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.