In Game 1 of the 2012 American League Championship Series, the Detroit Tigers had a 4-0 lead on the New York Yankees with one of the most dominant closers in baseball in Jose Valverde coming into the game to close it out. An Ichiro Suzuki and a Raul Ibanez home run later and the Tigers and the Yankees continued the game into the 12 inning before the Tigers would get the best of the Bronx Bombers to capture the game.
In two-thirds of an inning, Valverde threw 28 pitches while four runs crossed the plate. To make matters worse, it was not the first time he did it in the 2012 MLB playoffs. Rewind three days earlier and Valverde blew it against the Oakland Athletics in the American League Division Series allowing three runs on just 16 pitches.
Valverde’s performances have led manager Jim Leyland to question whether or not he should be the closer, especially when Phil Coke has been getting it done in the seventh and eighth innings.
Leyland has also said that he has not problem using a closer-by-committee process just to get the two wins that they need to head to the World Series.
Coke could be the man to fill-in for Valverde. In three innings in the series, Coke has struck out three batters and has only allowed one hit. He has been the one carrying the bullpen blowing his fastballs and sliders by the slow Yankees bats.
It is not panic mode for the Tigers as they are still up 2-0 in the series against the Yankees and the bullpen has not imploded entirely. However, for the Tigers to win, Valverde will need to get his mind back into the game and increase his confidence level. He is the anchor of the bullpen and needs to start showing it.
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