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

Aug 12, 2009, 10:09 PM EDT

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.

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