Jose Valverde can thank center fielder Austin Jackson for improving to 37-for-37 saving games this season.
Jackson made an amazing throw to cut down Kosuke Fukudome at the plate on a game-ending double play as the Tigers edged the Indians 8-7 on Sunday to complete a three-game sweep in Detroit.
Better late than never, MLB.com has the video here (this entry would have been posted an hour and a half ago if MLB.com were more timely with game-ending highlights).
The Tigers racked up seven runs in the third against Ubaldo Jimenez, with Delmon Young and Victor Martinez homering to knock in five of the runs. Jimenez, who beat the Tigers with eight strong innings on Aug. 10, is now 1-1 with a 7.29 ERA in four starts for Cleveland.
Detroit won despite a poor outing from Rick Porcello, who gave up five runs in 3 2/3 innings. The Tigers needed six relievers to finish off the Indians from there. Valverde, who has been perfect in save situations, got himself into big trouble in the ninth, walking Fukudome and then hitting Jason Donald to start the inning. However, after a sacrifice bunt advanced the runners, pinch-hitter Matt LaPorta came up and hit the fly to center that wasn’t deep enough to score Fukudome.
With the sweep, the Tigers moved 4 1/2 games ahead of the Indians in the AL Central. The good news for Cleveland is that it’s still just three games in the loss column. Still, the Indians really needed to salvage one of these three games.
With the 2017 World Baseball Classic around the corner, Team Israel has reportedly reached out to Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, per MLB Network’s Jon Morosi. Tournament rules stipulate that a player’s roster eligibility can be achieved in one of several ways: they were born in the country in question or hold citizenship/permanent legal residence there (or are simply capable of qualifying for citizenship), or one of their parents was born in the country or holds citizenship/permanent legal residence there.
For Kipnis, it’s the latter. Kipnis’ father, Mark Kipnis, is Jewish. That gives Kipnis the status he needs to suit up for Team Israel, despite the fact that he is a practicing Roman Catholic. He has yet to confirm or deny his participation in the competition.
Fifteen players have confirmed for Team Israel so far, including Mets’ infielder/outfielder Ty Kelly and free agents Sam Fuld, Nate Freiman, Jason Marquis and Jeremy Bleich. Per MLB.com’s Chad Thornburg, eight minor leaguers will also appear for the team. Like Kipnis, at least three other major leaguers are eligible for Team Israel’s roster but have yet to accept or decline involvement in the WBC: Dodgers center fielder Joc Pederson, Mariners infielder/outfielder Danny Valencia and free agent left-hander Craig Breslow.
Free agent first baseman James Loney has reportedly signed a minor league deal with the Rangers, per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. The deal includes an invite to spring training and a $1 million salary if he makes the major league roster in 2017.
Loney picked up a one-year stint and starting role with the Mets in 2016, slashing .265/.307/.397 with nine home runs in 336 PA. While his numbers were down a hair from the .280/.322/.357 batting line he produced with the Rays in 2015, he provided the Mets with a necessary, if underwhelming upgrade over an injured Lucas Duda through most of the season.
The 32-year-old infielder is expected to have some competition at first base, with at least five other candidates in the mix: Jurickson Profar, Ronald Guzman, Ryan Rua, Joey Gallo and Josh Hamilton. Rumor has it that the team is planning on platooning Rua and Profar in 2017, barring any impressive breakouts or injuries during spring training, though Loney could still provide the club with some veteran depth and a decent left-handed bat off the bench.