Note: this post was supposed to run on Wednesday, shortly after the Tigers lost to the Twins. However, SB Nation has been having some network-wide issues and I wasn't able to get the GIFs to upload until just now.
Instead of angering everyone by posting 12 GIFs of Phil Coke's awful fastball location in the ninth inning, I thought I'd accentuate a positive aspect of this afternoon's loss to the Minnesota Twins: Darin Downs' scoreless sixth inning.
Situation: Top of the sixth inning, 2-0 Tigers. Starter Anibal Sanchez was pulled after throwing 95 pitches in five scoreless innings. With the middle of the Twins' order due up, Jim Leyland calls on left-hander Darin Downs out of the bullpen.
Facing the right-handed Josh Willingham, Downs gets ahead by throwing a tight slider that breaks out of the strike zone with late movement.
The pitch ends up slightly lower than Avila's original target at the knees, but Willingham swings over the top, running the count to one ball, two strikes.
After a pair of inside fastballs -- one fouled off, one that misses inside -- Downs' 2-2 pitch is a beauty.
Willingham doesn't even come close to the changeup, which is located perfectly on the lower outside corner. Downs and Avila set up the sequence perfectly, using the inside fastballs with two strikes to set up the changeup away.
After Downs retires Justin Morneau on a fly ball to center field, the switch-hitting Ryan Doumit steps in from the right side with nobody on and two outs. On the 1-1 pitch, Downs gets Doumit to swing over the same exact changeup he struck out Willingham with earlier in the inning.
Downs misses inside with a fastball, then gets Doumit to strike out with the same slider that Willingham whiffed on in his at-bat.
Downs did a great job of using the inside fastball effectively to set up the changeup away as well as the slider down-and-in to right-handed batters. His stuff isn't overpowering, but his location was spot-on, making the skipper's decision to use him against the middle of the Twins' lineup look like a great move yesterday.