Jose Valverde earns 51st straight save of 2011, Tigers top Yankees and advance to ALCS

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Tigers closer Jose Valverde converted 49-of-49 save opportunities during the 2011 regular season.

At times those saves were pretty, others times they weren’t. On Thursday night at Yankee Stadium, the American League Central champions just wanted results. And Valverde once again came through.

The seemingly possessed right-hander induced a weak flyout to left field from Curtis Granderson, shattered Robinson Cano’s bat on a soft lineout to center, then got Alex Rodriguez with an emphatic punchout to end the ninth inning and wrap up the ALDS. He needed only 11 pitches to make it through the perfect frame, seven of which went for strikes. It was his 51st successfully converted save of the 2011 season.

But Valverde wasn’t the Tigers’ only standout pitcher in Thursday’s 3-2 Game 5 triumph.

Doug Fister started things off with five innings of one-run ball, scattering five hits while striking out four Yankees hitters. Game 2 victor Max Scherzer then came on in relief, earning a hard-fought hold. Joaquin Benoit followed with a scoreless 1 2/3 frames before manager Jim Leyland turned things over to Valverde.

It’s not all about Justin Verlander. Detroit’s pitching staff is deep and — more importantly — producing.

The Tigers will open their ALCS matchup with the Rangers on Saturday. We’ll have it covered here at HBT.

Blue Jays, Josh Donaldson to table extension talks

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Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports that the Blue Jays and third baseman Josh Donaldson are tabling extension talks as the two sides weren’t able to build any momentum towards agreement on a new contract.

Donaldson said, “We’re not quite there. That, to me, right now is not the major focus and I’m turning the page.” He added, “I want to play this season and really focus on winning games because, ultimately, our goal is to win a World Series and I don’t want to hinder that at all.” Donaldson also said he expects to hit free agency.

The 32-year-old avoided arbitration with the Blue Jays last month, agreeing on a $23 million salary for the 2018 season. He’s a free agent at season’s end. Last year, the three-time All-Star hit .270/.385/.559 with 33 home runs, 78 RBI, and 65 runs scored in 496 plate appearances. Donaldson missed six weeks in the first half with a calf injury, but was able to return and post terrific numbers, so his health — at least that aspect of it — shouldn’t be a concern going into spring training.

If Donaldson does reach free agency, he’ll join a star-studded group that will likely also include Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Charlie Blackmon, and A.J. Pollock.