The Tigers never asked Jose Valverde to get more than three outs during the regular season. On Wednesday, they asked him to do it for the second time in three days, and it backfired in a big way.
Mike Napoli delivered an RBI single and Nelson Cruz hit a three-run homer in the top of the 11th as the Rangers dropped the Tigers 7-3 to take a 3-1 lead in the ALCS. Valverde, who pitched a scoreless 10th in a tie game, struggled having already pitched two innings on Monday and one to earn a save Tuesday.
Valverde remains a perfect 52-for-52 in save situations this year (49-for-49 in the regular season, 3-for-3 in October), but he has frequently struggled while working in tie games or with the Tigers behind (he had a 5.79 ERA in non-save situations during the regular season). Since there was no chance of a save situation for the Tigers in extra innings tonight, manager Jim Leyland was certainly right to bring Valverde in for the 10th in a tie game. Keeping him out for the 11th for his fifth inning in three days was the questionable decision.
The Rangers also made a questionable decision of their own in the 11th. Scott Feldman, who has been awesome in the postseason, pitched a perfect 10th, throwing just 11 pitches. He certainly seemed like a very good bet to hold on to a four-run lead in the 11th. Manager Ron Washington went by the book, though, and turned the ball over to his closer anyway. Neftali Feliz had an easy inning to secure the victory, but given that the Rangers are playing the next two days, one could certainly argue that there was more to be gained by saving him for Thursday.
The decisions from both Jim Leyland and Washington figure to have ramifications in a close game Game 5. Valverde will certainly be available with the Tigers’ season on the line, but who knows how effective he’ll be? The Rangers, on the other hand, might shy away from Alexi Ogando, who threw two innings tonight, and while they’ll have Feliz in the ninth, they probably won’t extend him beyond three outs.