Kershaw’s one-hitter wins the (NL) West

Kershaw carves the Giants to clinch the West . . .

Kershaw carves the Giants to clinch the West . . .

Every Dodger fan knew it had to be this way, right? If the Dodgers were going to nail the National League West down, there was nobody they wanted swinging the hammer more than Clayton Kershaw—except maybe Zack Greinke.

Not even against Madison Bumgarner, against whom Kershaw had won only once in three previous meetings this season. Not even against a Giants club that didn’t have enough to stay in the races and would be knocked out of contention officially with a loss to the Dodgers Tuesday night.

The old school flunks the Papelbon-Harper question

Why are you seeing this shot from the Nationals' team store? Because the two Stephen Strasburg jerseys replaced two Jonathan Papelbon jerseys in this display---and because the store removed all the Papelbon merchandise post-haste Monday.

Why are you seeing this shot from the Nationals’ team store? Because the two Stephen Strasburg jerseys replaced two Jonathan Papelbon jerseys in this display—and because the store removed all the Papelbon merchandise post-haste Monday.

From your ancient baseball history, 1949 to be specific, a little story: In his third major league season, a still very young Yogi Berra has been the target of much veteran needling. Part of it has been due to his squat, homely appearance. But sometimes it has nothing to do with his appearance and everything to do with continuing the young man’s baseball education.

On choking Harper during Fan Depreciation Day

Papelbon (58) chokes around with Harper

Papelbon (58) chokes around with Harper

It was bad enough on Saturday night when a Washington Post writer posted Matt Williams had lost the Nationals’ clubhouse long before they spun out of postseason contention. It was worse Sunday afternoon, on Fan Appreciation Day at Nationals Park, when Jonathan Papelbon, by way of Bryce Harper, showed evidence only too vivid.

Where was Williams when Papelbon jawed Harper after a pop out to left before going for the throat, literally—lunging at Harper from the dugout steps and getting his hands on Harper’s throat before a swarm of Nats led by Ian Desmond—who hopped down off a bench at once—and coach Rick Schu pried Harper loose?¬†Williams was at the opposite end of the dugout.

Pain, not champagne for the Nots—er, Nats . . .

Harper's Saturday game winner was too late for these Nats, alas . . .

Harper’s Saturday game winner was too late for these Nats, alas . . .

This was the kind of situation the Nats always want, Stephen Strasburg striking out thirteen Phillies, and Bryce Harper smashing a game-winning double in the bottom of the twelfth Saturday afternoon. And it didn’t mean a thing anymore when it ended in a 2-1 Nats win.

Because almost an hour before Harper tagged Phillies reliever Colton Murray with one out, Mets closer Jeurys Familia finished the Mets’ destruction of the Reds in Cincinnati to clinch the none-too-potent National League East.¬†The division just about all the experts picked the Nats to run away with, all the way to a World Series crown, even.

The Pirates retaliate the best way, beating the Cubs in a set-opener

Cole, keeping the Cubs in check Friday.

Cole, keeping the Cubs in check Friday.

The Chicago Cubs have been itching for a postseason place all season long. Thanks to the Pittsburgh Pirates, they’ll have to wait at minimum until the San Francisco Giants lose to the Oakland Athletics Friday night, if they lose, before they clinch that place.

Opening the weekend as hosts to the Pirates the Cubs probably knew it wouldn’t be simple. And Gerrit Cole made sure they didn’t forget that knowledge Friday afternoon. Cole went seven against Jon Lester and came out ahead, surrendering one earned run and punching out eight to Lester’s two earned and six punched out.

Only the game was wild as the Royals clinch the Central

Last year they needed the wild card play-in game to kick their way into a postseason run that ended one short of a World Series triumph. This year the Kansas City Royals won’t have to worry about that kind of tension. Not after they thrashed their way into clinching the American League Central Thursday night.

The Royals clinch the Central.

The Royals clinch the Central.

Not after they got the biggest game of Johnny Cueto’s tenure since his arrival in a non-waiver trade deadline deal. Cueto couldn’t have picked a better time to win his first start in six weeks. So it wasn’t exactly pretty with three runs and seven hits against five punchouts and two passes, but nobody said it had to be pretty to win, either.

The last thing the Nats need

Papelbon (58) has the nerve to look surprised after being tossed for drilling Machado with apparent malice aforethought . . .

Papelbon (58) has the nerve to look surprised after being tossed for drilling Machado with apparent malice aforethought . . .

This one you simply can’t paper over, try though you might. Just keep your eye on Bryce Harper today. If the Nationals’ and maybe the National League’s best player this season gets drilled, you can thank his teammate Jonathan Papelbon—then ponder whether the Nats have plans to ship him off in the offseason to anyone who’ll have him.

Yogi Berra, RIP: It’s gotten late early out here

A portrait of the artist as a young Yankee.

A portrait of the artist as a young Yankee.

When Yogi Berra turned 90 in May, I wrote, “There are those who walk among us in their twilight and inspire us to think that, warts and all, our world still remains a lovely place to be simply because such people still walk among us.” Unfortunately, our world is now a little more empty by a lot, as the man himself might say, thanks to Berra’s death Tuesday night. It’s gotten late early out here.

A nasty hiccup in the Harvey plan shaken off, somewhat

So the Mets regrouped and whacked the Braves 4-0 Monday night. With the Nationals’ interleague set against the Orioles postponed, it pushed the Mets’ magic number to clinch the National League East to seven. Will it be enough to erase the sour taste of Sunday?

That was when manager Terry Collins went with the prudent course the Mets chose with and for Matt Harvey. Lifted him Sunday after five innings, seventy-seven pitches, one hit, and a 1-0 lead against the Yankees, with whom the Mets had split the weekend set coming in.

Yes, Sunday’s a must-win for the Mets

Syndergaard, after McCann reminded him not every day is an easy day for the Mets against the Yankees . . .

Syndergaard, after McCann reminded him not every day is an easy day for the Mets against the Yankees . . .

Does it seem a little bit of a long while since anyone’s looked at an approaching Mets game as “must win?” I thought so. They’ve split the weekend set with the Yankees thus far, and they still have a seven-game lead in the National League East on second place Washington with fourteen left to play. But Sunday’s game at Citi Field has “must win” on it regardless.