Why Jose Valverde pitched in non-save situation
Jim Leyland knows the numbers with Jose Valverde and non-save situations. He admits that the intensity and focus can waver in some situations. An extra-inning game shouldn’t be one of them.
Between Octavio Dotel’s injury and Casey Crosby’s early exit, Leyland’s options to pitch the 10th inning were Valverde and rookies Luis Marte and Luke Putkonen. He had used Brayan Villarreal, Phil Coke and Joaquin Benoit just to get it that far, and there’s no way he’s going to risk stretching Benoit to a third inning. And with an extra-inning game at home, he wasn’t going to be saving Valverde for a save situation.
“I don’t think the adrenaline’s quite the same,” Leyland said of non-save situations for Valverde, “but obviously, you don’t have any choice. He’s our best option, without question. You try to hold it and give yourself a chance to win in the bottom of the inning. When you’re at home, that’s what you try to do. …
“I don’t do it all the time. I don’t like to do it that much. But if he’s ready to pitch and he’s your best option, I would do it.”
It wasn’t a typical Valverde meltdown. He got ahead of hitters, giving up all three of his hits in two-strike counts. His downfall, really, came down to a lob throw to first on an Eric Young sacrifice bunt, a throw that looked like it was from somebody afraid to overthrow it to first base and somehow turning it into one anyway.
There has been some debate over whether Valverde had a play at second base, but in real time, it looked like Michael Cuddyer (0-for-8 off Valverde before his leadoff single) was close enough to second that it would’ve taken a pretty impressive, strong-armed play to get him. Had he gotten the sure out at first, he would’ve had first base open to walk Todd Helton, 6-for-10 off Valverde from their days as NL West combatants.
The error changed the situation vastly. It also left the Tigers’ bullpen situation for Saturday looking especially daunting now that Valverde, Benoit and Villarreal are all likely on rest while Doug Fister makes his first start in nearly three weeks.