Mike Aviles breaks scoreless tie in the ninth with a grand slam as Indians beat Tigers

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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.

Rays’ Erik Neander named Executive of the Year

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At the GM meetings in Scottsdale, Arizona on Monday, Rays GM Erik Neander was named the recipient of Major League Baseball’s Executive of the Year Award for the 2019 season. The Yankees’ Brian Cashman was the runner-up while the Athletics’ Billy Beane and the Twins’ Derek Falvey tied for third place.

Neander has worked for the Rays since 2017 but has operated in his current role since November 2016, taking over for Matthew Silverman who was promoted to president of the Rays alongside Brian Auld.

The Rays had, by far, the lowest payroll in baseball at $53.5 million, according to USA TODAY. Neander’s peers voting him Executive of the Year on the same today the league had to curtail its awarding of a prize belt to the team that suppressed salaries the most in arbitration is… certainly interesting timing.

At any rate, Neander’s Rays went 96-66 in 2019, finishing in second place in the AL East behind the 103-59 Yankees. The Rays claimed the second AL Wild Card and defeated the A’s to earn entry into the ALDS where they lost in five games to the Astros. It was the Rays’ first playoff appearance since 2013 and their regular season win total was second-most in franchise history behind the 2008 team (97).