Is Phil Coke the Tigers' new closer?

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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."

Three takeaways: Sharks having trouble explaining meltdown

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Three takeaways: Sharks having trouble explaining meltdown

NASHVILLE – The Sharks are returning to San Jose on Sunday in a crisis. Nothing good came from Saturday’s 7-2 loss to Nashville, their sixth straight in regulation. Let’s get to the painful three takeaways…

1 – No answers

Neither Joe Pavelski, Brent Burns nor Patrick Marleau – the three players made available to the media after Saturday’s game – offered any kind of in-depth analysis of what’s going wrong. Frankly, I’m not sure anyone really knows. It’s hard to believe that this is the same club that had lost just two games in regulation in its previous 14 before the losing streak began.

“If you’re putting a consistent effort in, battling, competing – it’s tough to lose six in a row,” Pavelski said. “You look at six in a row, and it just seems daunting. Like, how do you get there? So, I think we’ve just got to take a deep breath, really kind of refocus.”

Believe it or not, coach Pete DeBoer thought Saturday’s loss was “a step in the right direction” when asked why Friday night’s 6-1 beat down in Dallas wasn’t enough of a wake-up call. How often do you hear that after a five-goal defeat?

“I liked our game tonight better than I liked [Friday’s game] regardless of the score,” DeBoer said. “I don’t just look at the score. If you want to just judge it on the score than you might not say it’s a wake-up call, but I thought we were much more competitive tonight. 

“It was a step in the right direction. Every team goes through tough parts of the season, and this is ours. We’ve got a lot of character in the room. We’ll get through it.”

2 – Couture injury would spell doom, as Hertl still MIA

Let’s face it – if Logan Couture is out for any extended period of time, this team is DOA once the playoffs begin. Couture has been the Sharks’ best player since the All-Star break, and they don’t have anyone on the current roster or in the system that could replace him. As of Sunday morning, there was still no word as to the severity of his injury after taking a puck to the mouth and going to a local Nashville hospital.

If Couture were to miss time, Tomas Hertl would likely become the team’s second line center. At this point, though, Hertl doesn’t even resemble an effective third line center. He was victimized on Nashville’s first goal, which was similar to one of the Wild goals on Tuesday, when he was just too slow and not strong enough on his skates in getting outworked for a loose puck.

3 – Haley shows some emotion that others lack

It’s understandable that Micheal Haley didn’t like getting hit from behind by Calle Jarnkrok in the third period. But, you can’t just make a beeline for a guy and punch him in the face. Haley will almost certainly get suspended for the play.

At least, though, Haley showed a little bit of fire, including his first period fight with Cody McLeod. Perhaps guys like Hertl, Joonas Donskoi and Mikkel Boedker could take a lesson from the fiery Haley. Those three, in particular, have been virtually useless during this six-game stretch. 

If I’m DeBoer, I’d get on the phone with Doug Wilson and Roy Sommer and ask for a few guys from the Barracuda so I could – depending on the team’s health situation – scratch all three of them for Tuesday against the Rangers. Drastic times call for drastic measures, do they not?

NBA Gameday: Facing Griffin a chance for Skal to add to knowledge base

NBA Gameday: Facing Griffin a chance for Skal to add to knowledge base

The Sacramento Kings return to the court Sunday for an early matinee game against the Los Angeles Clippers at the Staples Center. They’ll face a veteran squad jockeying for playoff position and in need of a win.

Buddy Hield and Skal Labissiere each set new career highs in assists in Friday night’s loss to the Golden State Warriors. The rookie duo combined to hand out 15 of the team’s 27 dimes as the Kings stayed with the high-powered Warriors until late in the game.

Los Angeles is fresh off a huge win over the Utah Jazz and currently sit just a half game behind Utah for the fourth spot in the Western Conference standings. They’ve dealt with injuries all season long, but the Clippers are getting healthy at the perfect time.

OPENING LINE:
Clippers by 13.5

MATCHUP TO WATCH:
Skal Labissiere vs. Blake Griffin -- Every game is an opportunity for Labissiere to add to his knowledge base. Despite a litany of injuries over the years, Griffin is still a force to be reckoned with in the post. He can score in a variety of ways and he’s averaging a career-high five assists be game this season. Labissiere is coming off a strong performance where he posted 10 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.

WHERE THEY STAND:
Kings: 27-45, third place in Pacific

Clippers: 44-30, second place in Pacific

INJURY REPORT:
Kings: C Kosta Koufos (planned rest) out, Arron Afflalo (planned rest) out, SG Malachi Richardson (torn hamstring) out, SF Rudy Gay (torn Achilles) out.

Clippers: SG JJ Redick (sprained ankle) out, C Diamond Stone (knee) out.

SERIES HISTORY:
The Clippers lead the season series 2-0 and currently have a three game winning streak against the Kings. During the Sacramento-era, the Kings hold a 69-65 advantage and they lead the Clippers 113-88 all-time.

QUOTE:
“It was a good experience, I call all of those experiences growing pains. Those are just things we have to go through. We’re trying to get to that level at some point.” -Skal Labissiere on the loss to Golden State