Detroit Tigers closer Jose Valverde guaranteed his team will beat the Yankees in their American League playoff series, which would be more convincing if someone other than Valverde was responsible for the final outs.
Because as any Tiger fan can guarantee you, no ninth inning with Valverde is dull. He’s pitched twice in this postseason and allowed half of the 12 batters he’s faced to reach base. He also finished Game 2 and saved Game 3, and the Tigers have a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series.
Valverde is 50-for-50 in saves for 2011, which shows how misleading a stat that is: Valverde not only isn’t the best reliever in this series, he’s not No. 2 and could rank anywhere from 3 to 4 (Mariano Rivera and David Robertson defintely; Joaquin Benoit, maybe, and not Al Albuquerque only because of injuries).
But Valverde is certainly No. 1 when it comes to celebrating. If Cy Youngs were awarded for the vigor of the post-game demonstrations, Valverde would have a mantle full. You can always count on Valverde for relief, although it’s often comic.
The Yankees-Tigers series was an odd one — the Yankees have outscored the Tigers 16-11, yet trail 2-1 — even before Valverde spoke up. Game 1 was suspended in the second inning, which left the Tigers with a lineup vs. a lefty to face a righty when the game resumed the next day.
Game 2 was played in a rain so bad you could imagine the late Bowie Kuhn watching, in shirtsleeves. (Hollywood had Singing In The Rain; Tigers-Yankees had Swinging In the Rain; Hollywood starred Gene Kelly, the Tigers starred Don Kelly; Hollywood had Gene Kelly leaping on to lampposts, Tigers-Yankees had catcher Alex Avila falling on his backside).
It gets odder still tonight. Unless Yankees manager Joe Girardi changes his mind, A.J. Burnett — 11-11 with a 5.15 ERA in 2011 — will pitch to save the season. Girardi, according to espn.com, says “I could have a very short leash.”
Girardi might want to be careful. Short leashes can choke.
In other series:
Tampa Bay vs. Texas: The Rays have every right to believe in miracles, given their entry into the playoffs, but it’ll take more than faith for J.P. Howell to get out Josh Hamilton in the late innings. Tampa Bay might want to try Jake McGee next time. Not that Howell is alone — the relief pitching has been low-quality in this series, especially from Texas, which has used its bullpen for 11 of the 27 innings (and given up six runs). It would be worse if Texas manager Ron Washington hadn’t returned Alexi Ogando to the pen. The Rangers might want to avoid Game 5, where Rays Game 1 winner Matt Moore awaits. Moore has pitched 16.1 big-league innings — postseason and regular season combined — but he hasn’t allowed a run in his last 13.1.
Cardinals vs. Phillies: The Cardinals are giddy and why shouldn’t they be? They’re tied, they’re heading home and they haven’t had a quality start yet — and we haven’t even gotten to Edwin Jackson. Give Cardinals’ manager Tony La Russa credit — he will if you won’t — for managing his bullpen perfectly in Game 2. Of course, it’s possible the Eagles left such a nasty stench in South Philadelphia on Sunday, there was nothing the Phillies could do. Can mediocre pitching beat medicore offense? We’re about to find out: of the eight playoff teams, the Phillies are eighth in OPS, eighth in slugging percentage and seventh in runs scored.
Diamondbacks vs. Brewers: Arizona’s Kirk Gibson might yet be Manager of the Year, but he’s hardly Manager of the Postseason. In two games, the Brewers’ Prince Fielder has knocked in three runs with a base open. First rule of playing the Brewers: make the batter behind Ryan Braun and Fielder hit. The Brewers are batting .303 in the series; take Braun and Fielder out and they’re hitting .220. The D’backs might want to try it.