After pitching in a simulated game over the weekend Jose Valverde told reporters that he corrected a mechanical flaw responsible for his postseason struggles, but when asked if Valverde will resume closing in the World Series manager Jim Leyland was non-committal.
Leyland used the same phrasing he repeatedly uttered during the ALCS, saying the Tigers are “just going to play it by ear, see what happens” in the ninth inning, leading Jason Beck of MLB.com to conclude that it will be closer-by-committee based on matchups.
Left-hander Phil Coke emerged as the Tigers’ closer during the ALCS, finishing the final three games of the series, but the Yankees’ lineup being filled with left-handed hitters played a big role in that and the only lefty bats in the Giants’ lineup are Brandon Belt, Gregor Blanco, and Brandon Crawford.
In other words, if Leyland truly manages the ninth inning based on matchups Coke is unlikely to be the top choice. If instead Leyland has completely soured on Valverde and now trusts Coke to get the final three outs the Giants’ right-handed hitters will have some favorable matchups with the game on the line late. Righties hit .396 off Coke during the regular season, so even if Valverde remains out of the mix–he hasn’t pitched since October 13–Joaquin Benoit and Octavio Dotel could play a big role.
The Red Sox and Mariners left nothing on the table Friday night, going head-to-head in a series opener that eventually ended 14-10 in the Sox’ favor. Led by Steven Wright and Wade LeBlanc — neither of whom made it past the fifth inning — the teams combined for 34 hits and four home runs, including two moonshots from Seattle’s Nelson Cruz and a five-run rally that gave Boston the edge in the seventh.
In the sixth inning, however, the Red Sox were still scrambling to make up a four-run deficit. Left fielder J.D. Martinez cut it in half with one swing, pouncing on an 89.5-mph fastball from Seattle right-hander Nick Vincent and posting it to dead center field for a two-run shot.
The 427-foot blast was Martinez’s 23rd of the season, tying Mike Trout for the most home runs in the league this year. While he still has a ways to go before eclipsing the career-best 45-HR mark he set in 2017, he’s off to a strong start this season: Entering Friday’s game, the 30-year-old slugger was batting .315/.386/.623 with a 1.009 OPS and AL-leading 55 RBI in 308 PA. He finished Friday’s game 4-for-5 with five RBI, just one triple shy of hitting for the cycle.
Heading into the All-Star Break, both Martinez and Trout still have some competition for the home run title. Jose Ramirez is sitting at 22 homers, while Nelson Cruz and Khris Davis are tied at 20 apiece.