Gamble pays off for Tigers

Detroit’s Valverde closes out shaky 6-4 victory over Royals

July 9, 2011


— Sometimes a manager’s got to do what a manager’s got to do.

Detroit’s Jim Leyland did not want to use closer Jose Valverde on Friday night because he had pitched on consecutive nights.

“But I had to,” Leyland said.

Changing his mind, Leyland sent his All-Star reliever out to start the ninth inning and may have almost wished he hadn’t.

It was a struggle. But with two outs and the bases loaded, Valverde finally retired Billy Butler on a fly ball to wrap up a 6-4 victory over Kansas City and his 23rd consecutive save.

“I talked to him before the game. He said he was fine. He had two days off, then pitched two days,” Leyland said. “He was all right but he won’t pitch the rest of the first half for us. He’ll be off for two days. He’ll be off for four days for sure.”

Magglio Ordonez’s two-run homer just six pitches into the game staked Rick Porcello to an early lead and got the Tigers rolling past Kyle Davies and the reeling Royals.

Davies (1-8) lost his seventh straight decision and the Royals dropped to 5-14 in their past 19 games.

“I’ve struggled. It’s been a struggle the first half,” Davies said. “Coming out of spring training I thought I was throwing the ball pretty well. Obviously you look at the numbers, they’re not good. Nobody wants those numbers going into the half.”

While trying to hold onto a slim lead, Leyland had a pleasant duty handed to him. About the eighth inning, he told shortstop Jhonny Peralta he had just been named to the All-Star team, replacing Derek Jeter of the Yankees. As it turned out Peralta was key to the win, with two hits, an RBI, a run scored and a key defensive play.

“He’s an All-Star player this year,” Leyland said. “He deserves to go. I’m sure he’s very tickled, very thrilled and I’m thrilled for him. He’s a great teammate. I couldn’t be happier. For (catcher Alex) Avila and Peralta going for the first time, that’s really a thrill, and both of them deserve it.”

Only one of the three runs the Royals scored off Porcello (8-6) was earned. The lanky right-hander went 5 1/3 innings and allowed six hits. He struck out five and walked just one — the 14th time in 17 outings he has allowed two or fewer walks.

Davies, making his second start since returning from the disabled list with inflammation of the right rotator cuff, gave up a leadoff double to Andy Dirks, who had three hits.

One out later, Ordonez hit the struggling right-hander’s first offering over the fence for a 2-0 lead. Davies went six innings and allowed five runs and nine hits, with three walks and four strikeouts.

The Royals closed to 5-4 in the seventh when Melky Cabrera doubled home a run off reliever David Purcey. But with two outs, Peralta made a standout play running to his right to stop Butler’s hard-hit grounder and nip the heavy-footed DH at first.

“I am thrilled he is going to the All-Star game with us,” Avila said. “He obviously deserves it.”

The Tigers loaded the bases with no outs in the second on a walk and two soft singles but got only one run, on Dirks’ infield grounder with one out.

Ryan Raburn, who had singled and was on first, went piling into shortstop Alcides Escobar to break up the attempted double play as Peralta crossed the plate.

The Royals bounced back with two unearned runs in the bottom of the first after Chris Getz reached leading off on third baseman Brandon Inge’s fielding error.

After Cabrera’s single, Alex Gordon rifled an RBI single into center with one out and Jeff Francoeur hit a sacrifice fly.

Victor Martinez’s infield grounder brought in Ordonez from third base with another run in the third and then Peralta made it 5-2 with an RBI double.

Porcello, after striking out the side in the third, gave up three straight singles starting the fourth, including Butler’s RBI single. Porcello escaped by getting Eric Hosmer on a fielder’s choice grounder and Francoeur and Mike Moustakas on fly balls.

The Tigers added a run off Tim Collins in the ninth on Brennan Boesch’s fielder’s choice grounder.

At least the Royals won’t have to face Valverde, who picked up the save in the Tigers’ two victories beginning this four-game series.

A crowd of almost 34,000 was on its feet when Butler flied out to right on a 2-0 pitch to end the game.

“I got myself in a good hitter’s count, got a good pitch to hit, put a good swing on it and just didn’t get a good result,” Butler said. “It’s just the tough thing about baseball.”

Getz, a three-year veteran, was ejected for the first time in his career for arguing with first base umpire Tom Hallion after he was called out on a close play ending the fourth.

Notes: The Royals optioned LHP Danny Duffy to Triple-A Omaha and brought up LHP Everett Teaford. Duffy will return after the All-Star break and start against the White Sox on July 19. ... OF Austin Jackson underwent treatment for a sore left wrist and Leyland said he would not start until after the All-Star break. ... Moustakas, a rookie, was 0 for 4 and is hitless in his past 21 at-bats.


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