Alex Avila chased a popup back behind the plate, and with his momentum carrying him toward the crowd, he had little choice but to hope the screen would hold his 5-foot-11, 210-pound frame.
“Not exactly something you plan,” the Detroit catcher said. “I’m not the lightest guy. You never know.”
Avila went leaping into the screen while catching that foul pop, and the Tigers jumped back into first place Friday night with a 7-2 victory over the Cleveland Indians. J.D. Martinez homered, tripled and drove in four runs, and David Price pitched into the eighth inning to help Detroit move a half-game ahead of Kansas City atop the division.
The Royals lost 4-2 to Boston, giving Detroit sole possession of first place for the first time since Aug. 10.
Martinez broke a 1-all tie in the fourth with a two-run homer, and then drove in two more runs with his triple in the seventh. Price (14-11) allowed a home run to Ryan Raburn in the second but kept Cleveland off the scoreboard after that.
If the Tigers win the division they can thank Martinez, who has 21 home runs. He had never hit more than 11 in a season when Detroit signed him to a minor league deal in March.
“He’s certainly been a huge find for Detroit,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “He started the season in Triple-A, and now he’s hitting fifth for them. Having him makes getting through Miggy (Cabrera) and Victor (Martinez) a whole lot harder, and that’s huge for them.”
Cleveland starter Carlos Carrasco (7-5) allowed four runs and seven hits in 6 1/3 innings. The Indians are four games out in the race for the second American League wild card.
Avila made the defensive play of the night when Mike Aviles hit a foul popup behind the plate in the fifth.
“It was a nice catch,” said Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, a former catcher. “I would have caught it without the jump, but he was nice.”
With Cleveland up 1-0 in the third, Ian Kinsler lined an RBI double to right. J.D. Martinez’s homer made it 3-1 in the fourth.
Victor Martinez added an RBI single in the seventh, and Martinez followed with a triple to right-center that made it 6-1. Avila added an RBI infield single.
Red Sox 4, Royals 2: Allen Webster pitched six solid innings and Jemile Weeks stroked a pair of doubles and scored two runs as Boston defeated sputtering Kansas City in Kansas City, Missouri.
Kansas City lost for the fourth time in five games and fell out of first place in the A.L. Central for the first time since Aug. 10.
Webster (4-3), who had allowed 15 runs on 16 hits and seven walks in 13 2/3 innings in his previous three starts, limited the Royals to four hits, including Eric Hosmer’s two-run homer in the fourth.
Weeks, who had a two-run double in the ninth inning Thursday, doubled in the third and fifth. Mookie Betts singled home Weeks in a three-run third. He scored again on Daniel Nava’s two-out single in the fifth.
Yordano Ventura (12-10), who had won his previous three starts, gave up four runs seven hits in seven innings for KC.
The Royals are 0-5 against the last-place Red Sox.
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