Tigers pitcher Joaquin Benoit on David Ortiz's grand slam in Game 2: 'I throw it, he hit it. Nothing else I can do.' (Robin Buckson / Detroit News)
Detroit — This is all new for Joaquin Benoit, being a postseason closer — the man charged with holding the ball last, getting the biggest outs.
But Benoit is having no issues getting adjusted to a critical trait of the job: moving on.
“You’re the one who’s thinking about it right now,” he told a group of reporters Monday, when asked how long it took him to get over Sunday night’s events, namely a crushing grand slam by Red Sox slugger David Ortiz in the eighth inning of Game 2.
“I’m done with that.”
And so are the Tigers, who are looking ahead — to Game 3 this afternoon, when, if the Tigers are narrowly leading in the eighth or ninth inning, Benoit again will be getting the call.
Benoit, 36, has had an interesting postseason, filled with no shortage of big moments.
It began well enough, when he struck out the side to preserve a 3-2 victory in Game 1 against the A’s. But he’s also given up runs in two of his last four outings, and at least a baserunner an inning.
Going back to the beginning of September, his ERA is 4.76.
Not that manager Jim Leyland is sounding any alarms, particularly in regard to the guy who’s the best available arm in his at-times unpredictable bullpen.
“He’s doing fine,” Leyland said. “It’s just not that easy. When you’re in the postseason, that’s why these teams are in the postseason. It gets a little bit tougher.
“He’s done great. He didn’t do anything wrong last night.”
Interestingly, though, Leyland couldn’t say the same for himself.
Leyland took the blame for not reminding Benoit that the Tigers, absolutely, didn’t want Ortiz to beat them. They had a pre-series meeting on the topic, but Leyland failed to reiterate it when he handed Benoit the ball.
The Tigers wanted to pitch Ortiz out of the zone, in the hopes he’d chase a pitch or two. They were perfectly fine with a walk, a 5-2 game, and either Mike Carp or Mike Napoli batting next, with two outs, and the bases loaded.
“David’s one of those guys that’s been born for those magic moments,” Leyland said. “I take full responsibility.
“He tried to make a great pitch, he tried to get it low and away and out of the strike zone. He just didn’t get it there.”
Instead, Benoit’s go-to pitch — his change-up — stayed way too far up, and got out of Fenway Park in a hurry, just out of the reach of a great effort by tumbling right fielder Torii Hunter.
And, so, now, it’s a new series. No sense dwelling. That’s not what closers — and Benoit’s been superb as the Tigers’ — really do.
“I throw it, he hit it,” Benoit said. “Nothing else I can do.”