Red Sox send Daniel Bard to Triple-A

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Daniel Bard’s move from the bullpen to the rotation has been anything but smooth, as the formerly dominant reliever posted a 5.30 ERA with more walks (36) than strikeouts (34) through 10 starts while showing significantly diminished velocity.

Bard failed to make it out of the second inning Sunday against the Blue Jays, walking six of the 13 batters he faced while allowing five runs, and manager Bobby Valentine hinted afterward that a change would be coming. And sure enough Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe reports that the Red Sox have sent Bard to Triple-A.

Presumably by sending Bard to the minors instead of moving him back to the bullpen the Red Sox are still planning to go forward with him as a starter. Or maybe they just think he’s so screwed up right now that he needs some Triple-A time even if he’s bullpen bound.

In 193 career relief appearances Bard has a 2.87 ERA, .190 opponents’ batting average, and 213 strikeouts in 198 innings, so realizing he’s not cut out to start and making him a setup man again is hardly disastrous for the Red Sox. Assuming, of course, that spending the past two months struggling as a starter hasn’t had some sort of permanent impact on the 26-year-old’s raw stuff and/or confidence.

And now there’s a spot in the rotation for Daisuke Matsuzaka, who threw 5.1 innings of one-run ball in his last minor-league rehab start over the weekend and is seemingly close to returning from Tommy John surgery.

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.