Ryan Dempster suspended five games, Joe Girardi fined following the A-Rod plunking

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Major League Baseball did what it had to do: the league just announced that the Red Sox Ryan Dempster has received a five-game suspension and an undisclosed fine for intentionally throwing at and hitting Alex Rodriguez with a pitch in the top of the second inning of Sunday night’s game.

If it hadn’t suspended Dempster, the league would have been sending a message to the rest of baseball that throwing at a batter intentionally — or, at the very least, unpopular ones like A-Rod — was acceptable. That’s simply untenable for a league which purports to disapprove of pitchers throwing at batters on purpose.

Joe Girardi was fined due to his animated argument with umpire Brian O’Nora.

The Red Sox have two games off in the next week, so Dempster is unlikely to even miss a start, *rendering this more of a five-game’s-salary fine as opposed to an actual suspension. That is, assuming he doesn’t appeal.  Which, given that many are saying that Dempster hit A-Rod because he disagreed with Rodriguez being allowed to play pending the appeal of his own suspension, would be pretty rich indeed.

UPDATE: No, I was wrong. He still gets his salary, which makes this 100% symbolic, minus the fine.

Astros clinch AL West for third consecutive year

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For the third consecutive season, the Astros are AL West champions. The ‘stros clinched the division on Sunday afternoon with a convincing 13-5 win over the Angels. They were backed by three homers from leadoff man George Springer and individual homers from Alex Bregman and Aledmys Díaz.

Springer has the 22nd three-homer game in baseball this season. He’s the first Astro to hit three homers in a game since Yordan Álvarez last month, on August 10.

Justin Verlander lasted five innings in Sunday’s start, yielding two runs on six hits and a pair of walks with five strikeouts. The right-hander is arguably the frontrunner for the AL Cy Young Award, now 20-6 with a 2.53 ERA and a 288/42 K/BB ratio in 217 innings on the year. Verlander is 12 strikeouts shy of the 300-strikeout milestone and six strikeouts short of 3,000 for his career. If the Astros stay on schedule, Verlander would pitch the second-to-last game of the regular season against the Angels.

Sunday’s win marked No. 102 on the season for the Astros. The franchise record is 103 wins set last year. With six games remaining, it seems likely the Astros will set a new record.

The Astros and Yankees both won on Sunday, meaning the Astros remain a half-game ahead in the race for home field advantage. The No. 1 seed will also have the privilege of playing the Wild Card winner, which is down to the Athletics, Rays, and Indians.