Second Thoughts Game #136: Indians 4, Tigers 0
Tribe gets much needed victory with one swing in the ninth
Player of the Game: Mike Aviles (1-for-4 with a grand slam and four RBI)
Much needed? You could say that again.
For more than a week now, the Tribe had been looking for that big hit from the struggling Cleveland offense. Deadlocked in a scoreless tie in the ninth inning Sunday, they finally got that hit with one swing of the bat from third baseman Mike Aviles.
Slamming his first career grand slam over the left field wall in the ninth inning, Aviles and the Tribe snap their five-game losing streak salvaging both the series with Detroit and the roadtrip with a 4-0 victory.
Just like Mike
Tigers reliever Joaquin Benoit (4-1, 2.13 ERA) gave up just one grand slam in his career prior to Sunday afternoon. It was a game winning grand slam off the bat of Indians catcher Carlos Santana back in April of 2011.
Now another member of the Tribe can say the same thing as Aviles sent a 2-2 slider just over the wall in left field for his ninth long ball of the year, and a four run round-tripper. The third baseman went 0-for-3 in the ballgame against Tigers starter Justin Verlander (12-10, 3.59 ERA) before the four-run blast, as the Detroit ace shutdown the Indians offense to just four hits through seven shutout innings.
He hasn't been the most productive guy on the 25-man roster, but Aviles continues to give to be a huge asset to the Tribe both on the field and in the clubhouse.
Signed to a two year, $6 million deal in February, the 32-year old utility man has put up better numbers all season long than two-time All-Star Asdrubal Cabrera.
Cabrera (419 ABs) .241 AVG 52 R 101 H 9 HR 41 RBI 7 SBs
Aviles (306 ABs) .261 AVG 49 R 80 H 9 HR 39 RBI 8 SBs
While nothing is official, there’s no doubt in my mind Aviles with Cabrera entering his final contract year next year that Aviles be the starting shorstop come Opening Day 2014.
Salazar tames Tigers bats
Tribe starter Danny Salazar (1-1, 3.00 ERA) looked very sharp in his sixth big league start Sunday. The hard-throwing right-hander allowed just six hits in six scoreless innings of work, walking none and striking out five. He threw 54 of his 77 pitches for strikes.
There have been times when Salazar has looked shaky on the mound over his six starts, at rightfully so as a 23-year old rookie. But he looked anything like a rookie Sunday, shutting out a vicious Tigers lineup. It's too bad Detroit third baseman Miguel Cabrera wasn't in the lineup, Salazar probably would've struck him out another three times.
In two starts against Motown this season, Salazar is 0-1 with a 2.63 ERA walking one and striking out 15 in 13 2/3 innings. Tossing at least six innings in three of his six starts, two of the three have come against Detroit.
Season series with Detroit complete
Sunday was the 19th and final matchup between the Indians and Tigers in 2013, as the Tribe finishes with a 4-15 record against the reigning A.L. Champs. Certanly not the way you want any series to go especially against your division rivals.
Anyone else excited that the season series is over besides me?
Sitting 7 1/2 games in back of the Motor City Kitties for first place in the A.L. Central, just three more wins against Detroit over the course of the season and we could be talking about both teams going after the division title at the beginning of September.
Outscoring the Indians 120-70 in the 19 games, Sunday marked only the second time in the last 16 matchups the Tribe have come out with a win against Detroit.
While stranger things have happend in Major League Baseball, don't bank on the Tribe overtaking the division over the final four weeks of the season. For now, just be happy that the schedule gets easier as Cleveland holds their own destiny in their hands, with the push toward October about to really begin.
As hard as it is to believe, Sunday's 4-0 win was already the Indians 16th shutout of the year, giving them the most in the American League.
Cleveland has shutout nine of the remaining 14 teams in the A.L. this season, including blanking Tampa Bay, Chicago, Kansas City and Texas twice.
The 16 shutouts are most the team has had in one year since 1976.
With the much needed win, Cleveland (72-64) gains a game on the Oakland Athletics in the wild card race as they sit just 3 1/2 games behind the Tampa Bay Rays.
Up next for the Indians: The Tribe will travel back home to open up a three-game series with the wild card contending Baltimore Orioles beginning Monday. Ace Justin Masterson (14-9, 3.49 ERA) takes the ball in the series opener Monday against right-hander Bud Norris (3-1, 4.91 ERA) at 4:05 p.m. Masterson gave up six runs in 6 1/3 innings against the O's back on June 25 at Camden Yards.
Follow Jim on Twitter @JBirdman27 or he can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.