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SATURDAY, MAY 18, 2013, 5:43 A.M.

Momentum lasts as long as tomorrow’s starting pitcher

A GRIP ON SPORTS

There was a considerable amount of optimism in the Mariners clubhouse Thursday night. Then came Friday in Cleveland. Read on.

••••••••••

• I'm sure the word pessimism was coined after a long Friday night in Cleveland, but that's another story for another morning. We're concerned with sports in general here – and the M's in particular this morning. Reading the comments after the big win in New York on Thursday, it hit me. The M's, despite picking up some veterans during the offseason, are still a relatively young baseball team. And relatively young baseball players are still learning about the emotion-killing nature of the long major league baseball season. When you play 162 regular season games, it doesn't behoove a major league team to get too high or too low. Especially in April or May or June. There are just too many games to play. As John Wooden used to say – and he wasn't even a major league manager, though he probably would have been a great one – every peak is accompanied by a valley. To take that a step further: It's probably better to compete on a level playing field. And by level we mean the emotion meter shouldn't be too high or too low. Yes, it's OK to celebrate a big win. Enjoy the moment. Remember the feeling. Then flush it. There is always (or as almost always as professional sports gets) another game the next day. And the next one. And the next. And, like Italian driving, what's behind you doesn't matter. The road you just traveled over doesn't affect the one ahead, unless you are continually looking back. Then you might miss the next pothole. Like the one last night in Cleveland. The most recent pit the M's have dug themselves has to do with runners in scoring position. When that happens, they seem to freeze up a bit. Getting a clutch hit is anything but automatic. Last night they put 14 runners on base. Good. But they were 0-for-7 with said runners in scoring position. Bad, very bad. It's been a familiar lament. One hit last night in any of the seven at-bats and the M's are celebrating another road win. Instead, they trudged to the clubhouse a 6-3, walk-off loser. For the M's to contend in the American League – these days, your position in your division isn't as important to your postseason possibilities as your position in the league standings – they have to find ways to win games their 3, 4 and 5 starters are throwing, especially, like last night, when they are throwing decently enough. A successful at-bat or two with runners on second or third would really help. And make it easier to celebrate night after night. A restrained celebration, sure, but a consistent one.

•••

• WSU: It's Saturday, so we have a couple things for you. The unusual one is coverage of a Cougar baseball game. It comes from the Tri-Cities and it's about Washington State's 4-3 loss to UW. ... The usual? The weekly mailbag from the ESPN.com Pac-12 blog. The blog also has a look at WSU's most important player, Deone Buchanan. ... UCLA's Steve Alford and New Mexico work out their contract problems.

• Shock: This is a team that needed a win in the worst way. So they won one, and if it wasn't in the worst way at least it came against the Arena League's worst team, New Orleans. John Blanchette was in the Spokane Arena and documents the Shock's 65-54 victory over the VooDoo. ... Jesse Tinsley chips in with a photo gallery from the game.

• Preps: It was the last really crowded Friday of the prep sports calendar, with the Idaho high school athletes competing for state titles and their Washington counterparts in regional action. ... We start in Boise, where the Coeur d'Alene Vikings will be playing for a state baseball title today. ... In Coeur d'Alene, Lake City and Cd'A will face off in the winner's bracket today of the state softball championships, with the state title game to be played later. Jim Allen has the coverage. ... There were a bunch of state track meets in the Boise area and Jim Meehan has coverage of the 5A and 4A meets. The smaller schools' meet was in a different city. ... Greg Lee covered the track regionals in Washington (pictured). We also can pass along a roundup of the other track regionals. ... Finally, Jim Meehan has his weekly golf notebook.

• Mariners: Despite another Raul Ibanez home run (he's swing it well right now, isn't he?), the Mariners couldn't put enough runs on the board in a 6-3, 10-inning defeat to the Cleveland Indians last night. ... We know one of the M's strengths: The top of the rotation is as good as anyone's in the majors right now. But the bullpen, what with Stephen Pryor's health issues and starter Aaron Harang's bad back, is in a bit of a shambles. So the M's and general manager Jack Zduriencik had to make a few roster moves to keep it stocked. ... Zduriencik is still optimistic about the season, which seems a bit different than past seasons. ... It doesn't take closing ability to appreciate another closer, but it helps. ... Mike Morse missed the game with an eye problem.

• Sonics: OK, it now can be said. If Chris Hansen had been successful in getting an NBA franchise to Seattle next season, Phil Jackson may have been in the front office.

• Seahawks: Once again we are writing about a Hawk getting in trouble with the NFL due to use of an unnamed performance-enhancing drug. This time it is defensive lineman Bruce Irvin who will miss four games. What does that make, 75 percent of the roster hit in the past few years, or does it just seem like that many?

• Sounders: Seattle may be hot, but Dallas FC is even hotter. And the Dallas team isn't contending with as many injuries as the Sounders. ... The U.S. Cup might lead to a brotherly matchup.

•••

• Hey, it's the weekend. And we're not in Cleveland. That's a win. Until later ...




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Vince Grippi
Vince Grippi is a freelance local sports blogger for spokesman.com. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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