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Published: Monday, 5/13/2013

NOTEBOOK

Tribe gets high marks for closing

Tigers' Valverde squanders chance to earn save

BY DAVID BRIGGS
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
After Tigers closer Valverde blew his first save of the season, the Indians turned their one-run lead in the 10th over to a left-handed specialist and a middle reliever. After Tigers closer Valverde blew his first save of the season, the Indians turned their one-run lead in the 10th over to a left-handed specialist and a middle reliever.
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DETROIT — Who needs a closer, anyway?

While the Tigers sent a rested Jose Valverde to protect a one-run lead in the ninth inning Sunday at Comerica Park, a late scratch forced the Indians to veer off script in a similar situation an inning later.

Cleveland’s way worked better.

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After Valverde blew his first save of the season, the Indians turned their one-run lead in the 10th over to a left-handed specialist and a middle reliever.

Rich Hill got Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez to fly out while right-hander Cody Allen struck out Matt Tuiasosopo swinging to secure the Tribe’s 4-3 victory.

Indians closer Chris Perez, who earned the save Saturday night, began to warm up but reported stiffness in his right arm.

Indians manager Terry Francona said Perez will be ready to pitch today.

"I told him [Sunday] that when you get up to throw, I want an honest assessment," Francona said. "To his credit, he was. So we just figured we'd win it another way. [Perez] was really good about it, actually. [Saturday] night was a pretty taxing effort, so 12 hours later, I thought he used very good judgment."

IT HAPPENS: Nobody seemed worried about Justin Verlander’s rare brush with the ordinary.

"Happens to the best of them," Tigers manager Jim Leyland told reporters after Verlander endured an all-night struggle to locate his fastball Saturday.

Verlander (4-3, 1.93 ERA) allowed four runs on five hits and six walks over five innings, marking just the third time since 2011 that he lasted five innings or less.

"This usually happens once or twice a year," he said. "I have to go in my next bullpen [session] and iron out some things and fine-tune a little bit and get it back."

WHERE IS EVERYONE? The Indians shouldn’t get used to the big crowds at Comerica Park.

Expect the Tribe to return home to a half-empty stadium for today’s traditional doubleheader against the Yankees — and that’s the glass-half-full projection.

Cleveland is last in the majors in attendance with an average crowd of 14,104 through 17 games at Progressive Field — more than 4,000 fans per game fewer than Tampa Bay’s next-to-last average haul.

Detroit, which drew more 110,000 fans for the three-game weekend series, ranks eighth with an average attendance of 35,577 through 17 home dates.

"It's early in the year. It's cold. It's during school," Francona said.

"I guess I feel like my responsibility is to try to get our team to play the best baseball we can. And, if you're an Indians fan, you'll be proud of your team. I guess if we get to a point where we're playing like that, and we're backing it up — not just a hot streak — our attendance will get better.

"Everybody keeps talking about, 'Let's get back to where it was in the '90s.' That's not fair. The city's not where it was in the '90s. These people have hit some hard times."



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