The Red Sox win the AL East—the hard way

A champagne shampoo for the AL East champion Red Sox . . .

A champagne shampoo for the AL East champion Red Sox . . .

Nobody has ever accused the Red Sox of doing things the easy way. Why should clinching this year’s American League East be any different? Of course, the Red Sox don’t necessarily see it that way.

We didn’t play meaningful baseball games at the end of the year last year,” says David Price, moved to the bullpen of late after a few hiccups and elbow issues as a starter this year. “You play meaningful baseball games for 160 to 162 games, that keeps everybody on their toes.”

So, what’s in the Cards now?

Assorted Cardinals watch Leonys Martin steal Paul DeJong's would-be home run and, with it, the Cardinals' last hope of staying in the postseason hunt.

Assorted Cardinals watch Leonys Martin steal Paul DeJong’s would-be home run and, with it, the Cardinals’ last hope of staying in the postseason hunt.

You could say it happened in almost a blink Thursday night. Cardinals rookie Paul DeJong, the club’s home run leader with 24 despite his late May call-up, drove one that looked like its final resting place would be the other side of the center field fence in the bottom of the eleventh, with his club down, 2-1. Cubs centerfielder Leonys Martin thought it looked like something else and made it happen, timing a perfect leap and grabbing the ball before it crossed the fence.

Terry Collins, dead Met walking

Collins, in the Mets' dugout, showing the frustration of butting heads with a front office who rarely told him the full story of Met injuries while he over-relied on some players and had little control over others.

Collins, in the Mets’ dugout, showing the frustration of butting heads with a front office who rarely told him the full story of Met injuries while he over-relied on some players and had little control over others.

In September 2012, after Mets manager Terry Collins exploded in the clubhouse after one nasty blowout only to apologise the next day, I wrote, “Crossing the line between demanding accountability and questioning heart helped turn [Bobby] Valentine’s and the Red Sox’s season into a Rimbaudian nightmare. Collins isn’t about to let himself or his Mets forget the line. Whatever overhauling is or isn’t done come the off-season, it doesn’t seem likely that the manager’s job will be part of it.”

So, what’s in the (wild) card for . . . the Twins?

An Angels loss Wednesday handed the Twins an American League wild card, but their surprising comeback may run into a roadblock out of New York or Boston in the wild card game . . .

An Angels loss Wednesday handed the Twins an American League wild card, but their surprising comeback may run into a roadblock out of New York or Boston in the wild card game . . .

The great baseball trivia questions of the rest of this century will include, “Name the American League team who clinched the second wild card after trading their closer at the non-waiver trade deadline the same season. Hint: They’re also the first team to lose 100+ one year and make the postseason the next.”

Fifty years ago, the Hawk’s forgotten sneak preview

Ken Harrelson, a young Kansas City Athletic, before Charlie Finley inadvertently shoved him to show a sneak peek at what players could get on a fair and open market in 1967 . . .

Ken Harrelson, a young Kansas City Athletic, before Charlie Finley inadvertently shoved him to show a sneak peek at what players could get on a fair and open market in 1967 . . .

When you think of the advent of baseball’s free agency era, you think of Curt Flood, Catfish Hunter, and Andy Messersmith first, and in that order. As Ted Simmons phrased it, following the Messersmith ruling of 1975, “Curt Flood stood up for us. Jim Hunter showed us what was out there. Andy showed us the way.”

The Dark Knight swallows his own sword

Matt Harvey, walking off the mound after the Marlins battered him early and often Monday . . .

Matt Harvey, walking off the mound after the Marlins battered him early and often Monday . . .

Now it seems a century ago when Matt Harvey all but ordered manager Terry Collins to let him try to finish what he started in Game Five of the 2015 World Series. The Series the Mets should have won but for their porous defense.

The game in which Harvey took a 2-0 shutout to the mound and discovered the hard way his heart was more full than his gas tank, surrendered a leadoff walk and an RBI double, then came out and watched helpless as the Royals exploited, yet again, a defense that could have been tried by jury for treason.

Health and headaches down the American League stretch

Verlander pitched and won the clincher for the Astros in the AL West, but the league's stretch excitement and possible chaos aren't done yet . . .

Verlander pitched and won the clincher for the Astros in the AL West, but the league’s stretch excitement and possible chaos aren’t done yet . . .

Well, the Astros have gotten everything they wanted from Justin Verlander since dealing to bring him over from the incredible shrinking Tigers. Including, they dared to dream, the still-formidable righthander pitching and winning the American League West-clinching game, which he did Sunday in his first home start for his new club.

Suddenly the Dodgers look like the Dodgers again

Third base coach Chris Woodward extends Cody Bellinger a low fist after Bellinger blasted NL rookie record-tying number 38 Saturday afternoon . . .

Third base coach Chris Woodward extends Cody Bellinger a low fist after Bellinger blasted NL rookie record-tying number 38 Saturday afternoon . . .

Everyone thought the Dodgers began looking like deer frozen in the headlights when that sorry slump turned into an eleven-game losing streak and sixteen of seventeen lost. Now, as they were en route their fourth straight win and second straight against the National League East champion Nationals, the only one who looked anything like that thus far this weekend was Nats outfielder Jayson Werth Friday night.

The streak is over, but wasn’t that a time?

Mike Minor (right) gets to brag that he finished off the Indians' American League record winning streak.

Mike Minor (right) gets to brag that he finished off the Indians’ American League record winning streak.

All good things must come to their finish, sooner or later. The Indians and their fans would have preferred the streak to finish later, of course, and likewise most of baseball and its lovers. But as the ancient folk song says, “Wasn’t that a time?”

“What they did over there was amazing,” said Royals manager Ned Yost, after his charges hung on for the 4-3 win that put an end to the Indians’ romp. “I mean, it’s utterly amazing. It’s just unfathomable for me that you can go three weeks without losing a game. I mean, it was a tremendous accomplishment.”

On “Racism is as American as Baseball”

The banner seen 'round Fenway and maybe the world . . .

The banner seen ’round Fenway and maybe the world . . .

When four fans draped a large banner over the Green Monster in the fourth inning Wednesday night, reading, “Racism is as American as Baseball,” it lasted long enough for the banner and its creators to be ejected from the ballpark. An immediate reaction, not knowing the creators or their intentions in the specific moment, could have been, “Do they denounce or applaud racism?”