Anibal Sanchez had himself a ballgame

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With all due respect to Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann, the author of a one-hit shutout against the Cincinnati Reds, Anibal Sanchez was tonight’s best pitcher. The right-hander, who signed a five-year, $80 million contract with the Tigers back in December, shut out the Braves with a franchise record 17 strikeouts over eight innings.

The Braves entered the night with the fifth-best offense in the National League averaging 4.6 runs per game with a league-best 35 home runs, but Sanchez kept the Braves’ bats silent with masterful pitching from start to finish, allowing only five hits and one walk. It also didn’t hurt that the Tigers spotted him a ten-run cushion with a four-run third and six-run fourth.

Sanchez tied Mickey Lolich’s Tigers club record for strikeouts in a nine-inning game (16) when he got Reed Johnson to strike out swinging for the second out in the eighth.

Tigers manager Jim Leyland opted to use Bruce Rondon in the ninth rather than allow Sanchez to finish his masterpiece. However, Sanchez was 121 pitches, so it is justifiable.

The last pitcher to strike out 17 or more batters was Brandon Morrow, who tossed a one-hit shut-out with 17 punch-outs against the Tampa Bay Rays on August 8, 2010. Others to do it in the 2000’s include Johan Santana (2007), Ben Sheets (2004), Randy Johnson (twice in 2002, once in 2001), Curt Schilling (2002), and Pedro Martinez (2000).

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.