Starting Nine: An NL West showdown awaits record-setting Cody Bellinger and Dodgers

From a shutout for the hottest team in baseball to an much-anticipated impending showdown out west, here's all the baseball you missed and need to know.
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From historically great offense to historically bad pitching, Monday’s action offered a little bit of everything. Here’s three stories you might’ve missed, three more to look ahead at and three videos you need to see.

What you might have missed

1. There’s no hotter team in baseball right now than the Indians. A trio of NL West teams might disagree, but after Monday’s 12-0 thumping of the Orioles, the Tribe has strung together six straight wins to build a 2 1/2 game lead atop the AL Central. A balanced attack has led the Indians to this point, with the team scoring nearly nine runs per game and pitching to the tune of a 2.17 ERA.

Monday proved to be no different. Reigning American League player of the week Jose Ramirez produced his seventh straight multi-hit game, going 3-for-6 with a pair of runs scored. Starting pitcher Corey Kluber then made the offensive outburst look useless. The former Cy Young Award winner looked the part as he twirled a complete game shutout, striking out 11 Orioles and scattering three hits. It appears the Indians are more than ready to put a subpar start to the season behind them.

Cleveland Indians ace Corey Kluber is getting smart and diversifying his pitch selection

2. By far the most entertaining game of the night was played down in Miami, where the Marlins mounted a six-run comeback on the Nationals that culminated in a Marcell Ozuna walk-off single in the ninth. A pair of early home runs from Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon helped put Washington up six after three innings, but it only took one frame for starter Tanner Roark to hand it all back. Miami loaded the bases with two outs on an infield single and two walks, leaving Justin Bour to do exactly what the burly first baseman was built to do.

Even when given back the lead—albeit a much smaller, 7-6, one—a beleaguered Nationals bullpen could not hang on to it. Jacob Turner got pegged with a blown save in the seventh when the Marlins tied it, and Enny Romero couldn’t finish off two innings of relief before Ozuna decided the game. The Nats still hold a 9 1/2-game division lead, but their NL-worst 5.20 bullpen ERA sure isn’t getting any smaller.

3. Just a couple weeks after R.A. Dickey proclaimed he was “embarrassed” by the start to his season, the 42-year-old knuckleballer weaved together his finest outing of the season. He dazzled against the Giants in seven innings—his second seven-inning start of the month—yielding only three hits and a walk. What’s more, his terrific outing came on the heels of his worst start of the year last Tuesday, when he allowed eight earned runs for the first time since 2012.

The Braves don’t need him to be an ace. They need him to eat innings and pitch well enough to at least appear as a viable trade chip. At least on Monday, he did both.

Cody Bellinger breaks Gary Sanchez’s record by smashing 21 homers in first 51 games

What you shouldn’t miss

4. Baseball fans were gifted last season with Gary Sanchez’s historically great rookie year at the plate, and now Cody Bellinger is spoiling us. On Monday he became the quickest player in major league history to reach 21 home runs, swatting two home runs in the Dodgers’ win over the Mets. Learn a little bit more about the historical context of Bellinger’s achievements over here.

5. On the flip side of the Indians’ sixth-straight win was an Orioles team that’s performed in quite the opposite fashion lately. Baltimore’s lost seven of its last 10 games, slipping into a tie for last place in the AL East. There’s no secret about the root of the team’s demise, and it was especially evident in Monday’s 12-0 loss. Look no further than an MLB-worst 6.89 ERA this month, nearly a full run worse than any other team in baseball.

Even when the Orioles have won, they’re still letting up an uncomfortable number of runs. Only one of the team’s last eight wins (dating back to May 29) has come with the opponent scoring three runs or less. That’s no recipe to reach the postseason.

The 30: The Dodgers, Rockies and Diamondbacks are the National League's finest

6. One of the most anticipated NL West series in a long time begins tomorrow between the Rockies and Diamondbacks. Nolan Arenado launched his team into the headlines by hitting a walk-off home run Sunday to complete the cycle, rounding out a stretch of 12 wins in 15 games. Arizona’s done quite well for itself too, entering the series on a 9-1 tear and one game behind the first-place Rockies in the standings. It’ll be Zack Greinke opposing German Marquez Tuesday evening at Coors Field in the opening match of this three-game set.

What you need to watch

7. Jose Iglesias should have been caught stealing until he did this.

8. Anthony Rizzo is completely embracing his new role on the Cubs.

9. It’s still mesmerizing watching The Freeze do his thing.