The Athletics could be involved in trade talks with the Marlins for Yunel Escobar, but they are also keeping their eyes on the free agent market. According to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, Athletics general manager Billy Beane said this evening that Stephen Drew and Hiroyuki Nakajima are the two free agent shortstop possibilities being considered right now.
Drew, who turns 30 in March, batted .223/.309/.348 with seven home runs, 28 RBI and a .657 OPS in 79 games this season between the Diamondbacks and Athletics. He looked a bit more like himself after joining Oakland in August, but the A’s declined their half of a $10 million mutual option for 2013 in late October. Jim Bowden of ESPN.com and MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM reported yesterday that the A’s, Red Sox, Yankees, Cardinals and Tigers are all in on the veteran shortstop.
Nakajima went through the posting process last winter, but had to return to Japan after he failed to work out an agreement with the Yankees. He’s an unrestricted free agent this time around. The 30-year-old batted .311/.382/.451 with 13 home runs, 74 RBI, seven stolen bases and an .833 OPS this past season with the Seibu Lions. John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle hears that the Giants have spoken with Nakajima’s representatives as a possible backup plan in case they are unable to re-sign Marco Scutaro.
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.
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.