Looking ahead to two more Game 5s

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Four best of five playoff series, four Game 5s. Life is good.

We do it again two more times tonight, with the following action on tap:

Orioles at Yankees, 5:07 PM ET, TBS:  It has been an offense-free zone for both teams, but it’s not surprising given the big names and big contracts that the Yankees are catching all the heat right now. Alex Rodriguez has been terrible but, really, Curtis Granderson has been worse. And it leaves Joe Girardi with a tough call tonight: do you play an elimination game without your future Hall of Famer and your 40+ home run center fielder in the lineup? Do you go with Eric Chavez and/or Brett Gardner in an effort to shake things up?  I doubt he’d make both of those calls, but benching A-Rod would not surprise me at all.

But maybe it’s the Orioles who need to worry more about their offense tonight, as they face CC Sabathia, who shut them down in Game 1. And, while they’re not getting the headlines Rodriguez and Granderson are getting, Matt Wieters and Adam Jones have been godawful too. They’ll need to figure something out if the O’s are going to advance to a meeting against the Tigers in the ALCS.

Cardinals at Nationals, 8:37 PM ET, TBS: Two things that I sort of don’t believe in in baseball: momentum carrying over and experience carrying the day.  The Nationals — thanks to Jayson Werth’s dramatic walkoff homer — have the former and the Cardinals — thanks to having the 2011 World Series hardware in their trophy case — have the latter, but that’s not really gonna matter tonight, as momentum is your next day’s starting pitcher and experience doesn’t put runners on the bases.

For the Cardinals it’s Adam Wainwright, for the Nats its Gio Gonzalez. Each are coming off strong Game 1 performances and each are facing lineups who couldn’t hit water if they fell out of a boat in Game 4. The concern has to be more on the Nationals side, however, because even in victory yesterday the bats were mostly silent, whereas the Cardinals have been doing quite alright otherwise.  One gets the feeling that this will be a close, low-scoring game, however, decided by the bullpens.

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.