Monday September 24th, 2018 12:10PM

LEADING OFF: Indians can clinch, Cubs' new closer hurt

By The Associated Press
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A look at what's happening around the majors today:

ON THE CUSP

Jose Ramirez and the Cleveland Indians can clinch their third consecutive AL Central crown with a victory at home over Detroit and a Minnesota loss at last-place Kansas City. Josh Tomlin (1-5) pitches for the Indians against Matthew Boyd (9-12) and the Tigers. All-Star right-hander Jose Berrios (11-11) and the Twins face rookie Jorge Lopez (2-4), who took a perfect game into the ninth inning last Saturday at Minnesota.

STROP STOPPED

The NL Central-leading Chicago Cubs probably won't have their closer when they open a three-game series against Cincinnati. Pedro Strop injured a hamstring while running to first on a double-play grounder Thursday in just his second at-bat of the season. Cubs manager Joe Maddon said Strop will have an MRI on Friday. Strop has served as Chicago's closer since Brandon Morrow was placed on the disabled list July 18. Strop has converted 11 of 13 save opportunities in that span and has a 2.26 ERA on the season.

LAST GASP

It might be too late already, but Bryce Harper and the Nationals get perhaps their final chance to at least make a charge in the NL East when they begin a three-game series at first-place Atlanta. A heavy favorite before the season, Washington (74-73) sits third in the division, 8½ games behind the Braves with 15 to play. Max Scherzer (17-6, 2.31 ERA) starts the opener, looking to boost his bid for a fourth Cy Young Award and third straight in the National League. He leads the NL in wins and is 2-1 with a 1.67 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 27 innings this season against Atlanta.

SNAKE EYES

If the plummeting Diamondbacks want to keep pace in the playoff hunt, they'll have to do it against a first-place team. Arizona dropped two of three against NL West-leading Colorado to fall 4½ games back in the division and has lost 10 of 13 heading into a three-game series at AL West-leading Houston. The Diamondbacks also lost starter Clay Buchholz to injury during the Colorado series. They do have their pair of Zacks — Godley and Greinke — pitching Saturday and Sunday. "Time is running out," Steven Souza Jr. said. "We are making it more difficult on ourselves, but it's not impossible."

TRUE TEST

Noah Syndergaard (11-3, 3.44 ERA) takes on baseball's best team when the Mets play the Red Sox at Fenway Park. Syndergaard is 5-1 over his last seven starts. Hector Velazquez (7-2, 3.29) gets the ball for Boston, which is closing in on a third straight AL East title. The magic number for the Red Sox is six over the second-place Yankees. Boston is the only team in the majors that's already locked up a playoff berth.

___

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