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Phil Coke shows that anybody can pitch the ninth

Oct 14, 2012, 8:08 PM EDT

Phil Coke Getty Images

Did you ever notice that when baseball broadcasters start talking about the ninth-inning mentality and about all the setup men who couldn’t handle the closer’s role, they never go on to name names?

Moments after John Smoltz went on his little spiel about how not everyone can pitch the ninth Sunday, Phil Coke finished shutting down the Yankees for his first postseason save. Coke, closing in place of the beleaguered Jose Valverde, pitched two scoreless innings, striking out three, in relief of Anibal Sanchez as the Tigers gave themselves a 2-0 ALCS lead.

By the way, this is the same Phil Coke…

– who gave up a .396 average to right-handed hitters this year. Righties were 40-for-101 with 13 extra-base hits against him.

– who had given up nine homers in 40 2/3 career innings at Yankee Stadium. Coke, of course, started his career with the Yankees before being included in the three-team Curtis GrandersonAustin JacksonIan KennedyMax ScherzerEdwin Jackson deal that also included the Diamondbacks.

– who had a 5.82 ERA after the All-Star break this year.

Coke struggled enough that manager Jim Leyland lost some faith in him against right-handers. Coke made 20 appearances between August and September, but he pitched just 11 1/3 innings between them. He typically went a full innings in his outings early in the year (apart from Aug/Sept, he pitched 42 2/3 IP in 46 appearances).

And Coke did allow a hit to a right-hander today. Alex Rodriguez singled off him with two outs in the ninth. Somehow, Coke avoided collapsing from the pressure of the situation afterwards. He just did his usual thing (well, it’s everyone’s usual thing lately) and struck out the left-handed-hitting Curtis Granderson to end the game.

  1. dondada10 - Oct 14, 2012 at 8:15 PM

    “Phil Coke Shows that Anybody Can Pitch the Ninth Against a Team that is Really Struggling”

    Fixed it.

  2. sdelmonte - Oct 14, 2012 at 8:19 PM

    If anyone could pitch the ninth, why can’t Frank Francisco?

    • dondada10 - Oct 14, 2012 at 8:28 PM

      Francisco can pitch the ninth. It’s just that when the other team is good at baseball, he performs very poorly.

    • missthemexpos - Oct 14, 2012 at 9:56 PM

      Still can’t believe the Jays traded Mike Napoli to the Rangers for Frank Francisco!

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Oct 14, 2012 at 10:07 PM

        Go talk to an Angels fan

  3. xjokerz - Oct 14, 2012 at 8:20 PM

    phil coke just a stud……..

  4. drmonkeyarmy - Oct 14, 2012 at 8:21 PM

    So, you are using a one game sample size to draw your conclusion? Interesting….

    • yahmule - Oct 14, 2012 at 9:07 PM

      Typical of anyone trying to advance a particularly specious argument.

  5. icanspeel - Oct 14, 2012 at 8:25 PM

    I think the thing is you need a proven closer, but a lot of teams have the mentality that its the proven closer or bust. Sometimes the proven closer just doesn’t have it so it’s good to mix things up.

  6. Brian Murphy - Oct 14, 2012 at 8:26 PM

    Pretty easy to pitch a scoreless inning against any team that just wants to go fishing.

  7. amaninwhite - Oct 14, 2012 at 8:29 PM

    Here’s a name of someone who can’t pitch the ninth: Jose Valverde.

  8. tigers182 - Oct 14, 2012 at 8:32 PM

    I’m really high on Coke in these playoffs.

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Oct 14, 2012 at 10:08 PM

      Cano? Is that you?

  9. mybrunoblog - Oct 14, 2012 at 8:36 PM

    Anyone can pitch the 9th when your pitching to the 2012 post season Yankees. And by the way. Am I the only Yankee fan that wants to knock that ridiculous smile off Nick Swishers face already?

    • frank433 - Oct 14, 2012 at 9:18 PM

      Isn’t the 9th the only inning the Yankees have done anything in the playoffs?

      • mybrunoblog - Oct 14, 2012 at 9:32 PM

        Good observation Frank but I’m frustrated Yankee fan who is at the point of speaking jibberish and standing on street corners yelling at passing cars indiscriminately. The post season is getting to me……

    • stlouis1baseball - Oct 15, 2012 at 12:29 AM

      I have wanted to knock that smile (shit eatin’ grin in my opinion) off his face his entire career.
      In fact, I became convinced the ONLY time this would NOT be the case if he played for my team. Until the last couple years anyway. I have now decided I would like to knock it off his face regardless of the team he is playing for.

  10. js20011041 - Oct 14, 2012 at 8:42 PM

    Matthew, while I agree with your sentiment, it doesn’t help your cause that you use a sample size of 1 inning to prove your point. Thats a major stathead no-no.

    • RickyB - Oct 14, 2012 at 9:45 PM

      Of course, on the flip side, most managers will base their belief that a guy can’t pitch the ninth on a sample size of 1 or at most 2. The only way to determine if a guy can pitch the ninth is to give many chances. But if you fail early you have no chance of proving you can. Those that do succeed early, they get to become “proven closers” until they fail too many times or that they are Mariano Rivera.

  11. philliesblow - Oct 14, 2012 at 9:06 PM

    Have a Coke and a Smyly!

  12. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Oct 14, 2012 at 10:09 PM

    Coke did OK, but he’s no Matt Capps.

    • wlschneider09 - Oct 15, 2012 at 12:12 AM


  13. creek0512 - Oct 14, 2012 at 11:26 PM

    Closers blow more games in the ninth inning than anyone…

  14. xmatt0926x - Oct 15, 2012 at 12:46 AM

    Yeah because people who have actually played the game should go away with their meaningless opinions, Matthew. Instead, bloggers with their laptop resting firmly on their beerbelly should be consulted on these matters. Yeah…that makes sense. After all, you have all the evidence you need. Phil Coke pitched the 9th!!! It wouldn’t shock me of the Yankees tried to replace Mariano with Coke. Another deep thought from Matthew Pouliot. Did Moilina choke again tonight? I’ll have to check the game highlights.

  15. beelza - Oct 15, 2012 at 1:07 AM

    Short-minded, Is how Jim Leyland chose to patronize the Detroit home team fans. Jimmy, I’ll leave your line-ups to you and you leave the fans to act how they choose. Over 3 million of us this season have shown up at Comerica Park this year. If you bring Valverde out of the bullpen at home consider a few things: Valverde will be booed, and your decision will also booed. Their is no way, no baseball reason or gut feel or metric or sabr metric to justify Valverde taking the mound at all this season. Their will be many aspects of negativity associated with Valverdes appearance: probably gives yanks a mental bump of confidence, probably distracts Tigers bench. So if the upside of bringing Valverde out is so great that it negates all the said negative effects, so be it it’s your call. Possibly losing the home team fans to satisfy your pathological loyalty with certain players is a massive risk. High stakes indeed.

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