history; Lindstrom was the pitcher whose 2-1 pitch Avila crushed for a ground-rule double to right-center in the ninth inning Monday night.

That was in Ausmus’ mind as he looked at that situation.

“That was my call. He had the green light to swing,” he said. “Alex is swinging the bat well the last few games. He just faced Lindstrom the other night, hit a ball about 400 feet to right-center, and has the ability to hit a ball out. And he took a good swing at it.”

It was a line drive similar to the RBI double he hit the previous night, only a little closer to Jose Abreu at first base. He snared it.

“It was an aggressive swing,” Ausmus said. “He hit a line drive. Sometimes you hit it hard and it gets caught. But I felt the way he’s swinging, he had a chance to win the game right there.”

It was just the fourth 3-0 pitch Avila has put into play in his Major League career, and the first for an out. Two of the previous three went for doubles, the other a sacrifice fly.

Wednesday’s lineups: Tigers vs. White Sox

Right-hander Andre Rienzo makes his first start of the season for the White Sox tonight, and he’ll face a Tigers lineup with spot starters in the corners. J.D. Martinez stays in left, while Austin Jackson returns to the lineup in center, giving Rajai Davis the night off. On the opposite side, Don Kelly starts for Torii Hunter in right, batting second.

Interesting, too, that J.D. Martinez moves up to the fifth spot, not just because it puts Martinez and Martinez back to back in the batting order but because it’s a big RBI spot and Austin Jackson has been fairly productive in the spot. Andrew Romine makes his sixth consecutive start at shortstop, but that would be expected against the right-hander.

The White Sox, meanwhile, shuffle their lineup a bit for lefty Drew Smyly, moving Jordan Danks to the bottom of the order and inserting Paul Konerko at DH.

Gameday | TV: FS Detroit, MLB.TV | Radio: 97.1 FM, AM 1270, Gameday Audio

TIGERS

  1. Ian Kinsler, 2B
  2. Don Kelly, RF
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
  4. Victor Martinez, DH
  5. J.D. Martinez, LF
  6. Austin Jackson, CF
  7. Nick Castellanos, 3B
  8. Alex Avila, C
  9. Andrew Romine, SS

P: Drew Smyly

WHITE SOX

  1. Marcus Semien, 3B
  2. Leury Garcia, 2B
  3. Jose Abreu, 1B
  4. Dayan Viciedo, RF
  5. Paul Konerko, DH
  6. Alexei Ramirez, SS
  7. Alejandro De Aza, LF
  8. Tyler Flowers, C
  9. Jordan Danks, CF

P: Andre Rienzo

Game 17: Phil Coke and the incidental fastball

Phil Coke flubbed up the finish on an 0-2 pitch and turned what once had promise for a very good ninth inning into a disastrous one. He did not mess up the delivery when talking about it.

“It was supposed to be away from him and I didn’t get my fingers on top of the ball on the release,” Coke said of his 0-2 offering to Adam Dunn that became a two-run homer. “It started to get that movement that I wanted and then it came back to him at the last minute, just because I didn’t get on top of the ball. If I get on top of the ball, he either fouls it off or douses it into left. I don’t know. Who’s to say? It didn’t do what I’m supposed to do.

“It was like I threw an incidental two-seamer.”

Wait, that’s supposed to be an accidental two-seamer, right?

“No,” Coke answered, “it was an incident, because he hit that a long way. Somebody almost died. That was an incident in the OF seats. Seriously. I’m being totally honest, because he tattooed that ball. He really did. He’s probably been itching to do that to me for a long time. Hey, he finally got me. Pitch didn’t do what I wanted it to, and that’s on me. But he’s still a phenomenal hitter and he did exactly what he’s supposed to do.”

Coke, meanwhile, did not, which is amazing considering how close he came to a clean inning. It’s equally amazing that Coke managed to become a big topic on a night when Miguel Cabrera finally hit another home run and Alex Avila had three hits to build a blowout lead, except that in Tigertown, the next reason for panic/outrage is always around the corner.

Coke struck out switch-hitting Leury Garcia and left-handed hitting Jordan Danks, throwing virtually all fastballs to both. He had a 1-1 count on Marcus Semien, tried to mess up his timing with a changeup and paid for it with a double down the left-field line. Two fastballs later, Konerko sent a line drive into center to score the run and make it an 8-3 game.

Dunn was 2-for-6 off Coke entering the night, but both hits were singles. He fell into an 0-2 hole after taking a first-pitch fastball and watching a second-pitch slider hit the zone. With the count in his favor, Coke tried spotting a fastball off the plate to get him to chase. It broke back over the zone and soon left.

“He was trying to throw more of a slider/cutter thing,” manager Brad Ausmus said, “and it just backed up on him.”

The whole sequence happened so quickly that Ausmus didn’t have closer Joe Nathan ready to enter when it became a save situation. He began warming up Joba Chamberlain early in the inning because he had already warmed earlier. Ausmus went to Chamberlain after the home run while Nathan continued to warm, then seemingly had pitching coach Jeff Jones buying time with a mound visit after Chamberlain walked Dayan Viciedo on four pitches to bring Alexei Ramirez to the plate as the potential tying run.

“If I did it over, I’d probably have Joe get up, or tell Joe to be ready in case it became a save situation,” Ausmus said.

Coke’s situation, of course, is trickier. He had a game like this against the Orioles on opening weekend, gave up the game-winning hit at Dodger Stadium a few days later, and had been limited to sixth-inning duty and games in hand since then. This game seemed in hand for a while, long enough for Ausmus to plan on getting the lefty an inning.

The first two hits came from right-handed hitters, though Konerko was previously 0-for-3 with two walks against him. Dunn had some success in his history against Coke, but didn’t have a whole lot of great at-bats Tuesday in support of him.

There were no indications anything was on the verge of happening in the clubhouse after the game, and Coke’s mood was obviously loose. Most likely, he’ll get some more chances in lower pressure situations.

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