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Bellinger hits 38th HR to help Dodgers beat Nationals 3-2

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Bellinger hits 38th HR to help Dodgers beat Nationals 3-2

WASHINGTON  -- Cody Bellinger hit his 38th homer to match the National League single-season record for rookies, and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Washington Nationals 3-2 Saturday to inch closer to the NL West title.

Chase Utley had two doubles and scored twice to help the Dodgers reduce their magic number to win the division to five. Rich Hill and five relievers combined on a four-hitter.

Los Angeles also moved seven games ahead of Washington in the race to secure home-field advantage throughout the NL playoffs. The Dodgers have won four straight since dropping 11 in a row.

Anthony Rendon homered for the Nationals, who have lost four of five since clinching the NL East last Sunday.

Bellinger hit a solo shot off A.J. Cole (2-5) in the second inning and added an RBI single in the third. Wally Berger (1930) and Frank Robinson (1956) are the only other NL players to hit 38 in their first full season in the big leagues. The major league record is 49, by Mark McGwire.

Hill (10-8) allowed one hit in five innings, struck out seven and walked two. He had lost his previous four starts.

In the eighth, the Nationals closed to 3-2 and had the potential tying run on second with two outs. Daniel Murphy hit a sinking liner to right that was snared by a diving Yasiel Puig.

Kenley Jansen worked a perfect ninth for his 38th save.

Though Washington is assured a postseason berth, that doesn't mean winning isn't important.

"We're past celebrating. That's over," manager Dusty Baker said before the game. "I want to see some more energy. We've been roughed up pretty good this last week."

Bellinger put the Dodgers ahead for good with his second-inning drive and drove in Utley in the third. After Rendon went deep in the fourth, Utley doubled in the fifth and came home on a fly ball by Justin Turner.

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Whoa. Dusty Baker not returning as Nationals' manager. What comes next?

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Whoa. Dusty Baker not returning as Nationals' manager. What comes next?

The Washington Nationals announced Friday Dusty Baker will not return as manager of the club in 2018. 

Baker led the team to the first back-to-back division titles in franchise history, and the Nationals were 192-132 under Baker, but they failed to make it to an NLCS.

Baker is 14th in MLB history with 1,863 career wins.

The next Nationals' manager will be their seventh since they arrived in DC.

Only the Marlins have had as many.

"I'm surprised and disappointed," Baker told USA TODAY Sports. "They told me they would get back to me and I told them I was leaving town yesterday and they waited 10 days to tell me."

"I really thought this was my best year. We won at least 95 games each year and won the division back to back years but they said they wanted to go a different direction. It's hard to understand." 

The team also announced the contracts for the Major League coaching staff have also expired, and the search for a new manager will begin immediately.

RELATED: BRYCE HARPER THANKS NATIONALS' FANS FOR SUPPORT

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Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy undergoes successful knee surgery

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Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy undergoes successful knee surgery

While Nats fans were still digesting the news that Dusty Baker will not return as manager next year, the team released some more surprising news. 

Second baseman Daniel Murphy underwent knee surgery today, per an official team report. 

Washington Post reporter Chelsea Janes reported that the surgery is considered significant and the team won't put a timeline on the recovery process:

"The procedure, according to the statement released by the team, repaired articular cartilage in Murphy’s right knee. For those interested in the details, it was a debridement and microfracture surgery, and orthopedic surgeon Timothy Kremchek performed it."

"For those concerned with the implications of the procedure, those are still unclear. The statement clarified that Murphy’s rehab “will progress throughout the offseason,” as one would hope, and did not include a timetable.

RELATED: HARPER THANKS FANS FOR SUPPORT