Hot times and hot tempers … ain't it great?

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As we move closer to playoff stretch run territory, there seems to be an increase in intensity (some might call it testiness) in games.

In the last week, we’ve seen a heated dialogue between Dustin Pedroia and Jorge Posada after Pedroia was drilled by a pitch, Tony La Russa and Ozzie Guillen both lamenting their players being plunked, and a beanball battle that escalated into a brawl between the Red Sox and Tigers.

It all makes for some entertaining baseball, ramping up some rivalries and perhaps creating new ones.

But on Wednesday, we had a puzzling episode between the Dodgers and Giants. San Francisco’s Pablo Sandoval, while checking his swing, appeared to be grazed on the back elbow by a pitch from James McDonald. The pitch wasn’t that close to Sandoval’s torso, and wouldn’t have hit him had he not dropped his elbow. But he acted as if McDonald was head-hunting, yelling and pointing at the pitcher, starting a bench-clearing incident that resulted in, well, nothing.

The kicker? The umps ruled the pitch didn’t even hit Sandoval, and the at-bat continued awkwardly before ending in a walk.

After the game, Giants catcher Bengie Molina wrote about the game in his blog, sounding a bit puzzled by the whole thing.

Pablo thought McDonald was intentionally trying to hit him, which is a judgment call on his part. Maybe he and McDonald have a history in the minor leagues or something. I don’t know. But you always back up your teammate, no matter what.

Translation? Sandoval got a little crazy. That’ll happen in an intense series involving rivals, especially when both teams have playoff aspirations. Plus, Sandoval just turned 23 on Tuesday, so he’s young. But I’m guessing he’ll get some instruction from veteran teammates on when it’s appropriate to act out, and how to do so.

Our own Bert Blyleven, who played 22 seasons in the bigs and is 13th on the all-time hit batters list, will write about this very topic later this week. So stay tuned for that.

In the meantime, be cool people. Unless, of course, you’ve been disrespected, then you might have to throw your helmet.

Report: Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on Sonny Gray

OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 06: Sonny Gray #54 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning at the Oakland Coliseum on August 6, 2016 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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The Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on starting pitcher Sonny Gray, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. The Astros have added Charlie Morton this offseason, but the club has been trying to add a big-name starting pitcher to put at the top of the rotation behind Dallas Keuchel.

Gray, 27, was limited to 22 starts in the 2016 season due to a forearm issue. His stats left a lot to be desired, as he finished with a 5-11 record, a 5.69 ERA, and a 94/42 K/BB ratio over 117 innings. Considering how Gray pitched in the previous three years, he’s a good bet to bounce back.

Gray is under team control through 2019, which is a big draw for the Astros. Needless to say, the Athletics would want a haul in terms of prospects. Gray will earn $3.575 million in 2017, having avoided arbitration in his first year of eligibility.

President Obama Welcomes the Cubs to the White House

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As we noted last week, The Chicago Cubs took the unusual step of not waiting until the summer after winning the World Series to make their customary White House visit to meet the president. They did it today, seeing President Obama a few short days before he leaves office.

Despite the fact that Obama is a White Sox fan, he met the Cubs with diplomacy and grace. It’s almost as if he’s been in that business for the past eight years. In return, he was given some gifts by the Cubs: Theo Epstein presented Obama with a No. 44 Cubs jersey, a tile from the center field scoreboard at Wrigley Field, and a lifetime pass to Wrigley as well.

Obama is staying in D.C. after he leaves office this week, hanging around so his daughter can finish high school in the same place she started. Even so, he’s likely going to be back to Chicago a good bit over the rest of his life, so he’ll likely be able to put the free pass to work. Assuming it comes with, like, six companion passes for his Secret Service detail.