It was a pitcher’s duel in Detroit this afternoon as the Tigers and Indians wrapped up a three-game weekend series. Tigers starter Justin Verlander held the Tribe scoreless through seven innings, allowing just four hits and walking two while striking out six. Indians starter Danny Salazar matched him, holding the Tigers at bay through six scoreless frames, allowing six hits and no walks while striking out five.
Both bullpens held the line until Tigers closer Joaquin Benoit took the hill in the top of the ninth. Benoit walked Carlos Santana and Michael Brantley to start the inning on the wrong foot. Asdrubal Cabrera bunted both runners into scoring position, forcing Tigers manager Jim Leyland to issue Jason Kubel an intentional walk, Benoit’s third walk of the inning. On a 2-2 count, Benoit threw a slider up and over the plate. Aviles crushed it, driving the pitch well beyond the fence in left field for a tie-breaking grand slam. That was the end of Benoit’s afternoon. Al Alburquerque entered and prevented any further damage.
In a non-save situation, Chris Perez danced around a couple base runners in the bottom half of the ninth to seal the 4-0 victory for the Indians. They are now 7.5 games behind the Tigers in second place in the AL Central. The two teams do not play each other again for the remainder of the season, so if the Indians are hoping to squeeze into the post-season, going for one of the two AL Wild Card slots seems more realistic. They are currently four games behind the Rays for the second Wild Card.
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.