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Wed., Aug. 20, 2014, 8:15 a.m.

Our allegiances are about to be stretched

A GRIP ON SPORTS

Is there anything worse than your Pop Tart breaking and half of it falling on the floor? Yes, there is. Read on.

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• Oh sure, I still munch on an occasional Pop Tart. It makes me feel 10 years old again. Except my 10-year-old self didn't chase it with a hot cup of coffee. But he did eat the toasted pastries while perusing the baseball standings, just like his 57-year-old self did this morning. Let's see, the Angels won again, so they stayed seven games up in the loss column – long before I turned 10, my dad taught me the importance of the loss column when checking out a pennant race; wins are the future, they are still attainable; losses are the past, they stay with you forever. The A's won as well, so they are still a half-game behind the Angels and six games up on the M's overall. The M's and the A's have played 125 games, leaving – now, remember, math isn't my strong suit – 37 games remaining. Is that right? If it is, if the M's finished 25-12, which seems doable, the Angels would have to go 19-19 – they have played one fewer game – for the M's to tie. The A's would have to go 19-18 for the same scenario to occur. All of that is doable. But as the games wind down, and the teams Seattle is chasing continue to win, it gets harder and harder. Of course, the M's could finish up 30-7 and run away with the division.

• How about that second wild-card? The M's and the Tigers are basically tied – Seattle's winning percentage is .544, Detroit's .545 – but the Tigers have played two less games. After that the other contenders seems to be fading. The Yankees are four games back with the Indians and the Blue Jays 4.5. Really, though, anything could happen. Haven't the Angels caught the A's? The Royals passed the Tigers? Who saw that coming a month ago? The M's are no better off than any of the wild-card contenders and no worse off, either. The sad thing for them, however, is just as their most exciting season in more than a decade winds up, the Seahawks kick off the NFL season. You remember them, don't you? The defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks? The pride of the Puget Sound? How many teams can a fan keep track of at once? I mean, there is only so much emotional water to dip into each week. It will be hard to live and die on each pitch and then, just as you are wrung out, get up for a three-hour football game that may be crucial to defending an NFL title. And somewhere in there you will have to hang on to every play of your favorite college football team. It was a lot easier, fan-wise, when the M's stunk. You know, like last year.

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• WSU: There are big doings going in Pullman. We'll start with the football team, which held its Thursday Night Football on Tuesday this week. Jacob Thorpe covered that with this blog post. He also covered the deep defensive line in this position preview, covered what's going in the Pac-12 in this morning's post and, as an extra bonus, covered the news highly rated quarterback Tyler Hilinski has signed a financial aid agreement with WSU, meaning the Cougars have agreed to hold a spot for him this spring, after he goes through early graduation at Upland (Calif.) High. Of course, FAAs do not bind the player. So Hilinski could still end up somewhere else, but I doubt it. Jacob has a blog post and a story on the signing. ... The other big doings in Pullman? That's covered by Jim Allen, who has this story on the new soccer facility (pictured). It's all part of Jim's women's soccer preview. ... ESPN.com's Pac-12 blog takes a look at Connor Halliday. ... The blog also looks back at the real-life tragedy behind Hollywood's newest football movie. ... Former Cougar Rahmel Dockery is opening eyes in Corvallis. ... One of Oregon's best female golfers has committed to WSU.

• Gonzaga: The Bulldogs have been picked to finish sixth in the WCC men's soccer race.

• EWU: The Eagles have never defeated Sam Houston State in football and gave up at least 45 points in the last two meetings. But the Bearkats have a new coach and a new look, especially on offense. Jim Allen explains in this story. ... Jim also has a morning post with links. ... Weber State has lost a long-time basketball assistant. ... Idaho State is trying to figure out who its backup quarterback will be.

• Seahawks: Talk about a triumphant return. Malcolm Smith (pictured), last seen winning the Super Bowl MVP trophy, returned to practice after off-season surgery and came up with the play of the preseason workouts thus far. Which, along with $1, will get you a large Diet Coke at McDonald's. Smith and the rest of the linebacker corps are slowly rounding into shape. ... Some of the more interesting things to come out of Tuesday at Hawks practice were the comments of defensive coordinator Dan Quinn on the play of the d-line. His comments shine a light on who might just be left out of the crowded race. ... Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell also met with the media. ... The NFL decided to add two more spots to the practice squad, which helps the deeper teams – if they can get players through the waiver process. ... The man behind the Legion of Boom is starting to get recognized around the league.

• Mariners: Have I said I love to watch Hisashi Iwakuma pitch? I have, have I? OK, I do. He's a pitcher. Every pitch is solid, every one thought-out and delivered with precision.  A guy that looks hittable but isn't. At least he wasn't last night, throwing eight shutout innings – he's never given up a run in a National League ballpark – in the M's 5-2 win at Philadelphia. He struck out 11, gave up just four hits and walked, wait for it, zero. ... If Lloyd McClendon thinks four days off is what puts rust on a reliever, that just might explain his pitching strategy in a way-too-long ninth inning last night. After the Phillies scored twice, Fernando Rodney (pictured) had to finish them off. ... Robinson Cano reconnected with his mentor this week. ... I just pass on this column because it cracks me up. Isn't the commissioner supposed to be in charge?

• Sounders: As the Sounders prepare to host San Jose tonight, the team announced some changes to its season-ticket package next year. Yes, it will cost more money. And, no, there is no guarantee this year's team will get out of its funk. It better or some folks might just pass on renewal. ... Tonight's match is the fourth between the squads in a short time frame. ... Gonzalo Pineda doesn't mind doing the little things for Seattle. ... Hey, here's one guy's rankings of all the MLS teams.

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• One last note. Art Thiel saw the same things from Steve Ballmer's performance in Los Angeles that I did. Call it validation and leave it at that. 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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