Leyland downplays Valverde's adventurous save

Leyland downplays Valverde's adventurous save

Leyland downplays Valverde's adventurous save
DETROIT -- Tigers closer Jose Valverde entered Tuesday night's game against the Yankees with a three-run lead in the ninth inning. However, Detroit just barely escaped with a 6-5 victory after Valverde surrendered two runs on three hits and a walk, and left runners on second and third.

For manager Jim Leyland, it was just a matter of his closer "getting under the ball" as the 34-year-old Valverde had some control issues, throwing a season-high 33 pitches and 15 of them for balls.

"He just got out of whack. He was getting underneath the ball some," Leyland said. "You know, you're not perfect every time. It doesn't work that way. It's a tough game. Sometimes you know where it is but you don't get it there. He's fine."

It was the fourth time this season Valverde has had a 30-plus-pitch inning, and his most pitches in a game since May 2, 2011, when he threw 35 against New York. But Leyland pointed out that Valverde had clean innings -- meaning no hits, no walks, no runs -- in five of his previous six games.

It hasn't exactly been a replica season for the 2011 Major League saves leader, but it's not all that far off. Of his 47 appearances this season, 21 of them have been clean. In 75 games last year, only 22 games in 75 appearances were without a hit, walk or run allowed.

The main difference is Valverde went a perfect 49-for-49 in save opportunities converted last year and owned a streak of 51 consecutive saves, which stands as the second-longest streak in baseball history. He has blown four this season.

"I don't think [fans] expect [perfection], but he's always in a situation normally where he decides the outcome," Leyland said. "He's out there because you got a lead. So if he doesn't do well and you lose a game, people focus on that more."

That's why the closer is such a noticeable position, Leyland said, and he also hopes the fans notice how good the Tigers' closer has been.

Since joining the club in 2010, Valverde has the highest save percentage (93.3 percent) in the Majors. The next closest is Andrew Bailey (90.7 percent), but he's thrown more than 90 fewer innings. Mariano Rivera, perhaps the greatest closer in the history of the game, is 10th with an 88.2 save percentage.

"He's obviously been one of the best," Leyland said. "And one of the reasons he's one of the best is because he's got a real knack for turning the page. Closers who can't turn the page usually don't close too long."

The skipper said, if the situation presents itself, Valverde will be given a chance to "turn the page" Wednesday night, as he was available after his long inning, although Leyland would like the give him one of the final two games of the series off.