On a night when his two primary relievers were not available, Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland put the game in the hands of Phil Coke – and Coke came through in a big way.
Coke stranded four men in his two innings of work, struck out five, and helped deliver a 2-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays. The Tigers trailed 1-0 against David Price going to the seventh inning – but pushed across two runs on an Alex Avila single, and a Jhonny Peralta sacrifice fly. Then things got interesting.
Brad Penny gave the Tigers six strong innings, but after a one out walk in the seventh, Leyland turned to his bullpen. Schlereth struck out BJ Upton for the second out of the inning, but then gave up a single and a walk to load the bases. Ryan Perry came on, and struck out Evan Longoria to end the threat.
With both Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde getting the night off, Leyland handed the ball to Coke to start the eighth. Coke struck out the first two batters he faced, then gave up a two-out double to Kotchman. After an intentional walk to Sean Rodriguez, Coke struck out John Jaso to end the threat.
Then in the bottom of the ninth, Coke again struck out the first two batters, but Johnny Damon doubled with two outs. Longoria was intentionally walked, and then Coke – with his pitch count reaching 50 – got Ben Zobrist to end the game on a routine ground ball to first. Penny gets the win, he’s now 9-9. Coke gets his first save. The Tigers have won five straight for the first time since early May, and have opened up a six game lead in the Central over the Indians, six and half over the White Sox. Max Scherzer goes for his 14th win in-game three of the four game series Wednesday, Wade Davis gets the start for the Rays.
Listen below to Dan’s call of Phil Coke’s K of Jaso to end the 8th
Listen below to Dan’s call of the final play