DETROIT -- Al Alburquerque's two-inning, five-strikeout performance Sunday against the Angels was the best manager Jim Leyland has seen the right-hander since his elbow surgery a year and a half ago, Leyland said Tuesday.
"I think that's the best I've seen him since he came back," Leyland said.
Alburquerque went further. He said he thinks it's the best he has pitched since joining the Tigers, even better than the three-inning, six-strikeout gem he tossed in Cleveland two years ago.
Statistically, it was a rare outing for a Tigers reliever. According to Tigers media relations, Alburquerque's five consecutive strikeouts were the most by a Tigers reliever since Nelson Cruz fanned six Brewers in a row on July 8, 2000.
According to research on baseball-reference.com, it marked just the fifth time in the past 50 years that a Tigers reliever struck out five batters in two perfect innings. Bobby Seay was the last to do it, fanning five Oakland A's on Sept. 10, 2008.
The key, Alburquerque said, goes back to the tweak pitching coach Jeff Jones made in his delivery last week in Seattle. By opening up later in his delivery, Alburquerque hides the ball longer. On Sunday, he was able to repeat it.
"I think he feels very comfortable with what we did," Jones said Tuesday. "And he was obviously as good as you could be."