Dan Uggla is having vision problems, could require LASIK surgery

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Dan Uggla has always had the reputation as a free-swinging slugger, but he has been particularly strikeout-prone this season. And it appears that there could be an explanation for his struggles.

Braves assistant hitting coach Scott Fletcher told Jeff Schultz of the the Atlanta Journal-Constitution today that Uggla is dealing with vision problems and could require LASIK surgery. The 33-year-old was out of the starting lineup tonight against the Mets while Tyler Pastornicky made the start at second base.

“Well, now you have the situation with his eyes. His vision – it’s something that’s been bothering him for a while and only now is it something he’s really taking care of.

“He went to the eye doctor today and he might end up having to do Lasik. … I think they’re just trying to see if he’s a candidate right now. There’s certain balls and stuff he said he wasn’t seeing well. At times he’s flinching on balls that are good pitches and it’s like, ‘Why am I not seeing that ball better?’ So we’ll see how it goes with that.”

Uggla is hitting .194 with 92 strikeouts in 270 plate appearances this season, good enough (or bad enough, really) for a strikeout rate of 34.1 percent. Only Houston’s Chris Carter (38.4 percent) has struck out more often this season. Uggla’s strikeout rate increased from 23.2 percent in 2011 to 26.7 percent last year, so he has been trending in the wrong direction for a while now. The Braves still owe him $13 million in 2014 and 2015, so it’s in their best interests to explore any and all ways to get him back on track.

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.