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Coke mows down Rays for first victory

    Phil Coke struck out Tampa Bay’s Matt Joyce and Ben Zobrist in the top of the eighth inning to lead Detroit to a 5-2 win on Tuesday afternoon in Comerica Park.
    Coke was the winning pitcher and Jake McGee got the loss.
    “It was kind of a crazy game,” said Sonora-native Coke. “It was snowing off and on and I’d never played baseball in the snow before.”
    In the top of the eighth inning, Coke entered a 2-2 contest. He was set to face Tampa’s 2-3-4 hitters.
     Carlos Pena managed an inning-opening single off Coke.
    “I threw one too many fastballs at Pena,” said Coke. “But from that point on, my goal was to make sure Pena didn’t touch home plate.”
    Well, ultimately, Pena got no closer to touching home plate than his first base coach George Hendrick.
    And the reason Pena remained stranded is that Coke threw 11 pitches total to Tampa’s 3-4-5 hitters and 10 of those were strikes.
    Coke retired three-time All-Star Longoria on a popup to second.
    “With Longoria,” said Coke, “I just wanted to make sure to stay away from the middle of the plate. I ended up throwing him a changeup away and he popped it up.”
    Up stepped Joyce and he took a first-pitch fastball for strike one. Then Coke tossed consecutive sliders which Joyce swung and missed at.
    “I trusted my catcher (Gerald Laird) and kept throwing whatever he was calling,” said Coke.
    Zobrist took Coke’s first-pitch fastball for a strike. Then Zobrist managed to foul off a changeup.
    Then Coke tossed a slider which Zobrist swung and missed at.
    Detroit then came through with three runs in the bottom of the eighth.
    Tiger closer Jose Valverde retired the side in the ninth and Coke had his first 2012 win.
    “Well, I’m not gonna turn down having the ‘W’ next to my name,” said Coke. “It’s always nice to be the winning pitcher. But, always, it’s far more important to me that the Detroit Tigers get a win. I felt good today about getting the job done. And it’s especially nice taking care of the heart of their lineup.”
    Off to a 4-0 start, Detroit hosts Tampa Bay this afternoon.
    Coke has appeared in three contests, tossed 2 1/3 innings, yielded just one run and struck out five.
    “This is a nice start for us,” said Coke. “But there’s 158 games to go. It’s a long season and there’s no reason to be celebrating after the first four. It is nice to have everyone clicking on all cylinders. I like our team attitude right now. We’re basically thinking that it’s important we don’t relax too much. You relax too much you might get slapped in the face.”

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