04/05/12 7:46 PM ET
Valverde cares about wins, not saves streak
By Jason Beck and Anthony Odoardi / MLB.com
Before Thursday, one would have to go all the way back to Sept. 2, 2010, to find the last time Jose Valverde got pegged for a blown save. He was a perfect 49-for-49 last season as he led the Major Leagues in saves.
His 51 consecutive saves trailed only Eric Gagne's streak of 84 from 2002-04. With a two-run lead in the ninth inning Thursday on Opening Day, however, Valverde watched the Red Sox double, single and triple to tie the game.
Despite the blown save, the Tigers won 3-2, on a bases-loaded walk-off single from Austin Jackson in the ninth. Valverde was credited with the team's first win of the season, but he was more concerned with the team winning than him finishing it.
"The only thing that matters right now is winning," Valverde said. "That's it. Nothing you can do. It would happen one day, you know what I mean."
For manager Jim Leyland, he was happy the streak ended sooner rather than later.
"I'm glad it's over with to be honest with you," Leyland said. "Forty-nine straight last year, you knew it was going to happen at some point. Get it out of the way on Opening Day. There's nothing wrong with that."
Leyland's decision to turn to Valverde was an automatic. Though Justin Verlander rolled through eight scoreless innings, Leyland wasn't going to let him top 110 pitches. He told him as much after his seventh inning to ward off Verlander pleading his case.
"At 110, he was done," Leyland said. "For the first day, that was it. It wasn't going to be any more. He knew it when he came in after the seventh inning."
With a previously perfect closer, the decision was easier. However, the inning fell apart quickly. Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia hit a leadoff double, and after an Adrian Gonzalez single, scored on David Ortiz's sacrifice fly.
After Valverde struck out Kevin Youkilis on an offspeed pitch for the second out, Ryan Sweeney roped a 2-1 offering into the right-field corner. Pinch-runner Darnell McDonald scored easily, but the bounce off the right-field fence allowed Sweeney to roll into third and give Cody Ross a chance to put the Red Sox ahead.
Valverde escaped the frame with a lineout to short. Ironically, that put him in line for the win when the Tigers rallied in the bottom of the ninth.
Valverde took a minute to look back on the streak following Thursday's game. He thanked God and the fans for helping him get this far. However, as soon as he walked off the field, he knew it was something he had to forget about quick.
"I'm clean already," he said. "I don't know about you, but it's over for me. It's nothing you can do."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. Anthony Odoardi is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.