The Detroit Tigers are better off in their bullpen than they were a year ago when they won the ALCS for one major reason: Joaquin Benoit.
Benoit has emerged as the type of MLB closer the Tigers will need to win it all. He’s a far cry from a year ago when the Tiger came into the series with Jose Valverde, who was washed up. But it took Tigers manager Jim Leyland a couple of games to finally figure out Valverde had lost it.
Benoit is now the closer, but he is starting to pick it up rather than lose it. He was solid all regular season with a 4-1 record and 2.01 ERA and 24 saves out of 26 opportunities. Benoit demonstrated in Game 5 against the Oakland Athletics is that he could deliver in the clutch and now he’s ready for the Boston Red Sox.
Jose Veras and Drew Smyly are also reliable relievers and will be counted upon to give Benoit at least one or two games off during the ACLS. Leyland is not likely to have Benoit be the closer in every series game as he did in the past with Valverde.
What makes those three pitchers valuable against a team like Boston is that they don’t give up the home run, which is important when you’re pitching from two to four games in Fenway Park, and especially in a tight game. Rick Porcello, Detroit’s fifth starter during the regular season, still gives the Tigers a bonus in the bullpen.
Al Albuquerque can be up-and-down, but he remains someone who seems to give the Tigers what they need at the right time.
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