A GRIP ON SPORTS
There was a span of four outs in yesterday's Mariners loss that illustrated the season perfectly. Read on.
• A little background is needed. Felix Hernandez took the mound Wednesday with the M's needing a win to split a two-game series with the red-hot Pirates. And, other than a sinker that didn't sink to Neil Walker, which Walker hit for a two-run home run, he did his part. Still, thanks to the seemingly ageless Raul Ibanez and his 18th home run, the teams were tied at two headed into the bottom of the eighth. And that's when those four outs began. Kyle Seager had led off the inning with a ground out to first, bringing Kendrys Morales and his bad back to the plate. Morales doubled to center. Now, Morales isn't the fastest human being, so Eric Wedge sent Dustin Ackley out to run for him, Morales being the potential winning run and all. There was no way the Pirates were going to pitch to Raul Ibanez with first open, so that left it up to Justin Smoak and Michael Saunders. Before we go any further, let's review the names we've mentioned. Seager (part of the M's youth rebuilding corps), Morales (a veteran brought in to bolster that corps), Ibanez (ditto), Ackley (another of the young guys), Smoak (young) and Saunders (young). OK, back to the action. With one out and the go-ahead run at second, the M's needed a hit. Smoak couldn't deliver, striking out. Saunders couldn't deliver, flying out. A golden opportunity wasted. The veterans, the guys who aren't being counted upon for the M's long-term success, came through. The young guys, the hope of the future? They all failed. So on to the ninth, in which the Pirates showed why they are 18 games over .500. A single, a successful sacrifice and Yoervis Medina is called in from the bullpen. Medina is one of the M's success stories this season, a young right-hander not expected to contribute but has become successful enough to be called upon in key situations. Medina induced Gaby Sanchez to ground out to Seager. Then Wedge had him walk left-hand hitting Travis Snider, with his .233 batting average, so he could face right-hand hitting Jordy Mercer, hitting .285. And you know what Mercer did. Yep, he lined a rocket up the middle, scoring not-so-fleet-footed Pedro Alvarez. Saunders late throw – I think he took the time to autograph it before throwing home – missed the cutoff man, the runners advanced a base they shouldn't have and that led to a run scoring on a wild pitch. Make that a third-strike wild pitch, which is just so Mariners. In the course of four outs, the M's went from having the game in their grasp to a 4-2 defeat. For succinct analysis, we turn to Wedge. “We've got to hit,” he told reporters. “It’s time to hit. You are not going to win games unless you hit. They got the two-out hit, we didn’t. Game over. That’s the difference.” OK then. But why keep giving the same guys chances? Smoak hasn't really hit the last three years, Saunders the last couple months. Dusting Ackley, Jesus Montero, Robert Andino, they were sent down. Why not Smoak and Saunders, giving someone else a chance? OK, to be fair, if Mike Morse and Franklin Gutierrez were not hurt and Morales unable to play first, both may have been sent to Tacoma already. But I guess we'll never know the true reason. And the M's may just never be a winning franchise.
• WSU: We covered the Oregon situation pretty extensively yesterday morning but we can pass along Oregon's reaction, Chip Kelly's apology and some commentary on the situation from around the West. All in all, most everyone thought it was a good deal for the Ducks.
• Idaho: The Vandals will be playing at USC once again, this time in 2015. Josh Wright has more in this blog post.
• Indians: The Indians won their fifth game of the current homestand when Vancouver made an error in the bottom of the 10th, allowing the winning run to score in a 3-2 game. Chris Derrick has more in this story and blog post.
• Mariners: We had our say above. I'm afraid this season is toast. But there is still a lot worth following, including Ibanez's exploits. Even in Wedge's rant about the lack of hitting yesterday, he made sure to exempt Ibanez from any criticism. … Pittsburgh's 4-2 win dropped the M's to 11 games under .500 again. Just thought you might want to know. … Ackley didn't start in the outfield, which was kind of an upset, but he did find the field when he pinch ran in the eighth. … Hey, the future is bright. (Where have you heard that before?) Brad Miller and Taijuan Walker were selected for the 2013 Futures Game. … A Cheney veteran, Phil Kiver (pictured in a Dan Pelle photo), is in the running to be part of the All-Star game. Jim Allen has the story and you can vote for Kiver here by clicking on the Mariners' logo.
• That's it for now. With Hoopfest just around the corner, it's starting to get hot and it will get real hot next week. Neat (I would usually write “cool” in that spot but it didn't seem appropriate). Until later …