Detroit Tigers closer Jose Valverde will look to begin a new consecutive saves streak this afternoon, should he get the opportunity.
After converting his final two save chances in 2010, then all 49 he had in 2011, Valverde coughed up a 2-0 lead versus the Boston Red Sox in Thursday’s season opener, halting his franchise-record streak for consecutive saves.
“When I say this, I mean it,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said after Thursday’s game. “In a way, I’m glad that streak’s over because it puts that behind us and we can just go forward.”
Part of the care-free attitude surrounding the end of the streak is certainly tied to the end result, a 3-2 Tigers win. Austin Jackson, who singled on the first pitch of the bottom of the first, ended the game with a single on the final pitch, becoming the first Tiger since Gary Pettis to accomplish that feat. Had the Tigers lost the game, perhaps the tone would not have been so easy.
In any game, there are seemingly dozens of instances one can point to and think that if this had gone the other way, there could have been a different end result. Had Miguel Cabrera knocked down the ball that ate him up, Tigers starter Justin Verlander would likely have had enough pitches left on his pitch-count to go back out there for the ninth. But Cabrera didn’t make the play and Verlander did expend extra pitches to end the inning.
On the other hand, if Ryan Sweeney‘s RBI triple that tied the game in the ninth was a foot higher, it likely clears the camera well cut-out of the right field wall. Instead of a 2-2 tie going into the bottom of the ninth, the Tigers would have been trailing 3-2. In that case, they probably don’t see Mark Melancon to open the frame; they’d have gotten a full inning of Alfredo Aceves instead.
Would the result have been different? Quite possibly so. But for Valverde and the Tigers, all things ended happily on a day that could have easily been one of the biggest gut-punching defeats in recent memory.
In the end, Valverde had a bad day and cost the reigning Cy Young and MVP award winner his first victory of the season, but that’s really just semantics anyhow. Verlander’s effort wasn’t tarnished in any way by the lack of a “W” next to his name in the box score.
I can’t help but to agree with Leyland. I’m kind of glad Valverde’s streak came to an end on Thursday. It happened in such a way that didn’t sound any alarms or raise any red flags. It was simply a blown save, which happens to all closers; no need for panic.
John Parent is the NL Editorial Director for FanSided MLB and a life-long Tigers fan. He can be reached at email@example.com or via twitter @JohnJParent.