10/07/11 2:05 AM ET
Performer of the game: Tigers closer Valverde
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
Spin to Win
But Robinson Cano grounded out to end the game with the tying runs on base as the Tigers prevailed, 5-3. It was then that Valverde predicted the pending end of the series."It's over," he boasted afterward. "Tomorrow's the second [win], and when's the last game?" Later, he told reporters he was joking, but there was evidently a method to his madness. Valverde is known for his quirkiness, trotting from the bullpen until reaching the skin of the infield, and after a hop and skip, walking the rest of the way to the mound. So a little bit of a needle and a prediction is not out of his ordinary. "Yeah, he did it, he predicted it. I think he said it in fun and in jest, but also in a serious nature," said Dave Dombrowski, the club's president and general manager. "He backed it up, and I give him credit. He put himself in a position where he was under a lot of pressure in the ninth inning. He rolls with it. He doesn't take himself too seriously. He is great at that. He gets the job done." In Game 3 on Monday at Comerica Park, Valverde was at his scariest again, coming in behind eight innings of Justin Verlander smoke with the Tigers clinging to a 5-4 lead. Again he walked two batters. This time, with the tying run on second, he whiffed Derek Jeter to end matters. It was just another day at the park for the 2011 Delivery Man of the Year. Perhaps it was apropos, then, on Thursday night that the series would end in the ninth with a whimper rather than a bang. Valverde, Detroit's fourth pitcher in the game, induced Curtis Granderson to pop meekly to left on a full-count pitch, Cano to break his bat on a little blooper to center on the first pitch and finally struck out Alex Rodriguez swinging. It took all of 11 pitches and the series was over and out -- perhaps one game longer than Valverde's prediction -- but over just the same this time without the usual trepidation. "He's given us easy innings at times," said Dombrowski. "I know that it's hard to believe if you've seen him lately. But he's been tremendous for us this year, perfect in save situations. He couldn't have picked a better one, and hopefully he'll get a few more this year."
Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.