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.

Report: Shohei Ohtani has sprained UCL in pitching elbow

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The Angels signed Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani for a $2.3 million signing bonus last weekend. They may have damaged goods on their hands. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports that Ohtani underwent a physical that revealed a first-degree sprain of his ulnar collateral ligament. As a result, he got a platelet-rich plasma injection on October 20. This was made known to teams after Ohtani entered MLB’s posting system, so it wasn’t like the Angels went into this blind.

Ohtani’s report said, “Although partial damage of UCL in deep layer of his right UCL exists, he is able to continue full baseball participation with sufficient elbow care program.” It also said Ohtani “will most likely be available to start his throwing program approximately a month from the PRP.”

Passan notes that the report also mentioned that a “small free body” floats in Ohtani’s elbow near his UCL.

Ohtani isn’t without other injuries. He battled hamstring and ankle issues throughout 2017 and underwent right ankle surgery back in October. Thankfully for the Angels, this diagnosis is about as good as it could be considering the circumstances. However, if Ohtani does exacerbate his UCL issue, he may ultimately need Tommy John surgery at some point, which would take him out of action for at least a year.