Daily Dose: Cliff Lee can't buy a win

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Cliff Lee’s win-loss record has suffered from a lack of lineup and
bullpen support all season and that continued Thursday night, as he got
stuck with a no-decision despite tossing seven innings of two-run ball
against the Pirates. Lee has thrown a Quality Start in 12 of his last
13 outings, with a 2.20 ERA and 69/21 K/BB ratio during that time, yet
has just a 4-4 record to show for it.

He’s just 4-6 overall despite a 2.92 ERA after going 22-3 with a
2.54 ERA on the way to the AL Cy Young last year. With the Indians
falling to 30-44 and a dozen games back in the AL Central rumors are
starting to swirl that Lee may be on the trading block. General manager
Mark Shapiro is believed to be holding out for an elite pitching
prospect, but Lee’s poor record likely hurts his perceived value.

While the misleading nature of individual win-loss records displays
itself perfectly in Lee, here are some other notes from around baseball

* John Smoltz made his Red Sox debut Thursday night, allowing four
first-inning runs before holding the Nationals to one run over his
final four frames. Losing his first start in more than a year clearly
isn’t good news, but Smoltz retired the final eight hitters he faced
and struck out the side in his last inning. It wasn’t the debut that
Boston fans were hoping for, but he looked good enough to be an asset.

* Eric Byrnes is expected to miss 4-8 weeks with a fractured left
hand after Scott Feldman plunked him with a pitch Thursday. Byrnes is
hitting .216/.260/.361 this season after batting .209/.272/.369 last
year, so his absence obviously isn’t a big blow to the Diamondbacks and
basically just guarantees that Gerardo Parra will continue to play
regularly once Chris Young returns from a groin injury.

* Josh Hamilton has begun swinging a bat following June 9 surgery on
a partially torn abdominal muscle and general manager Jon Daniels
revealed Thursday that “there’s a reasonable chance” he’ll be able to
return from the disabled list before the All-Star break. Hamilton has
indicated that he’ll probably skip the Home Run Derby, but he’s also
third in the fan voting for a starting spot in the outfield.

* Despite general manager Neal Huntington announcing earlier this
week that he would remain in the rotation for at least one more start,
Ian Snell was demoted to the minors Thursday and the move apparently
came at his request. Snell is 9-20 with a 5.40 ERA in 46 starts since
the beginning of last year, but Pittsburgh has turned down trade offers
and resisted what may be a smart move to the bullpen.

AL Quick Hits: Frank Thomas said Thursday that he’s close to
retiring, but is “still in shape, ready to go if anything happens” …
Kenji Johjima (toe) is set to return from the disabled list Friday and
will resume starting … Armando Galarraga gave up four runs in six
innings Thursday, but won for the first time since April … If his
bullpen session goes well Friday, Roy Halladay (groin) should be
cleared to start Monday … Evan Longoria sat out Thursday’s game, but
his hamstring injury isn’t considered serious … Ichiro Suzuki went
4-for-5 with a homer Thursday and now has a career-high .901 OPS …
Denard Span returned from the DL with a triple and three walks Thursday
… Yuniesky Betancourt’s hamstring injury sent him to the shelf
Thursday, which is addition by subtraction for the Mariners … Asdrubal
Cabrera (shoulder) may come off the DL as soon as Friday … Aaron Poreda
picked up his first career win Thursday by pitching a scoreless 13th
inning.

NL Quick Hits: Brandon Webb will be examined by three more
specialists before making a decision on his shoulder injury … Homer
Bailey will start Saturday and should get a chance to stick in the
rotation if he can throw strikes for once … Not willing to wait for
Milton Bradley’s next injury, manager Lou Piniella has benched him for
a couple games … Antonio Bastardo exited Thursday’s start in the fourth
inning with a strained shoulder … After losing three of his past four
starts, Johan Santana tossed seven innings of two-run ball Thursday for
win No. 9 … Kenshin Kawakami isn’t expected to miss a start despite
being hit on the neck by a liner Wednesday … Jake Fox went 3-for-4 with
his first homer Thursday … Hitting just .214 overall and .125 since
being dropped to sixth in the lineup, Jimmy Rollins has been benched
for two games … Reed Johnson (back) went on the disabled list Thursday,
so the Cubs replaced him with Ryan Freel … Geovany Soto tested positive
for marijuana during the WBC, but called it “an isolated incident.”

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)
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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.