Valverde blows save in toughest moment of career

Associated Press Modified: October 11, 2012 at 1:17 am •  Published: October 11, 2012
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Valverde has long been manager Jim Leyland's reliable ninth-inning man — and he so hopes to get the ball again Thursday night. Valverde earned his fourth postseason save in Saturday's 3-1 Game 1 win, then missed a chance to become the franchise's postseason saves leader. He currently shares that distinction with Willie Hernandez and Todd Jones.

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."