Detroit fans probably like Jose Valverde. He pitches for their team and he’s good at his job. But to watch him pitch against your team is to root for him to fail every time. From his ugly delivery to his constant chest thumping and related antics, Valverde excels at irritating fans and players alike.
That’s why Monday’s Yankee victory was so sweet. After the Tigers tied the game in the seventh inning, Jim Leyland handed things over to his closer in the top of the ninth with the score knotted at three runs each. Valverde couldn’t find the zone with a map. He was missing all over the place. He walked Curtis Granderson (who was later thrown out when he slid over second). He walked Mark Teixeira. He allowed a little dribbler to Alex Rodriguez, which really should have been ruled an error on Brandon Inge. Then, he gave up the go-ahead RBI single to Nick Swisher, scoring Tex. He later allowed A-Rod to score on a passed ball that really should have been ruled a wild pitch. The Yankees took the field in the bottom of the inning with a 5-3 lead.
In total, Valverde allowed two hits, two walks and two runs (one earned) in only one inning of work, costing Detroit the game. Then, Joe Girardi handed the ball over to a real closer. Mariano Rivera was perfect in the ninth, and demonstrated that his recent struggles are certainly behind him. He retired the Tigers on just nine pitches, seven of them strikes.
Earlier in the game, Bartolo Colon gave the Yankees yet another strong, efficient performance. He lasted seven innings on only 97 pitches, allowing just three runs on seven hits with no walks and seven strikeouts. Once again, Colon is demonstrating real command of a fastball that he throws for about 93mph with real life late in the zone. It almost looks like a curveball on television, and it freezes batters. It freezes righties in particular. If Colon had any weaknesses Monday, it was his inability to get out Alex Avila, who hit two homers against him, including the tying run in the seventh.
Colon may not have been able to get the better of Avila, but he was better than Justin Verlander. Leyland kept Verlander on the mound for 127 pitches over just six innings of work. Verlander struck out eight, but he also allowed eight hits, walked four, and saw an incredible number of batters get to full counts. To Verlander’s credit, however, he kept the Tigers in the game, preventing the Yankees from leveraging the base runners as much as they could have.
Offensively for the Yankees, three players who had struggled in April had good nights. Jorge Posada was two for five, including a two-run double in the first inning. Nick Swisher was two for four, including the previously mentioned go-ahead RBI single in the ninth. Brett Gardner continued his hot streak, going one for one with two walks and a crucial run scored in the seventh that gave the Yankees a 3-0 lead at the time.
For the Tigers, Miguel Cabrera continues to be the single hitter who frightens me most in the American League. Once again, the Yankees just couldn’t get this guy out. He went three for four with an RBI. I consider the Bombers lucky that all three of those were singles.
The Tigers have now lost seven in a row. The Yankees are in a good spot Tuesday to make it eight. CC Sabathia looks to continue his excellent start to the season Tuesday, while the Tigers will counter with Brad Penny. Anything is possible, but this obviously favors the Yankees. Game time is at seven.