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DETROIT (97.1 The Ticket) The biggest Justin Verlander criticism during his career was that he couldn’t win the big game — but after last night’s win over the Yankees and his two previous starts against the A’s it looks like he has shut the door on that.
97.1 The Ticket’s Jeff Riger caught up with Tigers catcher Alex Avila after the game to talk about his thoughts on Verlander being a big game pitcher. Riger asked Avila if he thought that Verlander was going to be able to finish the game in, and replied: “He had a good shot going into the ninth there. Nunez at bat was probably one of the best at bats I’ve seen in a few games.” Nunez hit a solo HR off Verlander in the 9th on a 2-2 count after fouling off 6 previous pitches.”
Avila was then asked about the thought of Verlander not being a “big game” pitcher. Avila said, “He’s thrown great. That’s the bottom line. There hasn’t been anything different then last season. He won a big game for us in Texas.”
Phil Coke was the pitcher who was called in to replace Verlander in the 9th. After giving up back-to-back hits to Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano he faced Raul Ibanez. Ibanez had been the hero for the Yankees in this postseason with HRs when they meant the most. Tigers fans across Michigan might have held their breath in this at bat. Coke threw six fastballs before he struck out Ibanez with a slider.
Coke talked to the media after the game about that at bat. Coke was asked about the battle he had with Ibanez and was asked what went into that last a bat, Coke said, “Not giving in, throwing a lot of fastballs, lot of them away.” Coke continued to say, “Alex called slider 3-2, gotta make it count, threw it as hard as I could, luckily he swung as hard as he could and couldn’t hit it.”
When asked about what his thoughts were about facing Ibanez in that situation he said, “He’s killing everyone so my hats off to him. He’s doing thing that haven’t been done in the history of the game.”
Coke was also asked about his final pitch slider in which he responded, “Pretty good (laughter), it was a good one.”
The Tigers take on the Yankees in game 4 of the ALCS tonight and you can hear it live on 97.1 The Ticket starting at 7:40 PM.