A GRIP ON SPORTS
Wouldn't it be nice if the Seattle Mariners could hold on to a lead a bit more often? Read on.
• Ninth-inning rallies happen. Anyone who doesn't understand that hasn't been a baseball fan for very long. But it seems they happen a bit more often against the Seattle Mariners than they happen for the Seattle Mariners. OK, “a bit” is understating it. “A lot” would be more accurate. Early this season the M's, and then-closer Tom Wilhelmsen, were automatic. Then came the debacle in Cleveland in which Wilhelmsen dropped a two-out, game-ending soft toss at first, opening the door to a Cleveland win and, ultimately, closing out his career as the M's closer. (It was a slow fall from there, to be sure, but it was a near-straight-line descent that culminated in Wilhelmsen's demotion to Tacoma earlier this month.) Enter Danny Farquhar. A little right-hander with a big fastball and a sharp-breaking curve. Perfection in miniature. At least for his first five save opportunities. Then there was last night. The M's battled Tampa Bay left-hander David Price – one of baseball's best – and had won, leading 4-3 going into the bottom of the ninth. Enter Lord Farquhar. He had earned his fifth save one night earlier against the same group of Rays, who now stepped into the batter's box with an idea of what he threw. And a plan. It worked for Ben Zobrist, Matt Joyce, Evan Longoria and, after an intentional walk to Wil Myers, Jason Bourgeois, whose single ended it. Whether Farquhar will be the ultimate answer at closer is still to be determined. Wednesday's failure will play into that. To win the job permanently, he has to prove he can get the three toughest outs night after night, after everyone in the league has seen his stuff. That's going to take a while to prove – or disprove. But major league baseball players adjust quickly. Farquhar has a big overhand curve that seems a bit out of place considering his arm angle and release point. It seems to have caught a lot of hitter by surprise. As his career wears on and they get used to what he throws, will his stuff still be good enough to get folks out consistently? Or will the M's have to turn elsewhere for their ninth-inning outs? Part of the reason they are an organization still hovering below respectability are questions like that one. Until the answers are found, the middle-of-the-pack will be their high-water mark.
• WSU: Guess you can say this is a typical day of training camp. Christian Caple has a blog post on yesterday's practice, follows that up with a position preview – this one on the running backs – then returns in the morning with a post featuring links. Typical. But he changes things up this afternoon with a 1 p.m. live chat concerning all things Cougar football. OK, I have a question. When is the Taco Bell opening in Pullman? … Is there spying going on at football practices?
• Gonzaga: Elias Harris has affixed his signature to a contract with the L.A. Lakers, so he is officially an NBA player. And a pretty well-paid first-year employee. … Courtney Vandersloot makes her annual WNBA visit to Seattle.
• EWU: Special teams were on Jim Allen's agenda today – as is a live chat. Jim has his story in today's S-R on the Eagles' special teams then will hold a live chat with athletic director Bill Chaves at noon today.
• Shock: Adron Tennell was given the award for being the AFL's best receiver yesterday.
• Mariners: Other than the last half-inning, the M's played really well yesterday in the 5-4 loss to Tampa Bay. But not as well as they did a year ago, when Felix Hernandez threw his perfect game. Felix took some time yesterday to look back at his accomplishment and what it meant. … Brad Miller spent a while celebrating his accomplishments Tuesday.
• Seahawks: Sometimes even the head coach isn't sure who will be on the practice field. Pete Carroll said on the radio before practice Cliff Avril (pictured) and Bruce Irvin would finally return to practice Wednesday, shoring up an area hard-hit by injuries. He was half-right. Avril returned by Irvin was still absent. … Derrick Coleman doesn't hear very well. In fact, he hardly hears at all. But the big running back doesn't let that affect him too much. … Richard Sherman has something to say.
• Sounders: The U.S. National Team fell behind 2-0 at Bosnia in a friendly yesterday then roared back in the second half to win 4-3. The win extended the team's winning streak to a national-record 12 matches. … Eddie Johnson and Brad Evans played in the match but only Evans will be available for the Sounders this weekend against Houston. The rest of the Sounders, including Clint Dempsey, returned to practice yesterday.
• That's it for this morning. It should be another warm one around here today, so I think I'll spend much of it in the air-conditioned house. Until later …