DETROIT -- Phil Coke knows the frustration that fans are feeling, because he feels the same.
He's trying to find the consistency with his pitches, trying to shore up the offspeed pitches that he needs to be an effective left-handed reliever. For one inning, he seems to have it. For the inning after that, he seems to be lost.
Coke's description of the difference Thursday from his strikeout of Jacoby Ellsbury to end the seventh inning to the back-to-back four-pitch walks he issued to Shane Victorino and Dustin Pedroia leading off the eighth might well sum it up.
"When I was out there for my first inning … I felt like I was in really good physical position, I was picking my leg and going towards the plate," Coke said. "And then in the second inning, I felt like I was standing straight up."
Friday's appearance, results-wise, was much the same. He needed just 10 pitches to send down David Ortiz, Mike Napoli and Daniel Nava in order in the seventh inning, then fell behind Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Stephen Drew on back-to-back 2-0 counts to start the eighth. Saltalamacchia walked on five pitches before Drew's double into the right-field corner moved Boston's catcher to third. Both eventually scored.
"We had two guys batting .172 against left-handers, but we just didn't get either one of them out," manager Jim Leyland said. "That kind of opened up the floodgates a little bit, but I thought he was better."
Ironically, Coke's stats on the season suggest he's better when he gets deeper into an outing. Opponents are batting .258 (16-for-62) with four doubles, 11 RBIs and 17 strikeouts against him in his first 15 pitches, and just 3-for-14 off him in his next 15 pitches. The problem with the latter has been four walks.
"There's no excuse for any of it," Coke said. "I'm really displeased with the way I've been throwing as of late. Well, as of late I've been way, way improved, but it hasn't been where it's supposed to be. I think I might be letting that weigh on my mind way too much."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. Bobby Nightengale is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @nightengalejr. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less