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MIAMI — Anibal Sanchez all but clinched the American League ERA title by pitching five scoreless innings Saturday for the Detroit Tigers, but Joaquin Benoit blew a save and they lost to the Miami Marlins 2-1 in 10 innings.
Sanchez lowered his ERA from 2.64 to 2.57 to increase a slim lead. Oakland's Bartolo Colon ranks second at 2.65 followed by Seattle's Hisashi Iwakuma at 2.66, and both have pitched their final game of the regular season.
The AL Central champion Tigers will conclude their regular season today, then start a division series at Oakland on Friday.
Miguel Cabrera, already assured of his second consecutive AL batting title, went 2 for 4 to hike his average to .348. His first series in Miami since being traded by the Marlins in 2007 has been a box-office success — the crowd of 28,750 was the largest since the Marlins' home opener in April.
Detroit took a 1-0 lead into the ninth, but the Marlins rallied against Benoit. He blew a save for only the second time in 26 chances this year, which prevented Sanchez from earning his 15th victory.
Ed Lucas singled home the tying run with two outs in the ninth, and Benoit loaded the bases. He got out of the inning after throwing 31 pitches.
With a runner at second in the 10th inning, Miami's Donovan Solano took a 95-mph fastball from Evan Reed off his helmet. The thunk could be heard in the upper deck as the helmet flew off, and Solano slowly to sank to one knee but then walked off the field.
Reed (0-1) loaded the bases with a walk and, with one out, Giancarlo Stanton hit a game-winning RBI single.
Sanchez allowed two hits, walked none, and struck out eight to finish with 202 strikeouts. He faced the Marlins for the first time after spending the first 6½ seasons of his career with them.
Miami's Nathan Eovaldi, plagued by poor run support all season, allowed one run in six innings. He finished with a 3.39 ERA.
Steve Cishek (4-6) pitched a hitless 10th.
Jhonny Peralta, who returned Friday from a 50-game suspension, went 2 for 5 for the Tigers. They went 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position, stranded 10 runners, and grounded into two double plays.
Sanchez retired his first nine batters. He escaped a two-on jam in the fourth when Stanton grounded into an inning-ending double play, then finished with a flourish, striking out the side in the fifth.
Detroit scored its run in the fourth when Prince Fielder led off with a walk, took third on a single by Peralta, and came home on Alex Avila's sacrifice fly.
Eovaldi saved a run when he caught Fielder's comebacker with two on to end the fifth. Fielder lined the ball sharply into Eovaldi's glove, then flipped away his bat in disgust at his bad luck.
NOTES: RHP Jose Fernandez was chosen the Marlins' most valuable player and rookie of the year in voting by local sports writers. ... With 11 strikeouts Saturday, Tigers pitchers have 1,415 this season, breaking the major-league record of 1,404 set by the 2003 Cubs. ... RHP Justin Verlander goes for his 14th victory today against Miami's Henderson Alvarez.