The Nats want Lackey, but why would he want them?

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Last year the Washington Nationals were in on Mark Teixeira. No one figured they’d get him, but because the guy is from the mid-Atlantic area, there was at least a reason not to openly guffaw at their courtship of the guy. He could have gotten homesick. There was at least a non-zero chance that he’d be interested, even if was a chance that was only microscopically above zero.

But John Lackey?  MLB.com’s Bill Ladson says that the Nats are interested, the idea being that a guy like Lackey could anchor the staff and serve as a mentor to Stephen Strasburg and the other young Nats’ pitchers. Here’s Mike Rizzo’s explanation of how the Nationals can convince a guy like Lackey to come to what has been futility central for the past few years:

You
have to show the veteran pitcher what the plan is, our plan for
success, how we are built to perform at this level at this given time . . . We think with the additions of an Adam Dunn, a Josh Willingham and
Nyjer Morgan, it’s going to attract some veteran players. These guys
know what we are doing here. It’s all over the league where we are at
and what we are trying to do. I think they can see this is the
beginning of a good, exciting ballclub.

If I’m John Lackey’s agent and they trot out Adam Dunn I say “John, you sign there and you’ll have the absolute worst defensive player in baseball in left or at first.”  If they trot out Josh Willingham I say “John, they were openly shopping him last week, so even if he floats your boat, don’t count on him.” If they trot out Nyjer Morgan I’d say “Man, those socks look good, don’t they?  Morgan is sharp. No reason to turn down the Yankees and Red Sox, but he is sharp.”

I agree that brighter days are in the Nats’ future, but there’s zero chance Lackey will buy what Mike Rizzo is selling. There’s nothing in his history or public statements that suggests he’d be interested in assuming some Obi-Wan role on a team like the Nats. This is probably his last shot at a big free agent deal, and he’s going to use it to land somewhere that provides him both money and a guarantee of winning, and Washington ain’t that place.   

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.