Valverde, back with Tigers, gets save
For the Detroit Tigers, it felt like 2011 again.
Two of the key components of that year's AL Central Division champs reunited Wednesday night to help the Tigers beat the Kansas City Royals 7-5. Victor Martinez drove in a pair of runs and Jose Valverde returned to Detroit with a save.
Martinez missed all of last season with a knee injury, and entered the game hitting .182. On a 39-degree night, he was robbed of extra bases by Eric Hosmer in his first at-bat, but he had an RBI double in the third and a run-scoring single in the fourth.
''I felt good out there ... and I got some balls to fall in,'' he said. ''It wasn't fun out there in this weather, not at all, but the important thing was getting some hits and winning a game.''
Valverde, called up earlier in the day, returned to the Tigers with a perfect ninth inning. Valverde lost the closing role during last season's postseason and wasn't offered a contract, but signed a minor-league deal earlier this month and returned to Detroit after a short minor league stint.
''This wasn't a first day — I've been here for four years,'' he said. ''I just missed a couple weeks of weather like this.''
Valverde threw 18 pitches, all fastballs.
''I'd like to see one of you throw a splitter on a day like this,'' he joked. ''Tomorrow, maybe I'll throw a split or two, but today I had my cutter and my sinker.''
Max Scherzer (2-0) earned the win, allowing five runs in five innings, while Wade Davis (2-1) took the loss, giving up seven runs — three earned — in 3 2/3 innings. Davis allowed eight hits and four walks while only getting 11 outs.
''Pitchers need to be able to feel the ball with their fingertips - that's how they are able to manipulate it,'' Kansas City manager Ned Yost said. ''When it is this cold, you can't do that. I'm sure that was a big part of Wade's problem, but it didn't help Scherzer, either. Everyone has the same problems on a day like this.''
The Tigers took the lead on Omar Infante's RBI single in the second, but Kansas City responded with four runs in the third. Salvador Perez and Chris Getz started the inning with singles, and Alex Gordon tied the game with a double. Alcides Escobar and Billy Butler made it 3-1 with RBI singles, giving the Royals five straight hits, and Hosmer drove in the fourth run with a long sacrifice fly.
The Tigers added two more in their half of the third on a Martinez RBI double and Jhonny Peralta's run-scoring single. Martinez tried to score from second on Peralta's double, and was beaten so badly by Jeff Francoeur's throw from right that he veered off for the dugout and was called out for leaving the basepath.
''I saw the catcher get the ball, and I was halfway to the plate,'' he said. ''There was no reason to do anything stupid — I want to keep playing baseball.''
Detroit took control in the fourth when Infante scored on a Moustakas error and Miguel Cabrera followed with a tie-breaking sacrifice fly. Martinez added an RBI single, chasing Davis, but Luis Mendoza walked the next two batters to force in a seventh run.
The Royals loaded the bases with no one out in the fifth, but only scored once, and couldn't get anything after putting two runners on in the seventh.
''That fifth inning really hurt us,'' Yost said. ''We did some nice things to get the bases loaded, and then we only got one run out of it. We had a couple chances after that, and never did anything, so we only ended up with the one big inning.''
The game started on time, despite rain and snow showers throughout the day. Neither team took batting practice, but the skies cleared as the evening went on. The last few innings were played under a full moon with the temperature dropping through the 30s. ... The Tigers officially purchased Valverde's contract before the game, and designated Duane Below for assignment. ... The Royals came into Wednesday having only played on two of the previous six days, thanks to the police situation Friday in Boston and Tuesday's rainout in Detroit.