Leyland says Tigers spoiled by Valverde

Leyland says Tigers spoiled by Valverde

Leyland says Tigers spoiled by Valverde
DETROIT -- Jim Leyland doesn't have any theories on why the first month of the 2012 season was brutal on closers. But he does know why it's been tough on his closer.

"In [Jose] Valverde's case, he's not quite as sharp right now with a couple pitches," Leyland said. "And we're spoiled. I think it's probably a combination of both of those things."

Valverde entered the ninth inning of Saturday's game against the White Sox to preserve a one-run lead and allowed a two-run home run to Adam Dunn that cleared the right-field bleachers and went onto the concourse.

It resulted in a 3-2 loss for the Tigers and marked Valverde's second blown save of the year. In a lot of cities, two blown saves might not be worrisome, but in the Motor City, it's a big deal.

"We're a little spoiled," Leyland said. "When you save 49 straight, you get spoiled. So it's really a big magnitude if you let a couple get away."

Last season, Valverde went a perfect 49-for-49 in save opportunities. Dating back to 2010, his steak stretched to 51 consecutive saves, marking the second-longest streak of all time -- trailing only Eric Gagne's streak of 84.

As it did with Dunn's home run, one bad pitch can change the course of a game. Leyland was asked if that put perspective on how great Yankees closer Mariano Rivera's career has been. For Leyland, it just put perspective on how spectacular Valverde's run was in 2011.

"I put more focus on how great Valverde was last year," Leyland said. "Forty-nine straight. And I talked about that in Spring Training. I talked about that with certain guys winning games. Well, the fact of the matter is our closer didn't let any get away last year, so all the starters -- the pitchers' records -- they got their wins. That won't happen every time and we found that out. You can't expect a guy to do it all the time and that's just the way it is."

Valverde entered Sunday's game in the ninth inning and allowed two baserunners, but struck out Gordon Beckham to preserve the Tigers' 3-1 victory.