Decision to pull Verlander pays off for Jim Leyland

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Sending Justin Verlander back out to pitch the ninth against the Yankees with a 2-0 lead in Tuesday’s Game 3 was pretty much a no-brainer. It’s not like manager Jim Leyland was going to turn to Jose Valverde. 115 pitches is a pretty high total to be starting an inning with, but Verlander has been there before.

At that point, the ideal would have been for Verlander to finish his two-hit shutout at 125-130 pitches. The Yankees, of course, refused to go quietly in the ninth. Eduardo Nunez battled for eight pitches and then sent a hanging curve over the wall in left. 124.

Brett Gardner didn’t reach, but he too extended the reigning AL Cy Young and MVP. He tapped out to Verlander on the eighth pitch of the at-bat. 132.

That total tied Verlander’s career high for a regular season outing. He threw 132 pitches in 7 2/3 innings against the Red Sox on May 29, 2011 and again in striking out 14 Yankees in eight innings on Aug. 6 of this year. In all, he’s had four regular-season outings of 130 pitches, 20 of 125 or more and 47 of at least 120.

Verlander’s career high for a postseason start was 133 pitches in Game 5 of the 2011 ALCS against the Rangers. He also came in at 121 and 122 in his two starts against the A’s in the ALDS earlier this month.

So, letting Verlander carry on in the ninth would have put him into uncharted territory. And the truth is that Verlander wasn’t at his best in this one, even as he was racking up zeroes against the Yankees. He struggled all night to get ahead of hitters, and the fact that it took him 17 pitches to get one out of the ninth suggested he was done. That Phil Coke had pitched so well in the series and that the Yankees lineup was stacked with lefties made it an easier call for Leyland.

And Verlander didn’t seem broken up about it after the game. While he suggested he would have preferred to carry on, he also talked about how saving him for the rest of the postseason was important.

But I don’t think that was it. I think Leyland saw those last two at-bats against Verlander and thought Coke was his best option to get those final two outs. Otherwise, it probably would have been Verlander and that 140-pitch barrier be damned.

All worked out in the end, though not before Coke made things very interesting by giving up a pair of singles. Now it all goes well from here, Verlander will make his next start on seven days’ rest in Game 1 of the World Series.

Major League Baseball told Kolten Wong to ditch Hawaii tribute sleeve

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Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Major League Baseball has told Cardinals infielder Kolten Wong that he has to get rid of the colorful arm sleeve he’s been wearing, pictured above, that pays tribute to his native Hawaii and seeks to raise awareness of recovery efforts from the destruction caused by the erupting Mount Kilauea.

Goold:

[Wong] has been notified by Major League Baseball that he will face a fine if he continues to wear an unapproved sleeve that features Hawaiian emblem. Wong said he will stash the sleeve, like Jose Martinez had to do with his Venezuelan-flag sleeve, and find other ways to call attention to his home island.

Willson Contreras was likewise told to ditch his Venezuela sleeve.

None of these guys are being singled out, it seems. Rather, this is all part of a wider sweep Major League Baseball is making with respect to the uniformity of uniforms. As Goold notes at the end of his piece, however, MLB has no problem whatsoever with players wearing a non-uniform article of underclothing as long as it’s from an MLB corporate sponsor. Such as this sleeve worn by Marcell Ozuna, and supplied by Nike that, last I checked, were not in keeping with the traditional St. Louis Cardinals livery:

ST. LOUIS, MO – MAY 22: Marcell Ozuna #23 of the St. Louis Cardinals celebrates after recording his third hit of the game against the Kansas City Royals in the fifth inning at Busch Stadium on May 22, 2018 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

If Nike was trying to get people to buy Hawaii or Venezuela compression sleeves, I’m sure there would be no issue here. They’re not, however, and it seems like creating awareness and support for people suffering from natural, political and humanitarian disasters do not impress the powers that be nearly as much.