The Texas Rangers tied a postseason record when they issued 12 intentional walks last October. Some worked out, but overall, the Rangers likely would have upped their chances of winning the World Series had they just avoided the strategy entirely.
Which seems to be what Ron Washington is doing this year. The Rangers have played 29 games this season without issuing a single intentional walk. And, for what it’s worth, they’re currently 19-10 on the season with the second-best bullpen ERA in the majors at 2.02.
Of course, Washington last year didn’t start going crazy with the intentional walks until the postseason. His team issued 21 during the regular season. Only the Red Sox, Diamondbacks and Brewers issued fewer. Still, the complete absence of intentional walks this year seems like a philosophy change. At last year’s pace, his team would have issued 4 IBBs so far this season.
The Rangers are the only team without an intentional walk handed out this season. The White Sox have issued just one, with the Diamondbacks, Mets and Twins right behind at two apiece. Manager Ozzie Guillen’s Marlins lead the way in intentional walks at 20, with the Padres (13) and Yankees (12) next on the list.
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.
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.