DETROIT -- Alex Avila
rarely gets the spotlight for his offense. That made his first career grand slam something to savor.
Avila's sixth-inning blast off Washington ace Stephen Strasburg propelled the Detroit Tigers
to their fourth straight victory as they defeated the Nationals 5-1 on Tuesday night at Comerica Park.
"It was definitely something I'll remember for a while," he said.
Avila's contributions are usually reserved for defensive expertise behind the plate. He is hitting .195, though his bat has perked up since he served a stint on the disabled list with a forearm contusion. He is hitting .250 overall since July 2 and .471 with runners in scoring position.
"I've been hitting much better since I got off the DL," he said. "I've gotten some big RBIs. At this point, I don't really care what I'm hitting. Just being able to contribute to wins is all I care about."
The home run snapped a 1-1 tie and backed a strong outing by Anibal Sanchez
(9-7), who held the Nationals to one run and five hits in seven innings.
The grand slam was the first allowed by Strasburg in his career and the fifth grand slam by the Tigers this season.
Along with getting a big hit from his No. 8 batter in the order, Tigers manager Jim Leyland also got a run-scoring double from his No. 7 hitter, Andy Dirks
"Any time you stretch out your lineup, it's huge," Leyland said. "We got some production down there, and especially when you get it like that, it's huge. The more we can stretch it out, the better off we are."
The less the Nationals see of Sanchez, the better off they are. Sanchez now has a 9-1 career record against them with a 1.99 ERA.
"He's always tough against us," Washington manager Davey Johnson said. "He started off a little slow and I was hoping we could get to him, but he's tough, he makes pitches when he has to. I thought he didn't have his good stuff tonight and hung a bunch of sliders, but we didn't capitalize on it."
Reliever Jose Veras
, acquired from Houston on Monday, made his Tigers debut and retired the side in order during the eighth inning. Joaquin Benoit finished for Detroit, which has won eight of nine.
Ryan Zimmerman drove in the only run for Washington, which had won four of its last five. Strasburg dropped to 8-8.
"We just haven't been scoring for him," Johnson said. "That's been his problem all year long. We have just not scored for Stras."
Prince Fielder got the sixth-inning outburst started with a one-one single. Victor Martinez followed with a ground-rule double and Jhonny Peralta walked to load the bases. Strasburg struck out Dirks with a 3-2 breaking pitch before Avila crushed a 2-1 offering to break a 1-1 tie.
"He was coming inside with fastballs all game and in that situation I knew he didn't want to go 3-1 with the bases loaded," Avila said. "I just tried to get a good swing on it. When you're facing Strasburg, you may get one pitch all game to do something with."
Washington struck quickly against Sanchez. Leadoff hitter Bryce Harper tripled off the right-field wall and Zimmerman knocked him in with a one-out single.
Dirks' ground-rule double in the fourth tied it at 1. Fielder drew a one-out walk and Peralta's two-out single advanced him to second before Dirks sent a bouncer down the third-base line.
NOTES: Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera was replaced defensively in the eighth inning after aggravating a hip flexor injury in the fifth. ... Nationals pitching coach Steve McCatty did not make the trip and remained hospitalized on Tuesday in Washington, D.C. because of an irregular heartbeat and high blood pressure. McCatty, 59, was taken to a hospital before the Nats' home game against the New York Mets on Sunday. He is expected to be released on Wednesday. "Cat's doing alright," Johnson said. "They're just being real careful with him." ... Veras will be used in a setup role, according to general manager Dave Dombrowski. Veras was acquired for minor-league OF Danry Vasquez and a player to be named. Veras had 19 saves for the Astros. The Tigers made room for Veras by optioning RHP Luke Putkonen to Triple-A Toledo. ... Johnson said he does not expect any moves before Wednesday's non-waiver trade deadline. "I don't think we need to do anything," he said. "I didn't think we needed to do anything last year. I think we've got the players we want here."
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