Tigers Win, NY, Jeter, Valverde Lose

One game in down in the ALCS. Already had a whole series worth of drama.

A blown save.

A blown ankle.

The continuing demise of a $30 million man.

The escalating decisions facing two managers, Series winners both.

Game 2′s first pitch is at 4:07, about a half day after Detroit salvaged an overtime W in Game 1. I am sleep deprived. I can’t imagine how the players feel after last night’s emotionally draining proceedings?

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There’s been more than a bit of speculation this season whether the Jim Leyland Era had run its course in Motown?

Until the Tigers passed the faltering ChiSox late for the division title, Detroit was considered an underachiever. Much of the problem was blamed on the bullpen. Closer Jose Valverde didn’t blow a save during the entire 2011 regular season. This season he blew five and became decreasingly effective as the Tigers crept to the title.

Set up guy Joaquin Benoit, severely effective last season, served up an Idaho’s worth of taters this year.

More than a few Tiger fans wondered not if but when Leyland would switch about his late game rotation? Put some trust in Phil Coke, Octavio Dotel and/ or Al Alburquerque? Drew Smyly??????

After last night’s Valverde meltdown, his second in his last two appearances, today was fish or cut bait time for Leyland.

Papa Grande has turned into Papa Ooo Mow Mow this week. Against Oakland he gave up winning runs in ALDS Game 4. Which forced the Tigers to use ace Justin Verlander to secure the series. Which he did in Grande style.

Last night Valverde was handed the ball with a four run lead. Two two-run homers later, the Yanks had life and the Tigers looked shell shocked. Fortunately they survived, thanks to steeliness, Delmon Young and some nifty relief work from, uh, Drew Smyly.

This afternoon, Leyland announced Valverde was being set down as the team’s closer . . . temporarily.

Seems to me, Benoit might join him for some pine time. Last night, he barely survived the 8th, giving up a couple of line shots before closing out the inning . . . barely.

* * * * *

All that soap opera notwithstanding, the baseball nation — outside Detroit — has turned its lonely eyes to Derek Jeter.

Which Yankee icon shall be sitting out the rest of the season with a cast on his broken ankle.

So, Joe Girardi, who has faced a similar decision — Sit down a key cog, or not? — as Leyland due to mega-millionaire Alex Rodriguez under-performance, now has to figure out how to replace the centerpiece of his squad.

Rodriguez to SS?

GM Brian Cashman says no. Jayson Nix, come on down.

Meanwhile, Raul Ibanez is doing his best Dusty Rhodes impersonation. The Yankee sub has three homers in two games.

Fortunately the one last night didn’t spell defeat for Detroit.

* * * * *

A tip of the hat to Tiger starter Doug Fister.

The hurler survived, not one, but three bases-loaded jams. Through guile, and with defensive help from SS Jhonny Peralta.

And a tip of the hat to my Tigers. They went from muttering over Valverde’s deplorable stint on the mound, throwing helmets and bashing coolers in frustration to steadying themselves and winning the game with two runs in the top of the 12th. And 3 1/3 innings of steady relief from Dotel and that rookie Drew Smyly.

– Seedy K

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