Is Phil Coke the Tigers' new closer?

914975.jpg

Is Phil Coke the Tigers' new closer?

From Comcast SportsNetNEW YORK (AP) -- Jose Valverde didn't finish Game 2 of the AL championship series for the Detroit Tigers but retains his closer's role for now."I guess that sounds like I am mud watching, but I am really not," manager Jim Leyland said. "We will do some work with him."Valverde allowed a tying two-run double to Oakland's Seth Smith on Wednesday in Game 4 of the AL division series as Detroit lost 4-3, then gave up two-run homers in the ninth inning to the Yankees' Ichiro Suzuki and Raul Ibanez in Saturday's ALCS opener. Detroit rebounded to win 6-4 in 12 innings.Left-hander Phil Coke, who had just one save in each of the last two regular seasons, got the final six outs and allowed only one hit in the Tigers' 3-0 win Sunday."It's a tough game. You've got to be able to step up when called upon, and luckily I was able to do that," said Coke, acquired by Detroit from the Yankees following the 2009 season.After converting all 49 save chances during the 2011 regular season, Valverde was 35 for 40 this year. Leyland and pitching coach Jeff Jones were examining 34-year-old right-hander's delivery at 3 a.m."It is way too slow. The tempo is not good at all," Leyland said. "I don't even know if I am right about it, I probably shouldn't say it, but I will say it anyway, it almost appears to me that it looks like he is kind of waiting for something bad to happen. And I don't know if I am accurate on that, I may be totally wrong. But sometimes when you read a player, you can see that he's not quite as confident. And he is normally very confident. But I think there is something to this mechanical part of that. I definitely think that."He said before the game he planned to make his decision based on matchups."I cannot give you one name. I have a suggestion box down by my office," Leyland said. "The last three outs are very tough to get, and it takes a special cat in a lot of cases to do that."New York's batting order caused him to pick Coke."Today it went fine because we were really, really lucky to be honest with you," Leyland said. "Things fell in place."Coke assumes closing will not become a regular task. He expects to see Valverde pitching in the ninth inning soon."I think he absolutely has the ability to get back on track really quickly because, number one, he's a closer. That's what closers do," Coke said. "They have a bad game. They get it figured out, and they go back out there and do their job."

Hoesen leads the ways as Earthquakes take down Real Salt Lake

quakes-win-us.jpg
USATSI

Hoesen leads the ways as Earthquakes take down Real Salt Lake

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE — Danny Hoesen scored his second goal of the season and assisted on Marco Urena's second goal, lifting the San Jose Earthquakes to a 2-1 victory over Real Salt Lake on Saturday night.

Hoesen opened the scoring in the 13th minute, off a long cross from Nick Lima. After touching the ball down, Hoesen gathered it off a defender's foot, stepped inside and unleashed a left footer into the top corner from just off the penalty spot.

Hoesen's long through ball down the right side sent Urena free and from a tight angle he rolled the ball past Nick Rimando in the 68th minute.

San Jose (6-6-5), which has battled injuries and call-ups to score just 16 goals in 16 games, won for just the second time in its last seven games.

Lima picked up two yellow cards in the second half and the Quakes played a man down from the 71st minute.

David Bingham made only one save in each half but was denied his seventh shutout when Jose Hernandez scored his second goal in the fourth minute of stoppage time for Salt Lake (5-11-2).

Latest round of bullpen auditions go poorly in Giants' 50th loss

Latest round of bullpen auditions go poorly in Giants' 50th loss

SAN FRANCISCO -- Practically speaking, the 50th loss is no different than the one before or the one after, but this sport is built on milestones, and this one came quickly.

The Giants lost their 50th game on August 12 last year. This season, it was clinched when Ryder Jones grounded out in his fourth career at-bat, handing the Mets a 5-2 win on June 24. 

Bruce Bochy called losing 50 of your first 77 games "hard to believe" and "embarrassing." Johnny Cueto, who went seven strong, said the reality was "hard and sad." Brandon Belt, who got Cueto off the hook for a loss, agreed with his manager.

"That's a pretty good word to use -- it is embarrassing to come out and lose every day, especially with the group of guys we have," Belt said. "When you're losing as much as this, it is embarrassing. We're trying to do whatever we can to turn this thing around."

Lately, that has meant changes to the roster. It is officially audition season, and in that respect, it was not a particularly inspiring day for the bullpen. The Giants felt they would have a better mix this year, but it hasn't played out. Instead, they're once again trying to find pieces for the next successful Giants bullpen.

With Hunter Strickland suspended and Derek Law in the minors, two young relievers, a middle-innings stalwart, and a newcomer pitched the final two frames. They gave up four runs.

Sam Dyson was the first on the mound in the eighth. Belt had homered a few minutes earlier, tying a good starter's duel. Dyson gave up a leadoff triple to Curtis Granderson and walked Asdrubal Cabrera before throwing two good sliders past Yoenis Cespedes for the strikeout. With two lefties coming up and the go-ahead run still on third, Bochy turned to Steven Okert. He immediately gave up a seeing-eye RBI single to Jay Bruce. Wilmer Flores doubled off George Kontos later in the frame to make it 3-1. 

In the ninth, Kyle Crick showed some of the wildness that kept him in the minors for seven years. He, too, gave up a leadoff triple, a sin you always pay for. A walk helped put another run into scoring position and a wild pitch extended the Mets’ lead to four. 

Before the game, Bochy talked of getting an extended look at Jones. He was 0-for-4 in his first big league game but he’ll be back out there tomorrow. It’s time to fight for a job, and the same holds true of some relievers who didn’t fare well Saturday. It is a group with a closer locked into a longterm deal and little else decided. 

Are Strickland or Law eighth-inning guys? Will Dyson be a worthwhile reclamation project? Will Kontos be back, and will he carve out a different role? Are Okert and Josh Osich capable of giving Bochy lefties he trusts? Is Crick’s improvement in Triple-A a sign of things to come? There are many questions to be answered over the next three months. 

“This is a good time for them, this is what players get up here for, to show what they can do,” Bochy said. “Because of our situation, we’re going to take a look at these guys and we know there are going to be growing pains.”