The Nationals have made a lot of smart moves since tossing Jim Bowden over the side last year. Giving the reins to Mike Rizzo is one. Setting aside their Boras-phobia and paying for Strasburg was another. Sticking with Jim Riggleman was the right move in my mind as well.
The latest? Making it clear that Cristian Guzman is not their shortstop anymore. They’re going to stick him at second, Riggleman said yesterday, and it’s the smart way to go. Any young, building team (there is no “re” about it in their case) needs solid defense in order to get the young pitching staff through their inevitable early struggles. The classic example of this is the Braves chucking any hope at offense and putting Rafael Belliard at short back in 1991. The Nats aren’t there yet — this is still very much like the 1988-89 Braves we’re dealing with here — but if the Nats put a solid glove at short next to the Gold Glove-winning Ryan Zimmerman, they’ll really be doing themselves — and their pitchers — a favor.
So who goes to short? Rosenthal reports that Rizzo is looking at Adam Everett and Alex Gonzalez. Riggleman mentions prospect Ian Desmond. Desmond has been described as having excellent range and a great arm, though he has been erratic at times. He showed some nice hitting skills in his brief callup last year, but if I’m the Nats, any offense I get from short is gravy.
If Everett or Gonzalez can be had on the cheap, sure, plug ’em in on a one-year deal and give Desmond a little more time to ease into things. If not, just take the plunge with Desmond.
What’s the worst that’ll happen? The Nats will lose some games?
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.
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.