Quick hits: Yanks clinch AL East

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– The Yankees clinched their first American League East crown since 2006
with a 4-2 win over the Red Sox on Sunday afternoon. The Bombers
reached the 100-win mark for the first time since 2004 with the
three-game sweep of their archrivals. With Sunday’s win, the Yankees
have assured themselves of home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.




– Joel Sherman of the New York Post says the Mets front office shouldn’t take the Pollyanna approach
with promising showings by Jeff Francoeur, Luis Castillo, Angel Pagan,
Dan Murphy and Josh Thole. He argues that the Mets would be better
served to go after Rod Barajas/Bengie Molina/Miguel Olivo at catcher:
Nick Johnson/Russell Branyan/Adam LaRoche at first base: and Bobby
Abreu/Mark DeRosa/Jermaine Dye in left field. The acquisitions would
likely keep them near the estimated $15 million budget Omar Minaya will
have to work with during the offseason.




– Kevin Fagan of the San Francisco Chronicle penned a fantastic piece on Giants’ prospect Angel Villalona.
The 19-year-old first base prodigy is being held without bail in his
native Dominican Republic for the shooting death of a 25-year-old
convenience store worker. Some, including the co-owner of the disco bar
where the shooting took place, believe that Villalona is being singled
out because of his notoriety in the community. The trial, scheduled to
begin in two months, could result in a prison sentence of 20 years.




– According to Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune, some ‘baseball people’ believe the White Sox may have interest in Carlos Zambrano,
possibly in exchange for the recently-acquired Jake Peavy. It’s a
curious suggestion, since Peavy has looked great over his first two
starts with the White Sox, allowing three runs over 12 innings. But it
might be worth it, just to see Zambrano and Ozzie Guillen in the same
locker room.




– And finally, who is that masked man? (Pssst…it’s Omir Santos)

Dodgers top Giants, clinch fifth straight NL West title

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The Dodgers are NL West champions for the fifth time in a row. They clinched with a 4-2 win over the Giants on Friday night, taking their first and only lead on a mammoth record-breaking home run from Cody Bellinger in the third inning.

Rich Hill turned in another quality start, going six innings with five hits, a run and nine strikeouts to keep the Giants at bay. He tacked on an RBI hit of his own, too, lashing a double to left field for his first extra-base hit since 2007.

The Giants, meanwhile, deployed Jeff Samardzija and his 4.42 ERA for 4 1/3 innings. Samardzija was on the hook for the Dodgers’ four-run spread in the third and took his 15th loss of the season. Pablo Sandoval came through with a solo home run in the ninth, but the rest of San Francisco’s offense wasn’t so lucky against Kenley Jansen, who struck out the side to clinch the game — and the division.

After Friday’s showstopper, the Dodgers are just two wins away from their first 100-win season since 1974. If they win the remaining eight games of the season, they’ll beat out the 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers for the most wins in franchise history.

Watch: Cody Bellinger breaks NL rookie home run record

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Cody Bellinger helped the Dodgers to their first lead on Friday night, going deep for his 39th home run of the season and setting a new National League rookie home run record in the process. With two on and two out in the third inning, the Dodgers’ slugger launched a 2-1 pitch from the Giants’ Jeff Samardzija, skimming the right field fence to give the team a three-run cushion:

The three-run bomb was Bellinger’s sixth of the season. In what is undoubtedly a Rookie of the Year award-worthy campaign, he’s logged 21 solo shots, 11 two-run blasts and a single grand slam. His historic home run topped former NL rookie leaders Frank Robinson and Wally Berger, at 38 homers apiece.

The Dodgers need to stay on top of the Giants to clinch the NL West or, barring that, have the Marlins pull off a win over the Diamondbacks. They currently lead the Giants 4-1 in the bottom of the fifth inning. The Marlins, meanwhile, are staying just ahead of the D-backs with a 9-7 lead in the top of the sixth.