Davey Johnson blames the Stephen Strasburg shutdown on the media

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Nationals manager Davey Johnson just confirmed that Stephen Strasburg has been shut down for the season effective immediately. And his motivation for doing so was a little curious.

According to Mark Zuckerman of CSNWashington.com, the team pulled the plug early in part due to the media hype surrounding his impending shutdown.

“He’s had a great year,” Johnson said. “And I know what he’s going through the last couple weeks. This media hype on this thing has been unbearable.”

Yes, let’s blame the media for doing their jobs and reporting on a unique situation where one of the game’s best pitchers is being shut down despite being healthy by all accounts. Meanwhile, his team has a legitimate chance to win the World Series. I mean, why would anyone want to talk about that? You know what could be a real distraction? If the Nationals lose in the postseason and every member of the organization is faced with constant questions about whether they could have won it if they had Strasburg. The chorus could get even louder if Strasburg gets hurt anyway or the team doesn’t get this close again.

Many have disagreed with the team’s decision to shut Strasburg down, but until now it was coming out of concern for the pitcher’s long-term health. But this explanation is just plain weak and only makes Strasburg’s path more difficult moving forward. The next time he is faced with a start in a critical situation, we’ll hear the narrative that he wasn’t mentally strong enough to perform well under the pressure of the shutdown. That won’t get old at all.

UPDATE: Thanks for the feedback, both good and bad. All shape my opinion, which is evolving. I hope you’ll read my most recent post on this matter now that I have had a few hours to think about it.

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.