Skip to content

Decision to pull Verlander pays off for Jim Leyland

Oct 17, 2012, 12:57 AM EDT

Jim Leyland, Justin Verlander Getty Images

Sending Justin Verlander back out to pitch the ninth against the Yankees with a 2-0 lead in Tuesday’s Game 3 was pretty much a no-brainer. It’s not like manager Jim Leyland was going to turn to Jose Valverde. 115 pitches is a pretty high total to be starting an inning with, but Verlander has been there before.

At that point, the ideal would have been for Verlander to finish his two-hit shutout at 125-130 pitches. The Yankees, of course, refused to go quietly in the ninth. Eduardo Nunez battled for eight pitches and then sent a hanging curve over the wall in left. 124.

Brett Gardner didn’t reach, but he too extended the reigning AL Cy Young and MVP. He tapped out to Verlander on the eighth pitch of the at-bat. 132.

That total tied Verlander’s career high for a regular season outing. He threw 132 pitches in 7 2/3 innings against the Red Sox on May 29, 2011 and again in striking out 14 Yankees in eight innings on Aug. 6 of this year. In all, he’s had four regular-season outings of 130 pitches, 20 of 125 or more and 47 of at least 120.

Verlander’s career high for a postseason start was 133 pitches in Game 5 of the 2011 ALCS against the Rangers. He also came in at 121 and 122 in his two starts against the A’s in the ALDS earlier this month.

So, letting Verlander carry on in the ninth would have put him into uncharted territory. And the truth is that Verlander wasn’t at his best in this one, even as he was racking up zeroes against the Yankees. He struggled all night to get ahead of hitters, and the fact that it took him 17 pitches to get one out of the ninth suggested he was done. That Phil Coke had pitched so well in the series and that the Yankees lineup was stacked with lefties made it an easier call for Leyland.

And Verlander didn’t seem broken up about it after the game. While he suggested he would have preferred to carry on, he also talked about how saving him for the rest of the postseason was important.

But I don’t think that was it. I think Leyland saw those last two at-bats against Verlander and thought Coke was his best option to get those final two outs. Otherwise, it probably would have been Verlander and that 140-pitch barrier be damned.

All worked out in the end, though not before Coke made things very interesting by giving up a pair of singles. Now it all goes well from here, Verlander will make his next start on seven days’ rest in Game 1 of the World Series.

Latest Posts
  1. Ike Davis expected to be ready for spring training

    Aug 28, 2015, 11:40 PM EDT

    Ike Davis Ike Davis

    Ike Davis recently underwent hip surgery, but is expected to be ready to participate in spring training next year.

  2. Yankees outright Chris Capuano to Triple-A

    Aug 28, 2015, 11:05 PM EDT

    Chris Capuano Chris Capuano

    Chris Capuano has had an interesting season. In particular, he’s had a busy August.

  3. Vin Scully will return in 2016 for his 67th season of broadcasting

    Aug 28, 2015, 10:37 PM EDT

    scully ap AP

    Baseball fans rejoice: Vin Scully will return to call Dodgers games in 2016.

  4. Phillies could keep GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. beyond 2015

    Aug 28, 2015, 10:15 PM EDT

    Ruben Amaro Jr. Ruben Amaro Jr.

    Phillies GM Ruben Amaro, Jr.’s contract expires after the season. There’s a chance the Phillies decide to bring him back for the 2016 season.

  5. Blue Jays claim Danny Dorn off waivers from the Diamondbacks

    Aug 28, 2015, 9:42 PM EDT

    Danny Dorn Getty Images

    The Blue Jays added some depth on Friday, claiming 1B/OF Danny Dorn off waivers from the Diamondbacks.

  6. The Nationals will re-issue a Jayson Werth bobblehead celebrating Game 4 of the 2012 NLDS

    Aug 28, 2015, 9:25 PM EDT

    Jayson Werth Jayson Werth

    The Nationals weren’t happy with how the Jayson Werth bobblehead looked, so they’ll have a new one made and give it away to fans during the off-season.

  7. Giants place Matt Cain on the disabled list, tab Chris Heston to start Sunday

    Aug 28, 2015, 8:35 PM EDT

    Chris Heston Chris Heston

    Chris Heston will return to the Giants’ rotation to replace the injured Matt Cain on Sunday.

  8. Dodgers place Yasiel Puig on the disabled list, recall Jose Peraza

    Aug 28, 2015, 7:45 PM EDT

    Yasiel Puig Getty Images

    Yasiel Puig is back on the disabled list with his second hamstring strain this season.

  9. The Athletics have a travel-heavy 2016 schedule and unsuccessfully tried to have it altered

    Aug 28, 2015, 6:55 PM EDT

    Oakland Athletics Oakland Athletics

    AL West teams, including the Athletics, get the short end of the scheduling stick again in 2016.

  10. Craig Kimbrel claimed on waivers by unknown team

    Aug 28, 2015, 6:05 PM EDT

    Craig Kimbrel Craig Kimbrel

    An unknown team claimed Padres closer Craig Kimbrel on revocable waivers.

  11. Red Sox shut down Clay Buchholz for the season

    Aug 28, 2015, 5:18 PM EDT

    Clay Buchholz AP

    Will the Red Sox exercise his $13 million option for 2016?

  12. Thinking a ballplayer is hot does not make someone less of a fan

    Aug 28, 2015, 2:20 PM EDT

    Giancarlo Stanton nude

    An important manifesto from a woman who is both a serious baseball fan and who does not deny the bleeding obvious.

  13. Denard Span to undergo season-ending hip surgery

    Aug 28, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT

    Denard Span Getty Getty Images

    Rough timing for the impending free agent.

  14. Mariners demote starting catcher Mike Zunino to Triple-A

    Aug 28, 2015, 1:44 PM EDT

    Baltimore Orioles v Seattle Mariners Getty Images

    Hours after firing general manager Jack Zduriencik the Mariners have demoted one of his worst draft picks.

  15. Mariners fire general manager Jack Zduriencik

    Aug 28, 2015, 11:42 AM EDT

    jack zduriencik getty Getty Images

    Overall the Mariners went 505-595 (.459) with Zduriencik as GM.

  16. Hacking scandal fallout: Cardinals hire former reliever Randy Flores as new scouting director

    Aug 28, 2015, 11:27 AM EDT

    Randy Flores Cardinals AP

    Two months ago, in the wake of the Astros database hacking scandal, the Cardinals fired scouting director Chris Correa.

  17. Pedro Martinez wonders if bad chemistry is the reason the Tigers and Mariners are out of contention

    Aug 28, 2015, 10:30 AM EDT

    Boston Red Sox Getty Images

    Pedro Martinez is one of the smartest baseball players in living memory, but he’s sniffing up the wrong tree here.

  18. Max Scherzer gave his catchers Hublot watches for catching his no-hitter and one-hitter

    Aug 28, 2015, 10:00 AM EDT

    150614_MaxScherzer Getty Images

    I hate to use the word “classy” because its so overused in sports. But this is classy.

Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. D. Wright (2821)
  2. D. Span (2388)
  3. G. Stanton (2294)
  4. J. Fernandez (2288)
  5. F. Rodney (2130)
  1. G. Springer (2065)
  2. M. Teixeira (2000)
  3. Y. Puig (1946)
  4. G. Perkins (1927)
  5. C. Sabathia (1822)