Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander did what he always does. Verlander has a 15-2 record with a 2.56 ERA in 25 starts against the Kansas City Royals and he dominated again, with seven shutout innings, giving up just three singles and not permitting a runner past first.
He struck out eight and walked two, while throwing 117 pitches.
“Probably my best start of the season. I’m not exactly where I want to be, but pretty doggone close.”
Then Valverde did what he does all to frequently.
He gave up a tying, two-run homer to Lorenzo Cain with two outs in the ninth inning. The Tigers’ bullpen has a 4-12 record with eight blown saves. An inning later the Royals scored again to steal a 3-2 win over the Tigers.
“No closer wants a blown save,” Valverde said. “Nobody wants that. It’s part of the game. The closer wants to save the game, not lose the game.”
“Verlander showed why he’s the horse today,” Leyland said. “He was terrific, absolutely terrific. He stepped up today. That’s the way he’s been the seven years I’ve been here.”
As for Valverde, “It was a high split,” Leyland said about the home run pitch. “It didn’t split too good and the kid hit it out of the ballpark”
While Valverde continues to serve up reminders of last October’s meltdown, he has now allowed five home runs in his last 51⁄3 innings. The options for replacing him are limited.
Bruce Rondon who was given that opportunity in the spring has been working his way back to the Motor City in Toledo and may be ready for another chance. Rondon has pitched in 23 games for the Mud Hens. He has an 0.77 earned-run average, has allowed nine hits in 231⁄3 innings, with 29 strikeouts and 12 walks.
Another option could be to move set up man Joaquin Benoit to the closers role. The trade deadline is July 31 and may present an opportunity for the Tigers to upgrade.
For now Valverde is right, no closer wants a blown save, but then again, no team wants a closer who blows saves.