CLEVELAND -- Phil Coke still remembers entering a game in relief of Anibal Sanchez a month ago in Minnesota and allowing two inherited runners to score. It wasn't the difference in the game, but it turned a low-scoring duel into a game the Twins commanded.
When he suddenly replaced Sanchez on Saturday with a 5-2 lead and the Indians rallying in the seventh inning, he was determined not to let it happen again. It took him a while to get another chance, but he took advantage.
"I told him I couldn't wait for the next opportunity, because it wasn't going to happen again," Coke said. "I finally got an opportunity to come in behind him and show him that I had his back, like I said I would."
It wasn't a long outing for Coke, who faced one batter for the second straight outing, and just his second outing since Labor Day. In Saturday's case, though, it might have been the biggest out of the game -- he fanned Matt LaPorta with the potential tying run on deck.
Right-handed hitters like LaPorta have hit .396 off of Coke this year, with twice as many hits (38) as strikeouts (19). That's one reason why he has had shorter outings this year, as manager Jim Leyland has usually replaced him with one of his right-handed relievers for a right-handed batter.
Leyland thought Coke could have to face a righty when he brought him in to face left-handed hitter Casey Kotchman, whom LaPorta then replaced. However, he wasn't going to let Sanchez face Kotchman, 8-for-17 off Sanchez going into the game.
"I knew they'd probably bring up LaPorta, maybe try to get two [runs] with one swing of the bat," Leyland said. "The last couple times out, [Coke] has been better. That was a huge out for us."
Coke said earlier in the week that he felt like his pitches had improved. His fastball command definitely has. He couldn't get LaPorta to swing at the curveball, but he liked the break he got on it, making it less hittable.
Jackson scratched Sunday with sore left ankle
CLEVELAND -- Anibal Sanchez's no-hit bid might not be the only thing the Tigers lost on Carlos Santana's seventh-inning triple Saturday. If Austin Jackson misses more than Sunday's game, it would be a far bigger deal for Detroit.
Jackson was originally in the Tigers' starting lineup for their series finale against the Indians, but was scratched with what the team called a sore left ankle. He's listed as day-to-day. Quintin Berry, who was already in the lineup in left field, replaced him in center and at leadoff, while Andy Dirks batted second and started in left.
Jackson jammed his left leg crashing into the center-field fence trying to make a leaping catch on Santana's drive. He stayed in the game, though he seemed to be running awkwardly on a fly ball later, and said after the win that he was fine.
"Yeah, I guess just the impact of it was what I was feeling afterwards," Jackson said Saturday.
Before Sunday's game, however, Jackson still seemed to be walking around the clubhouse with a limp. Manager Jim Leyland noticed it as he walked by him, and immediately went into the training room to get more information.
Jackson was not on the field for optional pregame batting practice.
Any number of games without Jackson in center field and leading off is a major loss for the Tigers. Between his defense and offense, his 5.1 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) according to FanGraphs.com ranks second only to Miguel Cabrera on the team, and fifth among all American League players. He's a strong candidate for a Gold Glove award, and he carries a .305 batting average with an AL-best 10 triples, 14 home runs, 59 RBIs and an .872 OPS.
Detroit is 69-50 in games Jackson starts, and 8-17 without him entering Sunday.
Scherzer will go to Chicago for makeup game
CLEVELAND -- Max Scherzer has no role in Monday's makeup game in Chicago. His worry is Tuesday's series opener back in Detroit against Oakland. Still, you can tell his heart is in it.
The Tigers gave Scherzer the option to head back home to Detroit and skip the one-day trip to Chicago, but Scherzer declined. It wasn't completely for team-morale reasons, but it was a part of it.
"I need to play catch," Scherzer said. "That was the [main] reason. Plus, it's the biggest game of the year. I want to be there."
Had it been a longer trip, say, to the West Coast or down south for a makeup game, Scherzer admitted, it might have been a different decision.
Credit Lamont for trying to avoid appeal
CLEVELAND -- There are few more thankless jobs on a coaching staff than third base coach. Rarely credited when a runner scores, they're almost always critiqued when a runner is thrown out at the plate.
Credit the often-criticized Gene Lamont, however, for trying to get Quintin Berry thrown out at third base on Saturday. It was Lamont who noticed the buzz in the Indians dugout during the fifth inning and figured out that they probably saw a replay on Alex Avila's slide into third base.
"He knew when they came down [from the clubhouse] and were yelling that something wasn't right," manager Jim Leyland said.
Credit Lamont, too, for knowing that a play on Berry would negate any appeal on Avila, allowing the run to stand.
It didn't work, but it was a pretty creative idea. Leyland, for one, believes that if play had resumed and Berry's first attempt had counted, that it probably would've worked.
"I'll be honest, the first time I was dumbfounded," Leyland said. "I didn't know what was going on. When he was first out there in no-mans-land, I was like, 'What the heck is he doing?' Then it dawned on me, and I realized what happened."