Originally written on Fangraphs  |  Last updated 10/18/12

When I walked into the Comerica Park press box this morning, the first person I encountered was longtime Detroit Free Press baseball scribe John Lowe. I asked him who the series MVP has been thus far. His response was, “How about Phil Coke?”
Lowe went on to note that Delmon Young had driven in the go-ahead run in all three contests [which he proceeded to do again in Game 4], but his initial suggestion is in accord with my opinion. The Detroit bullpen has been in disarray, and Coke stepped up to literally save the day. Following a Game 1 hold that preceded Jose Valverde’s implosion, he shut the door in the next two and was on the mound for the final six outs of Game 4. The slider he threw to Raul Ibanez on Tuesday night may be the most important pitch of the Tigers season.
It wasn’t to be expected. The colorful left-hander had an inconsistent campaign that included a .324 BAA and just one save in three opportunities. In four regular-season appearances against the Yankees, he gave up hits to six of the 12 batters he faced.
In the ALCS, he was nails. In closing out Games 2 and 3, Coke became first reliever to have two post-season saves after having one or less during the regular season. Vida Blue [1972] and Bob McClure [1982] each had two, but were regular-season starters working out of the bullpen.
Coke’s Game 3 strikeout of Raul Ibanez was likely the tipping point of the series. The southpaw had a huge advantage in regard to their lefty-lefty splits, but Ibanez had been having an October for the ages. Were he to come through yet again, the Yankees would have put themselves in a position to have their best pitcher on the mound for Game 4, trailing two games to one.
Coke had retired Ibanez in each of the first two games, but he obviously knew how hot he had been. Their history also went back to the days Coke wore pinstripes and Ibanez played for the Phillies.
“He’s killing everybody,” said Coke, after the game. “He’s done things that nobody has ever done in the game of baseball, so my hat is off to Raul. He took me deep in the World Series, in 2009, about 460 [feet] into the gap, if I recall correctly.”
What he’ll recall from Tuesday night is that he fanned Ibanez with a 3-2 slider that catcher Alex Avila called the best he’s ever thrown. He might be right. The vertical break of Coke’s slider averages just over two inches and the one he threw to Ibanez dove more than five inches.
“He made some tough pitches in tough situations,” agreed outfielder Austin Jackson. “That last pitch definitely proved that he is able to make a tough pitch in a tough situation.”
It was a pitch — and pitches — made with confidence. Tigers fans have often found themselves reaching for a antacid bottle when Coke toes the rubber, but the left-hander relishes big moments. It was a point brought up by ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, who opined that Coke looks like he wants to be out there in big situations.
Coke, who rarely lacks for a good quotes, explained it this way.
“On a 3-2 count, [the hitter] can choose to stand there and watch it, or he can choose to swing out of his shoes. I can choose to be scared and throw a ball, and load the bases and possibly get yanked out of the game, and we could possibly end up on the wrong side of the scoreboard. Or, I can make my pitch and have him swing and miss and we’re all happy.”
Tigers fans have a lot to be happy about right now, and their new, at least for now, closer is one of them. He wasn’t named ALCS MVP — Young got the nod — but be maybe deserved the honor, if only for one pitch — the slider that helped carry the Detroit Tigers to the World Series.

GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Phil Jackson is the architect of a Finals contender

Marcus Mariota 'eating up' Tennessee Titans offense

Eagles insider: Tebow 'has a ways to go' after Tuesday OTA

Cromartie: Richard Sherman is a product of Seahawks system

Prince Shembo’s girlfriend says he was jealous of dog

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Bruce Arians: Talk of Daryl Washington a 'waste of breath'

Gerald McCoy keeps the Jameis Winston hype in check

Gronkowski family to appear on 'Family Feud'

WATCH: Lloyd McClendon has all-time meltdown

Drew Bledsoe defends Tom Brady over Deflategate

Did Heat offer Dwyane Wade less than $10 million per season?

Blackhawks-Lightning Stanley Cup Final: Key matchups

JR Smith shares photo calling Bruce Jenner a 'science project'

Joey Gallo arrives in Texas

Dinosaur in Chicago won't wear Blackhawks jersey this year

Can these struggling contenders get back in the playoff picture?

Texas recruit 'tanks academics' so he can play for Oklahoma?

Indians bullpen holds Brandon Moss' 100th homer ball ransom

Bryce Harper takes on-field selfie with fan’s phone

Yahoo to openly, freely stream NFL game from London

Mariota tops Jameis Winston, Tom Brady in jersey sales

Adrian Peterson's return puts jolt into Vikings for 2015

Wilson on future with Seahawks: 'We'll see what happens'

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Joey Gallo arrives in Texas

NBA Finals preview: Cavs offense vs. Warriors defense

USA Women’s World Cup: No excuse not to win

Projecting rosters for the 2015 MLB All-Star Game

What Peterson's return means

The Bulls and the culture of fitting in

X-factors for Cavs and Warriors

Pujols: Angels not 'Mike Trout show'

Adrian Peterson returns to Vikings

Chicago Bulls agree to deal with Fred Hoiberg

NBA should have 'legacy contracts' for long-time players

Atlanta Hawks unveil new logo

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.