The Astros set a Monday deadline for arbitration eligible players

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The Astros aren’t going to dilly-dally for the next three or four weeks on their arbitration cases. If you’ve got pending litigation with them, they want it to be over by Monday or just forget it:

Astros general manager Ed Wade said Friday he has informed the agents for the club’s three remaining arbitration players — outfielder Hunter Pence and pitchers Wandy Rodriguez and Tim Byrdak — they have until end of business Monday to work out a deal or go to a hearing . . .

. . . “Realistically, there is enough data available at this point in time for us to afford a settlement. Without a deadline, you’re in position where there’s a lot of preparation taking place and a settlement could be reached today or all of a sudden takes place on the courthouse steps, so to speak.”

Bah. Maybe it’s just my lawyerly background talking here, but often the settlements that take place during trial prep or on the courthouse steps are the best deals. Before prep time people haven’t examined the flaws in their case, They haven’t fully appreciated all the risks involved.

Maybe it’s different in baseball. It just strikes me that this is another instance in which putting a litigation framework over what is essentially a friendly transaction leads to inefficiencies and makes little sense.

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.