Cleveland Indians third baseman Mike Aviles (4) receives congratulations from teammates Matt Carson (7) , Michael Brantley (23) and Jose Ramirez after he hits a grand slam home run in the ninth inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park.(Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports)
DETROIT (DETROIT FREE PRESS) - Mike Aviles' grand slam in the ninth lifted the Cleveland Indians past the Detroit Tigers, 4-0, today at Comerica Park.
The Tigers are now 7 1/2 games up on the Indians for first place in the AL Central as the teams have completed their season series. Detroit won 15 of the 19 games this season.
Alex Avila was 3-for-3 with a walk and Andy Dirks, hitting leadoff in place for Austin Jackson, was 2-for-5 with a double. Omar Infante was 2-for-4 with a double.
In the ninth, the first batter new pitcher Joaquin Benoit (4-1) faced, Carlos Santana, walked. After a lengthy at bat, Michael Brantley then walked. Asdrubal Cabrera bunted the runners over and Jason Kubel was intentionally walked to load the bases, setting up the double play. But Aviles lifted a 2-2 pitch over the leftfield wall for the game's first runs.
Indians closer Chris Perez entered the game in the ninth. Nick Castellanos, playing in this first major-league game, grounded out to short. Infante then hit a ground-rule double to left-center. But Avila smashed a line drive off of Infante, resulting in an out and putting Avila on first. Ramon Santiago extended the inning with a single to right. A passed ball moved the runners up, but Dirks grounded out to second to end the game.
The Tigers were without Miguel Cabrera, who sat out his second straight game after being pulled from both Thursday's and Friday's contest when he re-aggravated his hip/leg injury. Also, Jackson, who slammed into the outfield wall during Saturday's game, did not start after suffering some soreness.
To open the seventh inning, Castellanos came in to pinch-hit for Don Kelly against lefty reliever Nick Hagadone. Castellanos flied out to right on a 1-0 pitch. But Infante followed with a single and Avila drew a walk. Cody Allen was then brought and got Ramon Santiago to ground into a fielder's choice, putting runners at the corners. Allen then struck out Dirks to end the threat.
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Justin Verlander pitched seven innings and allowed just four singles and two walks while striking out six on 116 pitches.
Bruce Rondon got the first two outs of the eighth, but then gave up a walk to Nick Swisher. But Rondon got Jason Kipnis to fly out to Castellanos in left to close out the inning.
Detroit first threat came in the third when Avila hit a leadoff single and Dirks hit a one-out double. Jose Iglesias then grounded to third, where the Indians caught Avila in a rundown and Torii Hunter flied out to right.
Avila had a one-out single in the fifth and was sent to third on Dirks' two-out hit, but Iglesias popped out to second.
Verlander threw 35 pitches in the first inning, walking leadoff man Michael Bourn and Kipnis. But Verlander got Santana to line out hard to right and then struck out Brantley to end the frame.
After giving up just a single in both the second and third innings, Verlander faced the minimum in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings.
In the seventh, Brantley hit a leadoff single and then stole second. Cabrera then bunted Brantley to third, but Verlander reached back and struck out Kubel, the last on a 99 m.p.h. fastball, and then got Aviles to ground out to short.
Danny Salazar started on the mound for Cleveland and went six innings, giving up just six hits and striking out five.
Joe Smith (6-2) gave up a hit and a walk in the eighth, but got the win on the mound.
BY KIRKLAND CRAWFORD/DFP