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Aviles belts grand slam, Indians snap skid vs.Tigers

The SportsXchange

DETROIT -- Mike Aviles has seen enough of the Detroit Tigers this season. Aviles ensured that his team finally had reason to celebrate against its division rival.

Aviles blasted a ninth-inning grand slam as the Cleveland Indians ended a five-game losing streak with a 4-0 victory on Sunday at Comerica Park.

Cleveland, which trails Detroit by 7 1/2 games in the American League Central, had lost seven straight to the Tigers. Head-to-head meetings have been the difference in the standings, as Detroit won the season series 15-4.

Joe Smith (6-2) picked up the victory with one inning of scoreless relief as the Indians salvaged the final game of a three-game series.

"It feels good. I'm tired of not shaking hands after playing them because that's pretty much been our theme all year," Aviles said. "They've had our number all year. They've got good pitchers, good hitters and a good defense. When you have those three things, you're going to win a lot of games. That team over there is built to win championships."

Aviles ripped a 2-2 cutter from Joaquin Benoit (4-1) over the left-field wall for his first career slam to break the deadlock. Benoit walked Carlos Santana and Michael Brantley to get into the jam. Aviles' homer, his ninth, followed a sacrifice and intentional walk.

"I fought off a couple of fastballs that I thought I could have put in play and gotten a sac fly," Aviles said. "Then, I was fortunate to get a ball that stayed in the middle. Off the bat, it felt for sure it was a sac fly and the way (left fielder Nick) Castellanos was going back, I was hoping that it kept going out."

The Indians are hoping they can build off the victory and keep their wild-card and division hopes alive during an upcoming nine-game homestand.

"That was a fun game to be a part of. We haven't had a real good road trip," manager Terry Francona said. "We needed to win today. We're able to go home and because we won today, it makes tomorrow that much more important."

Alex Avila had three hits for the Tigers, who collected 11 hits but stranded 10 runners as their three-game winning streak was snapped.

"We accomplished what we needed to," Detroit starter Justin Verlander said. "Obviously, we would have liked to have swept, but you can't come into a series and say 'We need to sweep' unless you're the team that's behind. We got another game of separation and now we look forward to Boston (on Monday)."

Verlander and Cleveland rookie starter Danny Salazar dueled through a majority of the game. Salazar held the Tigers scoreless for six innings while Verlander blanked the Indians for seven innings.

Verlander, who gave up nine earned runs in 12 innings during his previous two outings, felt like his old, dominant self after he muddled through a 35-pitch first inning.

"The last couple of innings, in particular, was probably the closest I've felt to being right," he said. "I asked (catcher) Alex (Avila) about it and he said 'It just looked like you.' That's obviously a big step in the right direction. Let's build upon that, let's go forward. The end-all, be-all date for me is the playoffs."

Detroit third baseman Miguel Cabrera missed his second consecutive game with an abdominal injury. Center fielder Austin Jackson was also out of the lineup on Sunday after injuring his right shoulder by crashing into the wall Saturday night.

Castellanos, the Tigers' top prospect, flied out as a pinch hitter during the seventh in his major league debut. He stayed in the game and grounded out in the ninth. Castellanos was called up Sunday from Triple-A AAA Toledo after batting .276 with 18 homers and 76 RBIs in 134 games with the Mud Hens.

NOTES: Both teams were busy making moves as the rosters expanded on the first day of September. The Indians reinforced their overtaxed bullpen by recalling RHPs Preston Guilmet and Blake Wood and LHP Nick Hagadone from Columbus. They also added veteran C Kelly Shoppach, who was signed to a minor league contract on Friday, from Columbus and INF Jose Ramirez from Class AA Akron. Ramirez made his major league debut as a pinch-runner in the ninth. ... Along with Castellanos, the Tigers recalled INF Danny Worth and RHP Evan Reed from Toledo. ... The last time the Indians lost at least 15 games to an opponent in a single season was 1969 when they finished 3-15 against the Washington Senators ... The Tigers have been shut out nine times. ... Cabrera's status for the team's three-game series in Boston against the Red Sox, which begins Monday, is uncertain. "I don't really have the answer when he's going to play," manager Jim Leyland said.
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