Pelfrey heeds Dubee’s advice, escapes bases-loaded jam

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

New York — It was the fourth inning. The Tigers were down 4-0 and the Yankees had the bases loaded with nobody out.

Two things happened at that point. One, Tigers starter Mike Pelfrey looked out beyond the left-center field fence and saw Anibal Sanchez warming up.

“I saw Sanchez warming up and I thought, ‘No, that’s not happening,’ ” Pelfrey said.

He may or may not have seen his spot in the rotation pass him by there. Had he faltered and Sanchez worked another stellar relief outing, there would be talk of a change.

The second thing was a quick visit from pitching coach Rich Dubee.

Pelfrey had given up three runs in the first (two scoring on a liner that left-fielder Justin Upton froze on and misplayed into a double) and an unearned run in the third.

He was about to face the Yankees’ No. 9 hitter, right-handed hitting Rob Refsnyder, with the bases loaded and nobody out. Talk about staring at the abyss.

So what did Dubee say to Pelfrey?

“He told me to get a ground ball back to myself,” Pelfrey said.

No joke. And sure enough, Refsnyder tapped one back to Pelfrey, who fired it to the plate and started a 1-2-3 double play. He then dispatched Jacoby Ellsbury to escape the jam with no damage.

“I just listened to Dubee,” Pelfrey said. “Great coaching. I kept telling myself it was coming back to me and it came back to me. I was pretty fortunate to get out of that. I am glad I did.”

He wound up working 6 2/3 innings. Three of the six hits he allowed and two of the five walks came in the first inning. He retired 14 of the last 16 hitters he faced.

“I thought I was good, not great,” Pelfrey said. “Obviously, the way the other guy (C.C. Sabathia) was throwing, it wasn’t good enough.

In five of Pelfrey’s 12 starts, the Tigers have scored two or fewer runs. The 4-0 loss marked the fifth time the Tigers were shut out this season. All five came on the road, three of them in Pelfrey’s starts.

Twitter: @cmccosky