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.