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.

Odúbel Herrera has homered in four consecutive games

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Phillies outfielder Odúbel Herrera produced what proved to be the game-winning hit on Wednesday afternoon, drilling a go-ahead solo home run to right field off of Cardinals reliever Sam Tuivailala in the bottom of the seventh inning. The Phillies went on to win 4-3, as the bullpen actually held on to a lead for once.

Herrera has now homered in four consecutive games and in five of his last six contests. The major league record is eight consecutive games with a home run, held by Don Mattingly, Dale Long, and Ken Griffey, Jr. The Phillies record is five consecutive games with a homer, held by Dick Allen, Mike Schmidt, Bobby Abreu, Chase Utley (twice), and Rhys Hoskins.

On the season, Herrera is batting .299/.355/.491 with 12 home runs, 41 RBI, and 35 runs scored in 297 plate appearances.