Dee Gordon back with Dodgers, but mostly as pinch-runner

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Dee Gordon was the Dodgers’ starting shortstop from Opening Day through early July, when a torn thumb ligament sent him to the disabled list.

While he was out Los Angeles traded for Hanley Ramirez, leaving Gordon without a job now that he’s finally healthy. He was activated from the 60-day disabled list yesterday, but manager Don Mattingly explained to Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times that Gordon is unlikely to do much beyond pinch-running down the stretch.

Gordon wasn’t exactly thriving before injuring his thumb, hitting just .229 with a .280 on-base percentage and .282 slugging percentage in 79 games. He did steal 30 bases at a 79 percent clip and made some highlight-worthy plays defensively, but the jury is still out on whether he can be a top-of-the-lineup asset offensively and his overall defensive numbers aren’t pretty.

Or as Mattingly put it:

This is a guy that needs to get on base better. He’s got to make better decisions, as far as the speed of the game, when do I try to make a great play, making that bread-and-butter double play.

Mattingly went on to say that “personally I think Dee’s going to be a great player” because “he brings something that no one else can bring.” That vote of confidence doesn’t mean much for the rest of this year, but if the Dodgers shift Ramirez to third base next season Gordon could be back as the primary shortstop.

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.