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.

Verlander’s new Houston life beats the Tigers’ continuing one

Verlander leans in for a sign. All signs are great for him in Houston now, just as they're painful for his old friends in Detroit . . .

Verlander leans in for a sign. All signs are great for him in Houston now, just as they’re painful for his old friends in Detroit . . .

Do you get the feeling Justin Verlander simply prefers to pitch for a team with a realistic postseason shot? It’s not that he’s throwing steaks past wolves even in an Astros uniform, but since he came to the Astros in a waiver period deal making him eligible for the postseason, Verlander’s looked strong enough that the Astros must be thinking about him opening a division series, no questions asked.

Pujols hits a grand No. 600

Albert Pujols hitting number 600 . . . with ducks on the pond, yet . . .

Albert Pujols hitting number 600 . . . with ducks on the pond, yet . . .

Once upon a time, Jose Alberto Pujols Alcantara became baseball’s first player to join the 500 home run club by hitting numbers 499 and 500 on the same night. Saturday night, he became the only one to join the 600-home run club with a grand slam at the expense of a former teammate.

“I’m not the only one [to surrender a homer to Pujols], you know,” Ervin Santana kidded after the game. “I’m No. 9 right now on the 600 club. He’s very nice and very humble. He always worked hard, and you can tell. He’s ‘The Machine’.”

The Angels overthrow their own burial

Cliff Pennington, heretofore not known for swinging big to end games that look like blowouts in the making . . .

Cliff Pennington, heretofore not known for swinging big to end games that look like blowouts in the making . . .

It’s not every season, never mind every day, when you open the bottom of the ninth in an apparent blowout, your designated hitter leads off by pulling to within eight of 600 career launches, he returns later in the inning to tie it up with a single, and the next man up hits one to the back of the yard to win it.

Yes, Vlad the Impaler is a Hall of Famer . . .

Vlad the Impaler, blasting the game-tying grand slam in Game Three, 2004 Division Series, in Fenway Park . . .

Vlad the Impaler, blasting the game-tying grand slam in Game Three, 2004 Division Series, in Fenway Park . . .

Normally, annually, I give a run down on the Hall of Fame ballot newcomers and holdovers separately, but it isn’t every year Vladimir Guerrero makes his debut on the ballot. But it isn’t every year that a newcomer looks like an obvious, no-questions-asked Hall of Famer in spite of his flaws. And, despite the likelihood that he may not make it first ballot because what’s with or ahead of him looks just that good.

Is it time for the Angels to trade MVP Trout?

Mike Trout, shown on an Angels' throwback day in 1962 uniform . . .

Mike Trout, shown on an Angels’ throwback day in 1962 uniform . . .

In early August, it looked as though Mike Trout, once again, would produce an off-chart season for a team whose chart indicated the need for a visit to the ICU post haste. And I observed the Angels were far better at promoting the living daylights out of Trout than building him a team that knows as much as he does about how to play the game to win.

It’s still Trout season, despite being on the side of the Angels

Mike Trout---still the WARrior for a team with one other player anywhere past 2.2 WAR . . .

Mike Trout—still the WARrior for a team with one other player anywhere past 2.2 WAR . . .

You’re almost tempted to send Mike Trout sympathy cards and wreaths. While his Angels—through no fault of his—are spending another season in the tank, Trout is making history almost too quietly.

The Angels are 13.5 games out of the American League West hunt and unlikely to hit the kind of streaks needed to flip that around, not with the team as it is now, but Trout is twice that many games ahead of the rest of the game and maybe even beyond.

The Braves, the Red Sox, get fleeced

Braves fans cringe even further now that the Angels pried Simmons out of them . . .

Braves fans cringe even further now that the Angels pried Simmons out of them . . .

The Braves and the Red Sox got fleeced in broad daylight last week. The Angels and the Padres made out like bandits by comparison.

That’ll teach the Braves. They thought they could swap Andrelton Simmons, maybe the best defensive shortstop in the National League, to the Mets, who could use an upgrade in the middle infield, for either Matt Harvey or Jacob deGrom.

Let the intrigues begin in earnest . . .

They barely have the streets swept clean following the Kansas City Royals’ World Series parade, and the off-season intrigues have begun in earnest. OK, a couple began when it barely began sinking in that the New York Mets had blown a Series they actually could have won, or when Don Mattingly left the Los Angeles Dodgers and became the Miami Marlins’ new manager. But let’s start looking:

Rios, who forgot how many outs there were when he caught this Game Four fly . . .

Rios, who forgot how many outs there were when he caught this Game Four fly . . .

. . . And, there’s a little ill-placed ill-will in a certain clubhouse

Is Wilson's elbow spurring a little internal Angel friction?

Is Wilson’s elbow spurring a little internal Angel friction?

Unless you’re Mike Trout, even on a day during which you got iced by Clayton Kershaw sustaining a scoreless inning streak, it must suck to be a Los Angeles Angel these days. Even when you’re in the thick of the American League West races despite being swept by the now-first-place Astros before dropping the first two against the Dodgers.