What we're watching – Cards look to sweep

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– Ricky Nolasco has pitched well in two starts since returning from the
minors, but he has a tough assignment ahead of him in Boston tonight.
Jon Lester, who has fanned 34 and allowed three runs in his last three
starts, will get the ball as the Red Sox try to complete a home sweep
of the Marlins. They’re a major league-best 23-8 in home games this
season.

– With Mike Hampton down, Brandon Backe will make his first start of
the year against the Rangers. He’s allowed 12 runs and 17 hits in nine
innings out of the pen since coming off the DL, so it looks like it
could be a big night for Texas hitters. Backe has given up eight homers
and 21 runs in 24 1/3 innings lifetime against the Rangers.

– Vin Mazzaro, who opened his career with 17 2/3 scoreless innings
before giving up three runs to the Giants last time out, takes on the
Dodgers tonight. Los Angeles will counter with Randy Wolf, in what
would seem to be a pretty easy matchup for the left-hander. However,
the A’s hitters who have faced Wolf have tended to be very successful
against him. Jason Giambi has homered in both of his at-bats against
Wolf. Orlando Cabrera is at .316/.372/.500 in 38 at-bats, and Nomar
Garicaparra is 7-for-14 with two homers. Matt Holliday is 3-for-11 with
one homer and five RBI.

Game of the Night

Detroit vs. St. Louis – Two of the game’s top groundball pitchers will
face off with Rick Porcello and Joel Pineiro on the mound tonight. The
Cardinals are going for a sweep of the three-game series after
withstanding a pair of Curtis Granderson homers to win 4-3 on
Wednesday. For it to happen, Pineiro will have to snap a string that’s
seem him take losses in each of his last four starts. He’s 5-7 with a
3.99 ERA for the season, but he has gone 6-1 with a 2.82 ERA lifetime
against the Tigers. Porcello is 7-4 with a 3.71 ERA.

Marlins defeat the Mets, then pay their respects to Jose Fernandez on the pitcher’s mound

MIAMI, FL - SEPTEMBER 26: Miami Marlins players all wearing jerseys bearing the number 16 and name Fernandez honor the late Jose Fernandez before the game against the New York Mets at Marlins Park on September 26, 2016 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
Rob Foldy/Getty Images
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The Marlins were somehow able to muster up the strength not only to play Monday night’s game against the Mets, but also win it convincingly one day after losing Jose Fernandez in a tragic boating accident. The Marlins and Mets helped pay tribute to Fernandez prior to the start of the game as outlined here.

When the game started, the Marlins came out of the gate with a bang. Dee Gordon homered in his first at-bat, then the club hung a four-spot in the second inning. They tacked on two more in the third inning to chase starter Bartolo Colon and take a commanding 7-0 lead. The Mets chipped away for two runs in the fifth on an Asdrubal Cabrera two-run homer and tacked on one more in the eighth, but ultimately fell short by a 7-3 margin.

Gordon finished 4-for-5 with the homer and two RBI. Justin Bour went 3-for-3 with a single, double, triple, and a walk along with an RBI and two runs scored.

A.J. Ramos, who closed out the win, placed the ball on the pitcher’s mound for Fernandez. The Marlins huddled around the mound and said a prayer. The players huddled closer to the rubber on the mound, then left their hats behind as they retreated to the clubhouse as fans at Marlins Park chanted, “Jose, Jose, Jose.”

In a post-game interview, Gordon called his first-inning home run “the best moment of my life,” as NBC 6 Sports reports.

Indians defeat Tigers, clinch AL Central for first division title since 2007

CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 7: Roberto Perez #55 of the Cleveland Indians hits an RBI single during the second inning against the Houston Astros at Progressive Field on September 7, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Jason Miller/Getty Images
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The Indians beat the Tigers 7-4 at Comerica Park on Monday night, clinching the AL Central for their first division title since 2007. Starter Corey Kluber lasted only four innings before exiting with right groin tightness, but the Indians were able to overcome the adversity.

Coco Crisp gave the Indians their first two runs with a two-run home run in the second inning off of starter Buck Farmer. The Tigers would promptly tie the game on a two-run homer by J.D. Martinez in the bottom half of the inning.

In the fifth, an RBI double by Jason Kipnis and a sacrifice fly by Mike Napoli put the Tribe back on top 4-2. The Tigers answered once again with a Miguel Cabrera RBI single in the bottom half to make it 4-3.

Roberto Perez homered for the Indians in the top of the top of the seventh, and Cabrera answered with another RBI single in the bottom half to keep it within one run at 5-4.

The Indians tacked on another insurance run in the eighth on three consecutive two-out singles by Crisp, Rajai Davis, and Perez. Carlos Santana then hit what should have been the final out of the eighth inning, but J.D. Martinez botched the catch, allowing the Indians’ seventh run to score.

Cody Allen shut the Tigers down in the bottom of the ninth, protecting the 7-4 lead for his 30th save of the season.

The last time the Indians won the AL Central, their starting lineup featured a 28-year-old Victor Martinez, a 25-year-old Jhonny Peralta, a 24-year-old Grady Sizemore, and a 26-year-old CC Sabathia. It’s been a long time.

The American League playoff picture still isn’t set yet, so the Indians will be intently watching the final week of the season to see who will be their playoff opponent.