Mike Matheny will move a giant pile of dirt for you

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In the NBC SportsTalk segment I linked earlier I said that the Cardinals’ Mike Matheny will have the biggest impact of all new managers this year. And, with all respect to Matheny’s skills and intellect, it would be a negative one.  No hate here, just acknowledging that he’s not Tony La Russa.  No one is, and I don’t think the Cardinals make the playoffs last year without La Russa at the helm.

But I always liked Matheny as a player — and as an Ohio dude with West Virgnia roots who spent some important time in Michigan — I have a distinct kinship with him — so I hope I’m very wrong about that.

Anyway, for far more than a kneejerk assessment of his chances, I highly recommend this story about Matheny from Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.  For those who don’t know him, it will provide a nice introduction to the kind of cat Matheny is.

For those who do know him, there’s a great anecdote in there from Matheny’s childhood involving crawdad hunting, his father, his brother and a giant pile of dirt.  I can’t decide if that scene could have been dropped into “Tree of Life” as-is and fit perfectly or if, rather, I should do exactly that same thing with my two kids the next time they piss me off.

Leaning the latter.

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.