DETROIT -- Jim Leyland doesn't have any theories on why the first month of the 2012 season was brutal on closers. But he does know why it's been tough on his closer.
"In [Jose] Valverde's case, he's not quite as sharp right now with a couple pitches," Leyland said. "And we're spoiled. I think it's probably a combination of both of those things."
Valverde entered the ninth inning of Saturday's game against the White Sox to preserve a one-run lead and allowed a two-run home run to Adam Dunn that cleared the right-field bleachers and went onto the concourse.
It resulted in a 3-2 loss for the Tigers and marked Valverde's second blown save of the year. In a lot of cities, two blown saves might not be worrisome, but in the Motor City, it's a big deal.
"We're a little spoiled," Leyland said. "When you save 49 straight, you get spoiled. So it's really a big magnitude if you let a couple get away."
Last season, Valverde went a perfect 49-for-49 in save opportunities. Dating back to 2010, his steak stretched to 51 consecutive saves, marking the second-longest streak of all time -- trailing only Eric Gagne's streak of 84.As it did with Dunn's home run, one bad pitch can change the course of a game. Leyland was asked if that put perspective on how great Yankees closer Mariano Rivera's career has been. For Leyland, it just put perspective on how spectacular Valverde's run was in 2011.
"I put more focus on how great Valverde was last year," Leyland said. "Forty-nine straight. And I talked about that in Spring Training. I talked about that with certain guys winning games. Well, the fact of the matter is our closer didn't let any get away last year, so all the starters -- the pitchers' records -- they got their wins. That won't happen every time and we found that out. You can't expect a guy to do it all the time and that's just the way it is."Valverde entered Sunday's game in the ninth inning and allowed two baserunners, but struck out Gordon Beckham to preserve the Tigers' 3-1 victory.
Dirks moved to No. 2, Boesch down to No. 8
DETROIT -- Manager Jim Leyland isn't happy his team hasn't been scoring runs at the pace its capable of. So for Sunday's series finale against the White Sox, the skipper tweaked the lineup.
It wasn't a major move, but Leyland brought left fielder Andy Dirks up to the No. 2 spot and dropped Brennan Boesch to eighth. Dirks is batting .313 in 15 games this season, whereas Boesch's average sits at .205 over 27 games.
However, Leyland said the move was less about batting averages than it was about trying to spark some life into the Tigers' offense.
"I'm just changing it up," Leyland said before his team grabbed a 3-1 victory. "It's got just a different look. Maybe Dirks can move the ball around a little bit better. Maybe we can play a little bit different style.
"I'm doing this to see if it can maybe jump-start us a little bit and at the same time maybe help [Boesch] out a little bit. This isn't punishment, this is just common sense for a manager."
Dirks went 2-for-5 with a solo homer on Sunday, while Boesch is just 2-for-21 over his past five games after going 0-for-4.
Before sustaining a season-ending left thumb injury in 2011, Boesch hit .283 with 16 home runs and 54 RBIs. The breakout potential is undoubtedly there, but Leyland said it's a matter of the talented 27-year-old calming his nerves.
"The one thing that he has to learn to do to max out his ability at some point in his career, which I definitely think he will, but one thing he has to do, is he has to learn to relax," Leyland said. "He wants to do so good so bad that sometimes it works against him."
Tigers can't expect repeat of last year's surge
DETROIT -- At one point early this season, the Tigers were among the league's elite in scoring runs. As of Sunday, they're in the middle of the pack.
With 112 runs, the Tigers entered play eighth out of 14 teams in the American League in runs scored. Just one run above the Mariners and a run below the Indians.
"I have no idea [why we haven't been scoring]," manager Jim Leyland said before Sunday's 3-1 win. "You can look at some numbers until you're blue in the face. Look at this, look at that. The fact of the matter is we're not scoring runs and we need to score runs."
The Tigers certainly haven't been getting complacent, but Leyland said Sunday their cold start in 2011 might be working against them. Detroit began last season with a 12-17 record, but eventually made the American League Championship Series.
"You can't just sit around and say, 'Well, it will come,'" Leyland said. "Everybody's saying, 'Well, the offense around this time last year was struggling.' And that's true. It's not good to have a sense of urgency, but it's also not good if you think everything will just automatically happen. You got to go out and make it happen."
The Tigers (14-13) are only 1 1/2 games behind the Indians for first place in the AL Central. However, they are 4-6 in their last 10 games.
The team batting average and ERA have also dropped. With a .247 team average, Detroit was seventh in the AL and a 4.11 team ERA was 10th entering play Sunday.
"You don't want to send a message, obviously, to your players of panic," Leyland said. "And I think the players understand that, and I understand that because there is no panic. But at the same time, you can't be nonchalant about it either. You have to be aware of it and you have to go out and do something about it."
Danny Worth was originally scheduled to start at second base for Sunday's game. However, with the White Sox moving left-hander Chris Sale back into the closer role and starting right-hander Dylan Axelrod in his place, Worth wasn't in the starting lineup.
Delmon Young went 0-for-4 in his return Saturday. He hit two ground balls and two fly balls, one out to the warning track. He came to the plate for the first time in the bottom of the second inning to a loud mixture of cheers and boos. In Sunday's 3-1 victory, Young went 1-for-3 with a single and a walk.
Doug Fister is set to make his second start of the season Monday in Seattle against his former Mariners teammates and has not been informed of any limitations.
Anthony Odoardi is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.