KANSAS CITY -- Lefty reliever Phil Coke has struggled of late, and Tigers manager Jim Leyland knows it.
The latest chapter in a rough patch for Coke came on Tuesday night against the Royals. Fresh off tying the game at 8 in the eighth, Leyland sent Coke to the mound with two outs and a runner at second in the bottom of the inning to face the left-handed hitting Mike Moustakas.
Coke threw a first-pitch strike and then surrendered a go-ahead double down the first-base line that proved to be the game-winning hit. Coke didn't take the loss -- and he hasn't been tagged with one since June 12 against the Cubs -- but he allowed another inherited runner to score, something he's done quite a bit since calendar changed to August.
"The fact is that he's struggled, but certainly I felt very comfortable that he could get Moustakas out," Leyland said. "He's got to get one left-handed hitter out for the third out. If he can't do that, we've got problems -- we don't have problems, him and I, I mean we've got problems, the team. That's your responsibility. He didn't get a left-hander out last night in a big situation.
"He's had a really hot and cold year, and probably too much of it has been cold. He's just not making good pitches."
The last month has been freezing for Coke. Since July 30, he's pitched in 10 games -- just 6 2/3 innings -- but his ERA is a sky-high 8.10. He's allowed six runs on 15 hits including a pair of home runs. Of the nine runners he's inherited, five have scored.
"Coke is a late left-handed reliever that's got to get left-handed hitters out. If he doesn't, you do two things: You either use somebody else or you probably don't win that game," Leyland said. "But that's his responsibility. He's our late left guy. You might have to go with some other options. I can't disagree with that."
Leyland added, though, that those options don't include swapping Coke out for a player from the Minor Leagues.
"We don't have anybody, certainly down in Toledo, as a left-handed reliever, to my knowledge, that's better than Phil Coke. Phil Coke's been a pretty credible reliever in the big leagues for quite a while. That's just the way it goes," Leyland said. "An option is not an option."