OAKLAND, Calif. — Whether it was confidence or bravado from Tigers closer Joaquin Benoit, it caught his manager’s attention before Game 2 of the American League Division Series.
Benoit made a stunning statement following Detroit’s 3-2 Game 1 victory Friday over the A’s. After the game, Benoit, who recorded the final four outs, three by strikeout, said the Tigers were on the “verge of another World Series.”
The Tigers need six more wins to reach the World Series for the second consecutive season, so Benoit’s statement may have been presumptuous and manager Jim Leyland had issue with the braggadocio.
“It’s not good for you guys but I always tell my players that you know what, in all these situations, because the national media attention, it’s probably best to say less,” Leyland said, whose Tigers lost to the A’s, 1-0, in Game 2 to tie the series. “The less said is probably better. Sure, I like a confident team. I don’t know that you need to go on stage and talk about it but I like a team that has confidence and I think you show that by the way you play.”
Benoit was nasty Friday, tossing 13 of his 17 pitches for strikes with just one batter making contact — an inning-ending pop by Josh Donaldson in the eighth.
“I thought we responded very good to the atmosphere last night and a lot of that was dictated by the way our [starting] pitcher pitched,” Leyland said of Max Scherzer. “But we are a confident team. I don’t expect that we are any more confident than the Oakland A’s, so I don’t like to hear any teams talk about it too much. I don’t tell anybody what to say or not to say. I don’t give advice but I do say there’s no sense in fueling fires. We just need to go play.”
Out of control
Bartolo Colon did not hit a batter with a pitch in 190⅓ innings this season. Yet, he plunked No. 2 hitter Torii Hunter with his fifth pitch Friday night. And that came after Colon threw a high and tight fastball to Hunter on the first pitch. It was an example of how uncharacteristically wild Colon was in the early going.
He allowed three first-inning runs that proved to be the difference. Hunter has faced Colon 68 times during the regular season, his fourth-most at-bats against any pitcher in his career, and he noticed a distinct difference Friday night.
“He probably just couldn’t find it, that’s why he didn’t pitch [inside] anymore,” Hunter said. “That’s part of baseball. You’re going to get hit. I’ve been knowing Bartolo a long time and we don’t have no quarrels. They’re playing us to try to pitch me in and I see that now. And so when he tried to pitch me in and threw the first pitch up and in and then he hit me, I know that Bartolo never pitches me in, so that’s their plan.”
Hunter said Colon didn’t trust his fastball so he opted for offspeed pitches.
“Bartolo is a 90 percent fastball pitcher and [Friday] he was probably like 60 percent,” Hunter said. “He threw a lot of offspeed. He threw me like four or five offspeed in one at-bat that I struck out on and he’s thrown me five offspeed in five years.”
A different look
Oakland manager Bob Melvin made some lineup changes in preparation for facing hard-throwing righthander Justin Verlander. Daric Barton, who struck out three times Friday, was sent to the bench for Seth Smith, who went 2 for 4 as the designated hitter. Brandon Moss, the DH in Game 1, was moved to first base. Verlander gave up four hits and struck out 11 in seven innings for a no-decision in the Tigers’ loss . . . Leyland replaced Andy Dirks in left field with Don Kelly, who was a late-inning defensive replacement for Dirks on Friday.Gary Washburn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow him on Twitter at @gwashNBAGlobe.