In the middle of the 6th inning on opening day my phone blew up with people asking why Justin Verlander wasn’t allowed to go back out for the 6th. Then it was questions about why Smyly was in there so long when it appeared very quickly, he was ineffective.
The Tigers got out of the jam and won the game, questions answered. However, during that game, Leyland matched up Joaquin Benoit against the right handed hitters, then brought in Phil Coke to face the left handed hitters, playing the match ups he loves to close out the game.
They won, the plan seemed to make sense, no more questions. However, in game 2, Benoit was pitching to lefty’s in the 8th and Phil Coke was allowed to pitch to righties in the 9th, almost in a “closer” fashion.
The problem isn’t that Coke is pitching the 9th. It is that closer by committee with this pen is perfectly fine. Coke is dominant against lefties, so is Darrin Downs, who pitched 1.1 innings yesterday. Brayan Villareal and Al Albuquerque seem to get everyone out, right or left, but don’t have the experience so Leyland won’t use them in the 9th. But Benoit has that experience, so he is useful there as well.
The point is, Leyland can play his righty/lefty match up game and it should work fine. The problem is when he doesn’t, like yesterday, and let’s Phil “Righties hit .396 against me last year” Coke pitch to multiple righties in the 9th inning with runners on.
I question Leyland. A LOT. But, it is only game 2, maybe this was Leyland’s learning experience, that unless Rondon is called up and starts nailing down the 9th with regularity, that he needs to stick with the match up plan. And actually stick to it.
Game 3 at 1:05 today.