The Jose Bautista smear campaign continues

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Jose Bautista hit his 19th home run last night, helping power the Blue Jays past the Yankees. The game and its aftermath is making me want to take a walk down memory lane.

For instance, remember back in 2009 when speculating that an unusual spike in a player’s performance could be steroids-related would get you torn a new one by virtually every credentialed writer in baseball and featured in a public pillorying on ESPN for your lack of journalistic ethics?

Wait, maybe I dreamed that, because there is no way that could have happened and this article in the Daily News could still appear without a similar outrage. That would be crazy!

Bautista is the power-hitting sensation the sport desperately needs these days.

Let’s hope he’s clean.

Sorry, but even in this drug-testing era, it’s impossible not to be suspicious when someone suddenly starts hitting the ball to the moon in his late 20s. Unfortunately, steroids forever hardened us to the romance of a late-bloomer like Bautista, especially when baseball still has no test for human growth hormone … Bautista is a great story. Let’s just hope he’s legit.

One more walk down memory lane: remember when, back in 2003 or so, baseball writers used to say that unless and until there is steroid testing in baseball, everyone will be under suspicion?  How then, is it possible, seven years after the imposition of steroid testing, for them to still be under the same suspicion?  Is there absolutely no basic, prima facie presumption of innocence? Is there not anything apart from the mere hitting of some home runs, that is required before this kind of skepticism and innuendo is warranted?

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.