Avila lifts Tigers over Nationals with first career grand slam

DETROIT (AP) - Alex Avila hit a tiebreaking grand slam in the sixth inning off Stephen Strasburg and the Detroit Tigers beat the Washington Nationals 5-1 Tuesday night.

Anibal Sanchez (9-7) gave up one run, five hits and two walks over seven innings for Detroit. Jose Veras, a day after being acquired from Houston, was perfect in the eighth in his Tigers debut. Joaquin Benoit, who will keep his job as the team's closer, gave up one hit in the ninth inning.

Strasburg (5-9) allowed five runs, six hits and three walks while striking out seven over seven innings. Strasburg is winless in his last four starts and has given up at least four earned runs in three of his last five outings.

The AL Central-leading Tigers have won four straight and eight of nine to move 15 games over .500 for the first time this season.

Washington started strong, scoring a run on three hits in the first against Sanchez. Bryce Harper led off with a triple and scored on Ryan Zimmerman's single. The Nationals, though, couldn't get much else going offensively against Sanchez, who has given up two earned runs combined in his last three starts.

Miguel Cabrera faced Strasburg for the first time in the regular season with two outs and a runner on base in the first and he hit a 2-0 pitch sharply up the middle for a single, but was stranded when Victor Martinez hit an inning-ending flyout.

Andy Dirks hit a game-tying double in the fourth inning and if a fan, sitting in the front row along the third-base line, didn't field the ball with his glove, the Tigers might've gone ahead. Jhonny Peralta was sent back to third base after scoring, and Avila ended the inning with a flyout.

The catcher made up for the missed opportunity a few innings later, sending Strasburg's 2-1 pitch deep into the right-field seats to give the Tigers a 5-1 lead. Detroit had a grand slam in its last game with Peralta clearing the bases in a 12-4 win that finished off a sweep of the Philadelphia Phillies.

NOTES: Nationals manager Davey Johnson said pitching coach Steve McCatty, a Detroit native, was still in a hospital, two days after he was taken there to treat an irregular heartbeat and high blood pressure. He is expected to be released Wednesday. ``Just being really careful with him,'' Johnson said. ... Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski said he didn't anticipate making another trade before Wednesday's non-waiver deadline. ... Johnson said he doesn't expect the Nationals to make a trade before the non-waiver deadline. ... Detroit RHP Justin Verlander (10-8) is scheduled to start against Washington LHP Gio Gonzalez (7-3) on Wednesday afternoon in the series finale. ... The Nationals, who swept a two-game series against Detroit at home in May, fell to 0-4 at Comerica Park.

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