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.

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?”

Applegate

Apple CEO Tim Cook, left, visits Red Sox manager John Farrell before a game in June. Little did Cook (or Farrell?) know . . .

Apple CEO Tim Cook, left, visits Red Sox manager John Farrell before a game in June. Little did Cook (or Farrell?) know . . .

There are two unwritten baseball rules that may never be rescinded. Rule 1: Boys will be boys and grown men will often be boys. Rule 2: Never mind the church ladies of or around the game, cheating is baseball’s oldest profession.

It didn’t begin with Reds coach Tommy Corcoran getting his spikes caught in dirt on the Philadelphia first base coaching line one fine day in 1898, and discovering his spikes caught onto a telegraph wire running to the Phillies clubhouse, giving the Phillies the nineteenth century version of high-tech chicanery to abet sign stealing.

Molina’s heartbreak of a glove story

This used to happen to the Red Sox, didn't it?

This used to happen to the Red Sox, didn’t it?

One of the rarest things in baseball, for a decade and a half, almost, is sucking to be Yadier Molina. You can count on half a hand how often that’s happened. At least until this week in Boston.

Tuesday night—Molina kills a fourth-inning no-out rally by grounding into a 5-4-3 triple play, an inning before the Red Sox drop an eight-spot on the Cardinals. Molina probably wanted to find the nearest mouse hole to hide in after the 10-4 shellacking.

“It was weird. You’re getting cheered for getting yelled at.”

Eckersley in Fenway Monday night, receiving maybe baseball's first known standing O "for getting yelled at."

Eckersley in Fenway Monday night, receiving maybe baseball’s first known standing O “for getting yelled at.”

Dennis Eckersley got a standing O Monday night in Fenway Park. Not for pitching, though even at 62 the Hall of Famer looks like he could still go out to the mound and shut the other guys down to secure yet another win. The Red Sox honour assorted team legends at each home game, and Monday night was Eckersley’s turn.

The Price is wrong about Dennis the Menace

Dennis Eckersley (second from left) and Kirk Gibson (second from right), once World Series warriors, now banded with Tony La Russa (left) and Joe Torre (right) on behalf of Torre's foundation for neglected and abused children.

Dennis Eckersley (second from left) and Kirk Gibson (second from right), once World Series warriors, now banded with Tony La Russa (left) and Joe Torre (right) on behalf of Torre’s foundation for neglected and abused children.

If one thing above and beyond his pitching ability marked Dennis Eckersley’s career, it was accountability. Surrender a game-ending bomb to a Dodger batter who was lucky he didn’t need to swing from a wheelchair in the first game of a World Series? Eckersley didn’t shrink. Nobody said baseball was simple. Dennis the Menace would have called that person a liar.

The Red Sox purge the Panda

Even a slimmed-down Panda proved still injury prone and unable to pull his weight in Boston.

Even a slimmed-down Panda proved still injury prone and unable to pull his weight in Boston.

Has any fall from grace in the past two or three years been as profound and sad as Pablo Sandoval’s? Maybe this year’s collapse of his former Giants qualifies. Maybe.

The Red Sox have designated Kung Fu Panda for assignment—while he was already down on the farm at Pawtucket rehabbing after an inner ear infection sidelined him earlier this month. The team activated him, then designated him.

Ortiz, on surviving Valentine and repairing a marriage

Ortiz, exhorting Boston to stay strong in the wake of the Marathon bombing in 2013, saw a Red Sox club weakened by Valentine’s malmanagement.

Few are Red Sox fans who forget the Bobby Valentine nightmare of 2012. Hired as the Red Sox manager following the September 2011 debacle, Valentine’s divide-and-conquer style toxified an injury-wracked, confidence-impaired team.

For a change, the Red Sox and the Orioles didn’t play beanball Thursday

Machado Thursday, hitting the third of his monstrous Fenway bombs this week . . .

Machado Thursday, hitting the third of his monstrous Fenway bombs this week . . .

Just when you thought there could be nothing more shocking, stupid, or staggering coming out of Fenway Park, the Red Sox and the Orioles had do go and do something completely unexpected Thursday night. They went out and played a baseball game. Just baseball. Nobody tried yet again to re-enact The Wild Ones.

Enough is enough?

Holbrook (34) facing Gausman (center right, just ejected), Joseph (36), and oncoming manager Buck Showalter, after Bogaerts got a slightly surprising plunk in the second.

Holbrook (34) facing Gausman (center right, just ejected), Joseph (36), and oncoming manager Buck Showalter, after Bogaerts got a slightly surprising plunk in the second.

The good news from Boston Wednesday: Manny Machado got to play a game against the Red Sox without one pitch sailing anywhere near him other than around the plate. The bad news: Orioles starter Kevin Gausman couldn’t resist opening the second inning by throwing the first pitch at Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts’s hind quarters.