Tony La Russa and Colby Rasmus both deny reported "rift"

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Colby Rasmus was back in the Cardinals’ lineup yesterday for the first time in two weeks, and after the game the 24-year-old center fielder and manager Tony La Russa denied the reported “rift” between them.
Rasmus said: “From my side, me and Tony, we’re on good terms.”
However, in downplaying their “issues” that have been reported extensively this month La Russa admitted that the two “had a heated exchange earlier this season” and still took a few jabs at Rasmus:

There is no issue. I feel like he’s got a chance to be a really good player. He’s young. He’s learning. Even while he’s been inconsistent, he’s still a good player. Colby believes he needs to hit for power to make a mark. I stress to him if he can hit .300, he’ll help us a lot more than that. In that .300, there will be home runs. But there will also be going first to third, stealing bases, using his legs. He’s young. In the back of his mind, he knows if he catches one, it’s going.

Keep in mind that earlier this week St. Louis Post Dispatch beat reporter Joe Strauss speculated that “either La Russa or Rasmus is gone from St. Louis before the 2011 season” and columnist Bernie Miklasz opined that the La Russa-Rasmus situation “is very strange and it must end.”
Perhaps the whole thing has been overblown or perhaps La Russa and Rasmus are simply trying to play nice for the rest of the season, with La Russa struggling to do so without still taking the young player down a few notches in the media. Either way, outwardly at least Rasmus is saying all the right things and at 24 years old he’s been one of the best all-around center fielders in baseball, so I tend to think he’s a bigger part of the Cardinals’ future than La Russa.

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.