Tigers closer Jose Valverde, who spent two seasons (2008-09) in the same capacity with the Houston Astros, declared the 2011 ALDS as being “over” following Detroit’s 5-3 victory Sunday over the AL East-champion New York Yankees in Game 2.
The 33-year-old Valverde, known for displaying a high-level of energy and passion on the mound, made things somewhat interesting in Sunday’s rainy-weather win by allowing two earned runs on two hits with one walk and one strikeout while closing out the ninth.
He yielded a leadoff homer to Nick Swisher, followed by a rare Jorge Posada triple to deep center, prior to walking Russell Martin
Andruw Jones cut the lead to 5-3 on a sacrifice fly before Valverde struck out Derek Jeter and retired Robinson Cano on a game-ending groundout to make up for walking Curtis Granderson.
Detroit evened the series at 1-1.
Although Valverde nearly let a crucial game slip away, it didn’t stop him from running his mouth during a postgame interview in the clubhouse.
“It’s already over,” Valverde said. “Justin Verlander has it tomorrow. The next day, we have a celebration in Detroit. They [New York] have a good team, but I think that’s it for them.”
Valverde has somewhat of a long leash in Detroit, thanks in part to his memorable 2011 season and reputation for being outspoken.
The veteran closer inked a two-year, $14 million deal with the Tigers, including a $9 million club option for 2012, as a Type A free agent following the 2009 season, thus fetching the Astros a first-round selection and first-round supplemental pick.
Valverde recorded his 200th career save in May and was named to the American League All-Star team for the second straight season.
He surpassed Todd Jones (another former Astro) as Detroit’s single-season saves leader on Sept. 11 and contributed to securing the AL Central divisional title with his 45th save just five days later.
Ultimately, Valverde converted all 49 save opportunities.
Although Valverde struggled Sunday and later ran his mouth, Tigers manager Jim Leyland gave his closer the benefit of the doubt.
“When it was all said and done, that’s terrific to come out of that,” Leyland said. “They charged him earlier and got the quick home run. Under those conditions, it’s probably tough to get a grip on the ball. You’ve got some of the best hitters in baseball up there. That’s not easy to do. That could have been a disaster for us, but fortunately, he was able to make pitches.”
CC Sabathia and Justin Verlander — both candidates for the 2011 AL Cy Young Award — will go head-to-head Monday in what expects to be an exceptional pitchers’ duel in Game 3 at Comerica Park.
First pitch is scheduled for 8:37 p.m. ET.
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