Jose Valverde returned to the mound for Detroit for the first time since his epic playoff implosion. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Detroit Tigers 7, Kansas City Royals 5 (box score)
The story of this game was waiting for the ninth inning because Jose Valverde was in the house, he was named the closer, and live or die this thing was happening. But there was eight innings to go before the event everyone was talking about (and fretting over) was going to take place.
Max Scherzer cruised through the first two innings. He struck out three Royals and allowed just one hit, but he ran into a bit of trouble in the third inning. The Tigers had just scored the first run of the game in the previous half inning (a Jhonny Peralta single, an Alex Avila walk, and an Omar Infante single), but Kansas City jumped all over Max to put up four of their own. A single, single, double, single, single plated three runs (and left runners on the corners) before an out was recorded, but a sacrifice fly and a double play got Scherzer out of the inning with only one additional run scoring.
The Tiger bats — which had gone relatively silent in Seattle and Los Angeles — backed up their pitcher. Two runs in the bottom of the third, and four runs in the bottom of the fourth put them right back on top by a 7-4 margin.
Scherzer ran into more trouble in the fifth and walked in a run (his third walk of the inning), but got out of a bases loaded, no out jam while only allowing the one walked-in run. That would be the end of the day for Sherzer. He wasn’t entirely sharp overall, but his six strikeout, three walk line probably deserved better than five runs allowed.
Al Alburquerque (1.2 IP, 2 K, 2 BB, 0 ER) and Joaquin Benoit (1.1 IP, 1 K, 0 BB, 0 ER) combined to get through the sixth, seventh, and eighth innings, but the bullpen doors opened again to start the ninth, and out trotted Jose Valverde.
A few boos could be heard as he prepared to exit the bullpen, but the Comerica Park crowed more or less gave him a standing ovation in encouragement as he ran to the mound. Valverde wasn’t excellent, but he was fine and got the team through the ninth inning save situation with a flyout, groundout, and another flyout. 11 of his 18 pitches went for strikes. All of his offerings were fastballs (which sat 92-95 mph); he didn’t show the splitter. It was the type of outing that alleviated most of the panic that he’d blow up, but it didn’t necessarily inspire confidence that he’ll even be an above average reliever going forward. He was fine, but he needs to show more.
The Tigers are now 10-9, a half game back of Kansas City in the AL Central.