Valverde's save streak nearing Tigers record
Closer has converted each of his 30 opportunities this season
DETROIT -- Jose Valverde's 29th consecutive save on Tuesday night might have been the closest to a blown save he's had all year. It didn't rattle him at all Wednesday night, when he improved to 30-for-30.
To him, though, it's trivial compared to what the team does as a whole.
"Thirty for me, that's yesterday," Valverde said. "It doesn't matter how many saves I have right now. The goal right now is the Tigers in first place, try to win every day, go to the playoffs and win everything."
Valverde became the first pitcher to convert his first 30 save chances from the start of a season since Philadelphia's Brad Lidge did so in 2008, according to baseball-reference.com. No American League hurler had done it since Jose Mesa saved his first 38 chances for Cleveland in 1995.
Among Tigers closers, Valverde's streak trails only Willie Hernandez's run of 32 straight in 1984, good for the club's single-season record. Hernandez went on to win the AL Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Awards that year.
Valverde entered Wednesday's bout against the Rangers with a 5-3 lead after Ryan Raburn's solo homer added an insurance run. That became the difference once Mike Napoli turned on a full-count pitch for a one-out solo shot, cutting the Tigers' advantage to 5-4.
Valverde kept his focus and worked through the next two batters. He finished the game by retiring Yorvit Torrealba, who was 4-for-9 against him entering the night.
"I try to compete all the time," Valverde said. "And I try to do the best I can for Torrealba. Torrealba's the guy all the time. Doesn't matter what I pitch, he gets a base hit. And today, I won."
Valverde stranded two runners by retiring Nelson Cruz for his 29th save Tuesday night after a Miguel Cabrera error and a Michael Young infield single. There have been a few other times Valverde has come close to blowing a save. He gave up a hit and two walks in Kansas City on July 8, but didn't allow a run. He gave up two hits and a walk against the Dodgers on June 22, but escaped unscathed.
Valverde's numbers in non-save situations are less than spectacular (7.27 ERA), but when asked to close out a win, Valverde has been perfect. Dating back to September of last season, the right-hander has converted 32 consecutive save opportunities.
"He's professional," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said, "and he's very serious about his job. When people see him, they might misread that personality, but he's pretty good at staying out of the middle of the plate, and he's very serious about his job in kind of a neat way."
The streak doesn't mean anything to Valverde. All it means is that he helps his team get closer to the ultimate goal.
"What I want right now is to go to the World Series and win," Valverde said. "That's what I want. However many saves I can do, for me, I don't care how many saves I can do. What I want is to go to the World Series with the Tigers. That's what I want to do right now.
"I'll go to the mound, [do] what I have to do, and save the game."
Chris Vannini is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.