Leyland found himself defending Valverde a day earlier, saying it would be tough for the hard-throwing right-hander not to go downhill after his remarkable run in 2011.
"He's our guy, and that's just the way it is," Leyland said afterward. "Certainly I feel comfortable with Jose coming in in that situation. Tonight he just didn't get the job done."
Valverde finished sixth in the American League with 35 saves this season, but still leads the AL with 110 saves since the beginning of 2010.
"When we lose a game like this and I need three outs for my team to clinch, it hurts," Valverde said. "This is the toughest moment in my whole career. I had everything. These guys hit it. There's nothing I can do."
Now, the Tigers will turn the ball over to their ace and Game 1 winner to lead them in Game 5. Verlander, the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner and MVP, struck out 11 batters in the series opener at Comerica Park.
"Valverde's been great for us. Those things happen," Verlander said. "Obviously you don't want them to happen on a night like tonight. It did."