Benoit upset with his effort, happy for win
Tigers reliever says he lost composure during the eighth inning
DETROIT -- Tigers reliever Joaquin Benoit had one word for his eighth-inning relief appearance on Sunday against the A's at Comerica Park."Horrible!" the veteran right-hander said. He then expounded on the one-inning experience. "It was nothing I expected to happen," Benoit added. "I came in with the team winning by a run and I came out with the team losing. It was not good for me." The Tigers came from behind to capture Game 2, 5-4, and take a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-five American League Division Series that continues in Oakland on Tuesday evening.
The Tigers bullpen was not stellar by any means as three relievers -- Benoit, Phil Coke and Al Alburquerque -- kept the game dangling by a thread. Benoit said he lost his composure on the mound in the eighth inning with Yoenis Cespedes on base and Josh Reddick at bat. Cespedes stole second and third and scored on a wild pitch. Reddick homered on a full count, giving the A's a short-lived, 4-3, lead."It's baseball. It happens," Benoit said. Coke said he lost the feel for the baseball as the A's mounted one last rally in the ninth that ended when Alburquerque replaced him with runners on first and third. Alburquerque literally kissed the ball with uncommon emotion after Cespedes grounded back to the box to end the threat as he took the white sphere out of his glove to throw it to first base. "I've never done it before and I'll probably never do it again," said Alburquerque, who was credited with the win after facing that one batter. "It was something that happened in the heat of the moment. It's just the emotions of the game. I was just glad I had it." And perhaps the most emotional Tigers reliever of them all, closer Jose Valverde, never made it out of the 'pen. Valverde is known for his gyrations on the mound, pointing to the sky and jogging in from the bullpen, stopping dead at the lip of the infield dirt and walking the rest of the way to the mound. "I mean we have a lot characters here," Benoit said. "That's what makes baseball fun." Would he ever kiss a baseball in full view of the opposing team, 40,684 fans in the ballpark and countless millions more watching worldwide on TV? "I haven't done it," he said. "I'm a little more laid back than that. I guess I just enjoy watching them doing those things." Benoit said he didn't enjoy anything about his performance on Sunday save for the final results. The Tigers had a 3-2 lead when he came on in relief of Doug Fister in his familiar role as eighth-inning setup man for Valverde. Cespedes opened with a single. Brandon Moss flied out and when Reddick stepped to the plate the fun really began. Reddick was 0-for-6 thus far in the series with six punchouts to his credit. "I was just trying not to strike out again," Reddick said. "I was tired of striking out." Cespedes almost immediately stole second, punching the bag with his fist as he jumped up from the dirt after just beating the throw from catcher Gerald Laird. That's how high the emotions were rising. He then quickly stole third. Cespedes was halfway down the line before Benoit even released the baseball and Laird was unable to make a throw. "That was probably a mental mistake on my part," Benoit said. "It's something I need to put more attention on and it's not going to happen anymore." But Benoit obviously became unnerved and allowed Cespedes to tie the score when he bounced a pitch to the backstop. "The only bad thing that got in my head was when he scored," Benoit said. "If he's on the bases I don't really mind. I just focus on the guy at the plate." The guy at the plate was getting more and more fidgety and edgy. "I was just trying to put something in play and not just walk back to the dugout," Reddick said. "We have to credit Cespedes and what he did stealing bases and making something happen. We benefited from a wild pitch. After that it made me relax a little more and focus on just putting the bat on the ball. That's all I tried to do." It landed in the right-field seats. It was the 15th homer Benoit has allowed this year in 72 innings, tops in the AL among relievers during the regular season and tied now with Livan Hernandez, who gave up 15 homers in 84 innings for Atlanta and Milwaukee. "He hit a good pitch," Benoit said about Reddick. "A changeup. Everybody who's in the big leagues is here for a reason. He made some adjustments on me. What can I say? I tip my hat. But we came back and won the game. Baseball is kind of weird like that. It's a round ball that comes in a square case."
Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.