Tigers roar back in ninth, 11th to beat Red Sox 13-12

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Alex Avila got barely a sliver of a 2-2 curveball that would have ended the game. On the next pitch, he got a whole lot more of another curve, hitting a walkoff homer to give the Tigers a 13-12 victory over the Red Sox and a three-game sweep in Detroit.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox’s worst-case scenario for the rebuilt bullpen came true: Alfredo Aceves blew a 10-7 lead when Miguel Cabrera hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth and Mark Melancon surrendered the 12-10 lead in the 12th .

Aceves, who was named Boston’s closer after Andrew Bailey underwent thumb surgery, gave up hits to all three hitters he faced, though neither of the two singles were hit very hard. The second was handled by a diving Dustin Pedroia, but he couldn’t get the ball out of his glove in time to retire the runner at second.

Cabrera’s homer, though, was a no-doubter.

Melancon retired the first batter he faced before giving up singles to both Cabrera and Prince Fielder, with Fielder hitting a modest grounder right to where the third baseman would have been if the Red Sox hadn’t been shifted over. He came back to get Delmon Young to fly to center, but Avila ended it on one too many curves.

The Red Sox got stellar relief work from their other two pitchers. Vicente Padilla pitched four scoreless innings after Clay Buchholz gave up seven runs in his four innings of work. After the game was tied in the ninth, Franklin Morales came in and struck out three in two scoreless innings. It’s Aceves and Melancon who are supposed to be getting the most important outs, though, and after two appearances, Aceves has an infinite ERA, while Melancon is at 36.00.

The Tigers got five RBI from Cabrera in the game. He finished the series with eighth. Austin Jackson went 4-for-6 and is hitting .570. Avila’s homer was his second already.

The Red Sox wasted excellent offensive performances from surprise leadoff man Nick Punto (3-for-6 with 3 RBI) and Mike Aviles (3-for-5 with three RBI). Aviles, in particular, impressed. He took a high fastball from Max Scherzer into right-center for a two-run double in the second, singled in a run in the third, executed a flawless sac bunt and then aided the 11th-inning rally with a perfect hit-and-run single, advancing Cody Ross from first to third.

All that won’t mean a thing, though. The story tomorrow will be about how the rebuilt Red Sox bullpen is ill-equipped to handle late leads. The call for Daniel Bard to return to the pen will begin before he even makes his first start.

Report: Braves extend Kurt Suzuki

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Kurt Suzuki will wear a Braves’ uniform through the 2018 season after signing a one-year, $3.5 million extension with the club on Saturday, per The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal. Rosenthal adds that the two had been in talks for weeks and Suzuki made it clear that he wanted to remain in Atlanta for the foreseeable future. The team has yet to announce the extension.

Suzuki, 33, initially signed a one-year contract with the Braves back in January. The veteran backstop stepped into a backup role behind starting catcher Tyler Flowers, but still found a way to impress at the plate with a .271/.343/.525 batting line, career-best 18 home runs and an .868 OPS through 287 PA. According to FanGraphs, Suzuki’s 2.2 fWAR makes 2017 his most valuable season since his run with the 2009 Athletics.

It’s a prudent move for the Braves, who would have lost one of their most dynamic second-half hitters to the free agent market this offseason. Entering Saturday, Suzuki is second only to Freddie Freeman with 11 homers and 1.4 fWAR since the All-Star break. His stunning comeback also confirmed the team’s decision to look outside the organization for a backup catcher, rather than turning to fellow veteran Anthony Recker behind the plate.

“On a personal level, this season exceeded my expectations,” Suzuki told reporters on Wednesday. “It’s just one of those things I can’t explain. I put a lot of work in and really didn’t have a job until late January. I got an opportunity here and took advantage of it. It was definitely a good fit.”

Mikie Mahtook is likely done for the season

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Tigers’ outfielder Mikie Mahtook is unlikely to play again this season, club manager Brad Ausmus announced Saturday. Mahtook was diagnosed with a Grade 2 left groin strain following Friday’s series opener against the Twins, when he appeared to injure himself after chasing down Byron Buxton‘s two-RBI double in the fourth.

This is the second time Mahtook has sustained a groin injury over the past month. The 27-year-old exited Friday’s game with a .276/.330/.457 batting line, 12 home runs and a .787 OPS through 379 plate appearances with the team.

With the Tigers out of contention, there’s no reason to trot out Mahtook for the remaining eight games of the regular season. The club has yet to specify a timetable for his return, but there’s no reason to believe he won’t be in fine shape to compete for a starting role next spring.