The Tigers can’t turn back to Jose Valverde now

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The A’s had four hits in eight innings Wednesday and then doubled their total in the ninth. Pouncing all over Jose Valverde with their season down to its last three outs, the A’s scored three runs to beat the Tigers.

In so doing, the A’s left Jim Leyland with a major dilemma: who does he call on if he has a lead in the ninth in Thursday’s Game 5?

Valverde hasn’t had his good splitter at any point in the season. He was rather successful anyway, converting 35 of 40 save chances. However, his strikeout rate took a big dive and was easily the lowest of his career. As a result, his batting average against, while still quite good at .229, was the highest mark of his career.

That Valverde remained as decent as he was in 2012 can largely be attributed to the deception in his delivery. His unique motion and release makes him pretty tough to pick up. And if he doesn’t like the matchup, he’s not afraid to work around a tough lefty to get to a righty he thinks he can handle.

But repetition isn’t Valverde’s friend at this point. The A’s saw him in September and hit him. They’ve now seen him twice in a week. If they get him yet again in Game 5, it’d be no surprise to see things again get ugly in a hurry.

Maybe Justin Verlander will make it moot. No starter in the postseason is more capable of getting 27 outs all by himself. If Verlander does need to leave after seven or eight with a lead, then the A’s may need to try mixing and matching righties Al Alburquerque and Octavio Dotel and lefty Phil Coke in the ninth. Alburquerque is the Tigers’ best reliever right now, but he’s never faced the kind of pressure he would Thursday. He also hasn’t really been tested on back-to-back days since returning from an elbow injury.

As for Joaquin Benoit, who would have been the fallback a week ago, he’s allowed runs in four of his last six appearances, and tonight may well have made it five if Brandon Moss hadn’t gotten himself out with two men on in the eighth. He could always pitch the eighth again, but he scarcely seems like a better bet than Valverde at the moment.

If Leyland does go back to Valverde in the ninth inning Thursday, it’d be sheer stubbornness. There’s no place left for that with the season on the line.

Report: Six teams are in on Troy Tulowitzki

Troy Tulowitzki
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At least six teams are interested in free agent shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, according to a recent report from Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. Known suitors include the Cubs, who will reportedly be in attendance during one of the shortstop’s offseason workouts as they decide whether or not to press forward with a deal.

The Blue Jays released Tulowitzki on Tuesday as general manager Ross Atkins admitted he couldn’t rely on the 34-year-old to bounce back from season-ending bone spur removal surgery and be the kind of consistent presence the club needed going forward. Toronto is expected to absorb the remaining $38 million on Tulowitzki’s contract, which includes the $20 million he’s due in 2019, another $14 million in 2020 and a $4 million buyout in 2021.

The veteran slugger will be available to any interested team at a minimum $600,000, an undeniably attractive bargain if he recovers in advance of the 2019 season. He last appeared in the majors in 2017 and slashed .249/.300/.378 with 17 extra-base hits and a .678 OPS through 260 PA. Per Slusser, Tulowitzki appears to be angling for a job with the Athletics — even going so far as to say he’d be willing to switch positions in order to play for a winning team — though they have yet to reach out about a potential deal this winter.