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.

Yankees GM Brian Cashman not considering demoting struggling Greg Bird

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Yankees first baseman Greg Bird gave his team tons of confidence to hand him the everyday job at first base to start the 2017 regular season, batting .451/.556/1.098 with eight home runs in 51 spring at-bats. But he’s followed that up by hitting .107/.254/.214 through the first month of the regular season.

GM Brian Cashman doesn’t have any intent to demote Bird back to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch reports. Cashman said, “It’s not even an option for me in my mind right now, at all.”

Bird didn’t start Sunday’s game against the Orioles, a 7-4 loss in 11 innings. Lefty Wade Miley started for the Orioles, prompting manager Joe Girardi to put Chris Carter into the lineup at first base. If Bird isn’t able to figure things out, Carter might have an increased role on the team.

Chris Archer threw behind Jose Bautista

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Rays starter Chris Archer threw his first pitch to Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista behind the slugger’s back with one out in the first inning of Sunday afternoon’s game in Toronto. Bautista and Archer then had a staredown. Home plate umpire Jim Wolf issued warnings to both teams. Bautista ultimately flied out to right field and he appeared to have a quick word with Archer on his way back to the dugout.

Archer could have been exacting revenge — euphemistically known as “protecting his teammate” — because Jays reliever Joe Biagini hit Rays outfielder Steven Souza in the seventh inning of Saturday’s game. Souza was forced to leave the game and underwent an X-ray, which came back negative. He was held out of Sunday’s lineup. Biagini’s pitch did not appear to be intentional.

The Jays won Sunday’s contest 3-1 with no further incident. The two clubs meet again in Tampa for a three-game series starting on May 5, so we’ll see if Sunday was the last of the bad blood between them.