Without his patented goggles but sporting a new windup and two-toned goatee, veteran right-hander Jose Valverde converted his first save of the 2013 season on Wednesday night as the Tigers defeated the Royals 7-5 at Detroit’s Comerica Park.
It was his first appearance since being promoted late Tuesday to the major leagues and he retired all three batters he faced — Alex Gordon, Alcides Escobar and Billy Butler — in order, throwing 18 pitches.
Valverde looked awful in last year’s postseason and couldn’t find a job this winter, but the Tigers decided in early April to bring him back on a minor league contract. He showed decent movement and velocity on Wednesday night against the Royals, even hitting 95 mph with his fastball at one point.
Joaquin Benoit has been shifted back to a setup role. He went 1 1/3 scoreless frames Wednesday.
So much for a Game 7 nail-biter. The Brewers and Dodgers were separated by just one run for the first five innings of Saturday’s NLCS finale, but a monster three-run shot from Yasiel Puig boosted the Dodgers to a four-run advantage in the top of the sixth.
The timing couldn’t have been better for Los Angeles. Brewers’ left-hander Josh Hader entered the game in the third inning and dominated the opposition for three scoreless innings, then was replaced on the mound by fellow lefty Xavier Cedeño. Cedeño promptly issued a leadoff single to Max Muncy to start the sixth and, just as promptly, was lifted for right-hander Jeremy Jeffress. After giving up another base hit to Justin Turner, it looked like Jeffress turned a corner. He induced a fly out from Manny Machado, then got Cody Bellinger to ground into a force out to shift the Dodgers’ runners to the corners with two outs.
That didn’t faze Puig, however. After appearing in 10 playoff games without a single home run, the outfielder blasted a 1-1 knuckle curve to center field to pad the Dodgers’ lead.
With three innings left to play, it’s still too soon to say whether or not the Dodgers just punched their ticket to the World Series. They lead the Brewers 5-1 in the seventh.