Phil Coke doesn’t think he has a problem with the Seattle Mariners.
The statistics don’t back him up.
Coke faced the Mariners for the second time in a week Tuesday night, and was on the wrong end of another lopsided score. This time, Coke allowed seven runs in 4 1-3 innings in a 7-3 loss.
”He didn’t have command of his fastball, and when he made mistakes, they hit them hard,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. ”He’s got to have the fastball under command.”
Coke pointed out that while both games have been disasters – Seattle won 13-3 on April 19 at Safeco Field – he hasn’t had the same kind of problems.
In Seattle, Coke walked four batters in just 3 2-3 innings while allowing six runs. Tuesday, he didn’t issue a single base on balls.
”I couldn’t care less that both games were against them,” he said. ”Last time, I couldn’t throw a strike, and this time I was throwing strikes – even more than I got called. Put me out there against them a third time, and this isn’t going to happen again.”
Tuesday night, Coke was victimized by one of the strangest plays in Comerica Park’s 11-year history, thanks to Mariners cleanup hitter Miguel Olivo and Tigers leftfielder Ryan Raburn.
After Seattle’s Felix Hernandez allowed an unearned run in the first, Olivo led off the second with a routine-looking fly to deep left that Raburn struggled to find in the sun. While still short of the warning track, Raburn lunged back, only to deflect the ball high into the air and into the Tigers’ bullpen for Olivo’s first homer of the season.
After the inning, Coke tried to provide some comfort to Raburn, chatting with him in the dugout.
”What can you say about that other than it is a complete fluke?” Coke said. ”It’s not like there was any lack of effort. The ball was hit to the only place on the field where there was any sun, and he tried to find it. It hits his glove and bounces off the back wall of the bullpen. There’s nothing you can do about a play like that.”
Coke’s struggles came on a night where the Tigers were facing one of their least favorite opponents in Hernandez.
Hernandez (3-2) struggled with his control all night, but allowed just three runs – two earned – in six innings to move to 7-0 in his last eight starts against Detroit, a streak dating back to 2007.
”I didn’t have my good stuff, but I just battled and battled and battled,” he said. ”The guys got some runs for me, and we won the game.”
In the fourth, Justin Smoak hit Seattle’s second homer to left – this one clearing Raburn and the fence – for a 3-1 lead. Detroit, though, tied it in the bottom of the inning on Brandon Inge’s two-run double.
As an ominous thunderhead passed south of the stadium, the Mariners went up 7-3 with four runs in the fifth.
Ichiro Suzuki started the scoring with an RBI single, and Chone Figgins followed with a two-run double. Coke left the game after hitting Milton Bradley, but reliever Brayan Villarreal threw away a pickoff attempt to allow Figgins to score Seattle’s seventh run.
Hernandez left the game after six innings and 102 pitches, but Seattle’s bullpen only allowed one hit over the last three innings.
”Felix threw 126 pitches the last time, so we wanted to keep him right around 100 tonight,” Seattle manager Eric Wedge said. ”He did his job, and then David Pauley gave us two great innings.”
NOTES: Smoak rejoined the team in Detroit after spending time on the bereavement list due to a death in his family. Wedge said that Smoak asked to go right back into the lineup. ”This had to be a special memory for him – to come back like this and hit a homer. I was glad to see him get that,” Wedge said. … The edge of a storm did hit the stadium at the end of the sixth inning, causing most fans to scamper for cover, but the rain lasted less than two minutes.