Reds beat Dodgers, clinch National League Central

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The first division crown of 2012 has been claimed.

Mat Latos fanned seven batters over eight shutout innings and Jay Bruce hit his 34th home run of the season as the Reds rolled to an easy 6-0 victory on Saturday afternoon over the Dodgers, locking up the National League Central in front of a crowd of more than 40,000 at Great American Ball Park.

The Reds have now won two division titles in the past three years and are currently tied with the Nationals for the most victories (92) in Major League Baseball.

They can give rest to some of their regulars and get their starting rotation lined up the way they want it over the final 10 days of the regular season. The divisional rounds begin October 6 and 7.

Cincinnati will be hoping for a long postseason run this time around. When the Reds won the NL Central in 2010, they were swept in the NLDS by the Phillies and no-hit by Roy Halladay in one of those games.

Martin Maldonado and Willson Contreras say they’re willing to pay fines rather than follow new mound visit rule

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On Monday, Major League Baseball announced some changes aimed at improving the game’s pace of play, something that has been a pet cause for commissioner Rob Manfred. Among the changes was a limit on mound visits whether from managers and coaches, the catcher, or other defenders. Each team will have six non-pitching change mound visits per game and one additional visit each inning in extra innings. Craig wrote more in depth on the changes here if you happened to miss it.

Angels catcher Martin Maldonado says he is going to do what’s necessary to stay on the same page with his pitchers. Via Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register, Maldonado said, “If the game is on the line, I’m going to go out there. If we’re at six [visits], and it’s going to be the seventh, I’m going to go out there, even if I have to pay a fine. I’m there for the pitchers.”

Cubs catcher Willson Contreras said as much on Tuesday. Per Josh Frydman of WGN News, Contreras said, “What about if you have a tight game and you have to go out there? They can’t say anything about that, that’s my team and we just care about wins. If they’re going to fine me about number seven mound visit, I’ll pay the price.”

Exhibition games haven’t even started yet, but two notable backstops — the lesser-known Maldonado won a Gold Glove last year — are clearly not happy with the rule change. As Craig alluded to in his article yesterday, arguments between catchers and umpires (and, subsequently, managers and umpires) are probably going to become more frequent, which would likely end up nullifying any pace of play improvements.