Detroit Tigers' Justin Verlander. UPI/Brian Kersey | License Photo
DETROIT -- Ninth innings have been touch and go -- mostly go -- for the Detroit Tigers in recent seasons.
But the addition of Francisco Rodriguez, obtained in a winter deal with Milwaukee, has brought some much-needed stability and serenity to the end of Detroit games this season.
Rodriguez became just the sixth pitcher in major league history to record 400 saves Tuesday night when he nailed down a 3-1 victory for Justin Verlander and the Tigers over the Philadelphia Phillies.
"K-Rod" allowed a run after Verlander had pitched eight innings of three-hit shutout ball but there was none of the imminent collapse drama that has surrounded recent Detroit closers such as Jose Valverde, Joe Nathan and assorted others over the last handful of seasons.
"That's the nature of being a closer," manager Brad Ausmus of Detroit said. "No matter who the closer is, there's a little bit of edge to the inning. Just because those are the final three outs and it's a close game. That's why the closer's in.
"There's very few Mariano Riveras. Matter of fact there's only one."
Rivera tops the list of save leaders now includes Rodriguez. In between are Trevor Hoffman, Lee Smith, John Franco and Billy Wagner.
Freddy Galvis doubled, Maikel Franco singled him to third and Tommy Joseph brought him in with a sacrifice fly to score the Phillies' only run. Rodriguez got two quick outs to nail down his 14th save of the season, all 14 coming after he blew a save opening day.
"I've unfortunately seen an awful lot of those saves on the other side of the dugout," Verlander said. "What a special moment.
"He's been a great closer for a long time; 400 is a lot of saves and congratulations to him."
"Just the fact only six people have done it (makes it special)," Rodriguez said, "in a long time, in the majors.
"It's special for me and my family. I'm not planning to stop either. I'm going to keep working hard, keep collecting it, take a look back when I desire to pretty much hang up my spikes."
Rodriguez after the game was sporting new multi-color shoes with '400' on each side.
"I would imagine, knowing K-Rod, he'll enjoy tonight and be ready in the ninth tomorrow," Ausmus said. "He's probably already counting down to 500."
Miguel Cabrera drove in two of Detroit's runs with a double and a groundout as Detroit won for the eighth time in nine games.
Cabrera has gone 17-for-34 in Detroit's hot stretch with six home runs and 12 RBIs.
"Cabrera got us again," Philadelphia manager Pete Mackanin said, "driving in a couple.
"Verlander had a good fastball. He was locating it. We weren't able to catch up with it for some reason."
Verlander (4-4) struck out 10 and walked two, giving up a double in the first and a single in the second and then just one hit over his final six frames. His last pitch got his highest radar reading of the night, a 97 mph fastball that fanned Odubel Herrera.
In his last four starts (2-1), Verlander has allowed four runs on 16 hits in 30 1/3 innings with 37 strikeouts and nine walks.
Jeremy Hellickson (4-3) lasted seven innings for Philadelphia and allowed all three Detroit runs on seven hits plus a walk. He struck out seven.
"Hellickson gave us a quality start," Mackanin said. "He really did a good job against a tough lineup. We battled. We just weren't able to come up with enough runs."
Cabrera's slow chopper drove in Cameron Maybin from third in the sixth to put Detroit ahead 2-0. Victor Martinez sliced a single to center chasing home J.D. Martinez from second to make it 3-0.
Maybin, hitting leadoff because Ian Kinsler was ill, singled to center and stopped at third on J.D. Martinez's double down the third base line.
The Tigers scored first on an RBI double to left center by Cabrera, his seventh straight hit over three games. It brought in Maybin, who had singled leading off, from first base.
NOTES: Detroit 2B Ian Kinsler was a pregame scratch due to flu-like symptoms. He was replaced on the field by LF Steven Moya and at second by UT Mike Aviles, who was originally starting in left. ... CF Odubel Herrera was back in Philadelphia's starting lineup Tuesday night after being replaced in the seventh inning when he didn't run out a ground ball. ... Manager Brad Ausmus said the Tigers will hold rookie RHP Michael Fulmer to an increase of 20-25 percent over the 120 minor league innings he threw last year. ... Manager Pete Mackanin swapped two Phillies' lineup spots. 1B Tommy Joseph traded into DH Ryan Howard's cleanup spot while SS Freddy Galvis moved up to second with 2B Cesar Hernandez dropping to seventh.