Game one of 162 is over for the Detroit Tigers and it ended just the way they wanted. The Tigers won the contest 4-2 over the Minnesota Twins on Monday in frigid weather at Target Field. Justin Verlander got the win with five innings of stellar work before giving way to Drew Smyly, Al Alburquerque and then later Joaquin Benoit and Phil Coke.
The Tigers’ big question headed into Opening Day was who would close the game, and it was answered with two outs to go in the game when skipper Jim Leyland called on Coke to get the last outs. Benoit pitched the eighth inning, and then came back out for the ninth so some may have thought he was going to finish the game, but that wasn’t the case.
There are a whole bunch of theories that will be discussed for the next couple days, but in the end this probably came down to matchups. If there is one thing I know about Leyland, it’s that he’s as stubborn as they come. He stuck with Jose Valverde longer than anyone would have last year, solely because he thought he was right about him, and that he would bounce back.
Leyland said that the Tigers would handle the end of games by committee and that’s exactly what they will do.
I personally like Coke. He’s a crazy guy that sprints to the mound from the bullpen, and most of the time he will give the best post-game interview. Last year when Valverde collapsed, Coke took over and did an amazing job in the playoffs when the Tigers needed him most.
I’m sure he will do the same thing again this year in whatever role he’s given, but like we saw yesterday I think he could be one heck of a closer.