Agent Casey Close rips the Astros and Major League Baseball over how they’re handling the Brady Aiken situation

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The Astros selected Brady Aiken as the first overall pick in the draft last month. But then he developed some sort of arm issue — maybe — and now the Astros are trying to play hardball with him in order to get him to agree to a lower-than-expected bonus with the signing deadline looming on Friday. Aiken’s agent, Casey Close, is not pleased. Ken Rosenthal relays Aiken’s comments:

“We are extremely disappointed that Major League Baseball is allowing the Astros to conduct business in this manner with a complete disregard for the rules governing the draft and the 29 other clubs who have followed those same rules,” Close said.

The Astros and Major League Baseball, however, deny that anything untoward is happening (and Close does not specify what rule, exactly, he believes is being violated). What’s more, there is disagreement on whether or not Aiken is injured. The Astros have said that Aiken’s physical revealed “abnormalities” in his arm. Close says Aiken is perfectly healthy. Probably worth noting that Close does not have a reputation of a bomb-thrower as far as agents go.

Is this a tough-but-acceptable position the Astros are taking, or have they crossed a line? From a distance it’s impossible to tell. Nor is it at all clear if this is pre-signing deadline posturing or evidence of a significant rift that could derail the Aiken-Astros marriage. It’s certainly high-stakes stuff for Aiken and Close, in that if the sense takes hold that Aiken is somehow damaged goods it could affect his value later on down the line if he goes to college and then re-enters the draft.

Stay tuned.

 

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.