A GRIP ON SPORTS
Sometimes, when my back hurts or my leg is sore, I will take a nighttime pain reliever before bed. It helps me feel better and contributes to a long night's sleep. But it also gives me some real weird dreams, hallucinations really. Take last night for example. With my back barking, I took two and went to bed. And had this weird, almost surreal, dream the Mariners won. Not only won, but on a complete game two-hitter. From Aaron Harang. In front of more than 40,000 people. Talk about a true hallucination. Wow. Read on.
• Wait, what? The first part of that was no dream? Aaron Harang (pictured) really threw a two-hit, complete-game shutout? No way. There wasn't 40,000 people there, were there? Oh, they were across the street, watching a soccer match. The M's drew just 10,266, about a fourth of what the U.S. National Team drew next door. What in the name of George Best is going on here? Has Seattle turned into a Third-World country? I'm joking here, of course, as I enjoy soccer as much as the next man, as long as the next man isn't wearing a scarf. It's a sport the next generation has thrust upon me, with their rowdy chants, extremely loud cheers and often hard-to-comprehend language. They enjoy it so much I enjoy it too, even if I don't understand the nuances as well as I understand baseball's and other, more traditionally American sports. Take baseball for instance. I understand what was behind Harang's shutout. He was facing the Astros, one of the few teams in baseball not as good as the Mariners. And his last outing was a disaster, a less-than-three-inning affair that allowed the veteran to come into Tuesday night with a fresh arm. A fresh arm means a mile or two on his fastball as well as, more than likely, better location. One hundred and fourteen pitches later, Harang had struck out 10 and the M's were within eight games of .500 again. But don't expect the same from Harang next outing. His arm will be a bit tired, the ball will be up and out over the plate a bit more and boom, he'll get hit pretty hard. Such are the variables of a depending on a veteran pitcher on the downside of his career.
• Harang may be throwing his next start to a rookie catcher. The M's made big news yesterday morning when they called up last year's first-round draft pick Mike Zunino. Twitter exploded with two contrasting opinions: It was about time and it was too soon. Both are right. When Jesus Sucre was injured, the M's should have brought Zunino to the big leagues, told him not to worry about his at-bats and just get acclimated to his future home. He's good enough defensively to give Kelly Shoppach a rest every third day and to not hurt the M's chances of winning. After all, this team isn't going to the postseason this year anyhow, so why not give the future a taste of the good life in the present? When Sucre is ready to play again, send Zunino back to the minors, stopping his service-time clock and giving him a memory he'll want to work that much harder to regain. Yes, it's probably too soon for the guy to be in the bigs for good, especially if you think he's one of the cornerstones of future success. But it isn't a bad thing to let him see the brass ring up close.
• WSU: A lot going on in the Pac-12 and NCAA. The latter released the APR numbers from last year and the Cougars did better as Christian Caple's story and blog post shows. … Oregon State's baseball team is headed to the World Series and its basketball team opened a new practice facility yesterday. … How should the football playoff selection committee be selected?
• Indians: Spokane began the Northwest League season with its first practice yesterday and Chris Derrick was there. He has this story.
• Mariners: Before Harang did his thing last night all anyone could talk about was Zunino's callup from Tacoma. He wasn't in the lineup but he was certainly part of the discussion not only before the game, but on the radio and TV broadcasts during it. By the way, Geoff Baker feels the callup is the correct move. … But the focus had to be on Harang, who threw his second complete-game shutout of the season in the 4-0 win over the Astros. That's two more than Felix Hernandez or Hisashi Iwakuma. Not only did the M's get great pitching last night but they also received another home run from Raul Ibanez. Now that's a guy Zunino should follow around a bit. … The M's defense hasn't been all that good. But it isn't the only reason for the poor record. … I have to call your attention to the brawl in Los Angeles last night. The picture of Mark McGuire and Kirk Gibson (pictured) going at it like two old rams is priceless. It's obvious the umpire doesn't want to have anything to do with the two of them.
• Seahawks: So you thought the Hawks' rivalry with the 49ers was hot before. Now Jim Harbaugh has weighed in on Seattle's drug suspensions. Guess he thought it was time to kick it up a notch. Of course, Pete Carroll was asked about it and responded. … Russell Wilson may have a new backup this season and, if this report is correct, it's a guy with some Seattle experience.
• Sounders: The U.S. National Team may have won the game on the brought-in-for-the-match grass, but it was Seattle and its soccer fans that really won. The atmosphere for the U.S.'s 2-0 win over Panama, a win that put the U.S. in first place alone in the World Cup qualifying, was electric and gave the national squad a true home-field advantage. Most people believe the team will be back now that they've discovered the Northwest can support these type of things. To that I say, duh. … By the way, Eddie Johnson scored the clinching goal.
• Golf: The U.S. Open begins tomorrow at a rain-soaked Merion Golf Club. I have attended a rain-deluged U.S. Open back east before and let me tell you, it is not all that much fun. I wonder if Tiger Woods will enjoy it.
• That's it for hump day. Myself, I'm happier than a camel on a Wednesday (cue banjo music in the background). Until later …