Skip to content

Decision to pull Verlander pays off for Jim Leyland

Oct 17, 2012, 12:57 AM EST

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. The Yankees are going to try to get out of paying A-Rod his contract incentives

    Jan 26, 2015, 9:31 AM EST

    alex rodriguez head Getty Images

    Hey guys, if things break just right we may get another A-Rod lawsuit!

  2. Rob Manfred defends Fred Wilpon being put in charge of baseball’s finance committee

    Jan 26, 2015, 9:00 AM EST

    File image of New York Mets chairman and CEO Fred Wilpon talking to reporters at a news conference in New York Reuters

    Short version: The man knows how to budget. Mets fans can’t dispute that.

  3. Reminder: eliminating defensive shifts is a dumb idea

    Jan 26, 2015, 8:30 AM EST

    dodgers shift

    A solution in search of a problem. Or, at the very least, a solution that would be worse than the problem.

  4. Important: we have new data on Wade Boggs’ epic beer consumption

    Jan 26, 2015, 6:46 AM EST

    Wade Boggs Devil Rays

    We are approaching the day when a Hall of Famer with over 3,000 hits and a career .328 batting average will be best known for knocking back cold ones.

  5. Indians will consider extending Corey Kluber

    Jan 25, 2015, 11:15 PM EST

    Corey Kluber Corey Kluber

    Corey Kluber won the AL Cy Young Award for his great 2014 season and now the Indians will have to consider whether or not they want to sign him to a contract extension.

  6. Brewers GM Doug Melvin not looking to replace Yovani Gallardo

    Jan 25, 2015, 10:35 PM EST

    Jimmy Nelson Jimmy Nelson

    With Yovani Gallardo out of the picture, Brewers GM Doug Melvin said he’s not looking to add a notable starting pitcher.

  7. Alex Meyer willing to pitch out of the bullpen for the Twins

    Jan 25, 2015, 9:30 PM EST

    Minnesota Twins v Tampa Bay Rays Getty Images

    Twins prospect Alex Meyer is open to contributing out of the bullpen if he doesn’t win a rotation spot in spring training.

  8. Mariners sign Endy Chavez to a minor league deal

    Jan 25, 2015, 8:20 PM EST

    Endy Chavez Endy Chavez

    The Mariners added some outfield depth, signing Endy Chavez to a minor league deal. They’re reportedly close to signing Franklin Gutierrez as well.

  9. Brewers now interested in bringing back Francisco Rodriguez

    Jan 25, 2015, 7:10 PM EST

    Francisco Rodriguez AP AP

    With Jonathan Papelbon likely staying in Philadelphia, the Brewers are turning their attention back to Francisco Rodriguez.

  10. How Commissioner Rob Manfred Can Make Baseball More Appealing

    Jan 25, 2015, 6:05 PM EST

    Rob Manfred Rob Manfred

    Rob Manfred’s suggestion to ban defensive shifting isn’t the best way to address some of the problems facing Major League Baseball.

  11. Rangers doubtful to consider Josh Hamilton reunion

    Jan 25, 2015, 4:41 PM EST

    josh hamilton getty Getty Images

    MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez wrote earlier this month that it’s unlikely Josh Hamilton will finish out his five-year, $125 million contract as a member of the Angels and that a trade may even be coming this season — in the third year of the five-year deal. But we can probably rule out a reunion with the Rangers.

  12. Mike Napoli calls sleep apnea surgery “one of the worst things I’ve ever (gone through)”

    Jan 25, 2015, 3:17 PM EST

    napoli getty Getty Images

    Sean McAdam of CSNNewEngland.com shares the gory details about the painful facial surgery that Mike Napoli had earlier this offseason to help end his long battle with sleep apnea …

  13. Max Scherzer thanks Tigers fans with full-page goodbye in Sunday’s Detroit Free Press

    Jan 25, 2015, 2:58 PM EST

    1ad

    A nice gesture here from Max Scherzer, who signed a $210 million deal Monday with the Nationals …

  14. Blue Jays cut off talks for Orioles executive Dan Duquette

    Jan 25, 2015, 1:33 PM EST

    showalter duquette getty Getty Images

    Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca reports that the Blue Jays have ended their pursuit of Orioles executive Dan Duquette because Baltimore asked for 2014 first-round pick Jeff Hoffman and two other prospects in return.

  15. Rob Manfred, new Major League Baseball commissioner, suggests ban on defensive shifts

    Jan 25, 2015, 12:05 PM EST

    manfred getty Getty Images

    Rob Manfred has officially been reigned in as the new commissioner of Major League Baseball and he said something controversial in a sit-down interview this weekend with ESPN’s Karl Ravech …

  16. Yankees reject A-Rod’s apology attempt

    Jan 25, 2015, 11:02 AM EST

    alex rodriguez head Getty Images

    Another New York Daily News source added that A-Rod is looking “noticeably thinner and massless,” so you get the sense these bits of information — however truthful — definitely aren’t coming from his camp.

  17. Video: Ernie Banks remembered

    Jan 25, 2015, 9:39 AM EST

    ernie banks getty Getty Images

    MLB Network looks back on the career of Ernie Banks, who died Friday at the age of 83 …

  18. Tommy Milone had a benign tumor removed from his neck

    Jan 24, 2015, 10:40 PM EST

    Tommy Milone Tommy Milone

    Tommy Milone underwent neck surgery in December to remove a benign tumor, but he was able to resume throwing just over two weeks later.

  19. Twins GM Terry Ryan could see Byron Buxton debuting in 2015

    Jan 24, 2015, 9:35 PM EST

    Byron Buxton Getty Images

    Top prospect Byron Buxton could be wearing a Twins uniform in the major leagues at some point this season according to GM Terry Ryan.

  20. Tigers, Al Alburquerque avoid arbitration with a one-year deal

    Jan 24, 2015, 8:30 PM EST

    Al Alburquerque AP

    The Tigers and reliever Al Alburquerque avoided arbitration with a one-year deal on Saturday.

Featured video

Cubs shore up rotation with Jon Lester
Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. R. Vogelsong (5925)
  2. J. Shields (4925)
  3. I. Suzuki (4091)
  4. J. Papelbon (3992)
  5. J. Gomes (3827)
  1. J. Santana (3394)
  2. D. Fowler (3302)
  3. J. Profar (3177)
  4. M. Scherzer (2778)
  5. G. Soto (2704)