A GRIP ON SPORTS
Like a whole bunch of you, I was torn last night. Watch the end of the Mariners' game or the first part of the Seahawks, when the starters would be playing? After Yoenis Cespedes' three-run, sixth-inning home run seemed to seal the M's fate, I decided on the Hawks. But I made sure I turned back for the ninth inning. I'm sure glad I did. Read on.
• I picked the game up again on the radio midway through Endy Chavez's 10-pitch at-bat. There were two strikes. Two outs as well. The Red Sox all-star closer, Koji Uehara (pictured), was on the mound. Bleak isn't descriptive enough. Uehara went into the night only giving up as many as three runs once in a major league appearance. He had given up just 16 earned runs in almost two seasons. The Red Sox had not lost a game all year when leading after eight innings. And the M's had just one strike left. Then all hell broke loose. Chavez walked. By the time Austin Jackson had doubled off the wall, with two strikes as well, I was yelling. The M's had closed to 3-2 and I was headed downstairs to watch the final moments. Yes, the Hawks were on a touchdown drive – again. But this was history in the making. Dustin Ackley came through with a scorching liner – OK, I'm dedicated to the truth – he hit a young Vince Grippi-like flare into the opposite field that fell just out of the reach of a diving shortstop and the oncoming left fielder. No matter. It fell. And the M's had a 4-3 lead. I admit I made some noise. But the M's weren't done. When Ackley scored from first on Robinson Cano's single to right, I was invoking names like Enos Slaughter and Johnny Pesky. In a must-win game, the M's had found a way to win. It wasn't pretty, it wasn't expected but it was needed. And gutsy. That's the key. This team knows what it's playing for, what the carrot at the end of the stick really is. And it's reaching for it. Battling to get it. Whether the M's ultimately chomp on the carrot, whether they win the division or even make the playoffs, after last night I don't care. This is a team worth rooting for. It's a team worth getting involved with, of pushing the chips all-in. That's not something those of us in the Northwest who love baseball could have said the past few years. Yes, it's because they are battling. Last night showed that. But that's not all. They have enough talent to make a battle worthwhile. That's important too. If they somehow find a way to be part of the postseason madness, they can have an impact. The pitching is good enough. The offense, while still Swiss cheese-like for the most part, can put together enough good at-bats to make any one game – or any short stretch of games – memorable. And that's all that's needed in the postseason. I'm not sure there is a going to be a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow but it's worth following the path just to see where it leads.
• Speaking of pots of gold, how about the Hawks' offense right now? And I was worried about the offensive line. Well shame on me doubting guys like James Carpenter and Jason Britt. Tom Cable is a genius. I'm an idiot. Might as well pencil in 19 consecutive wins and another Super Bowl title. And, yes, I'm kidding. The line is playing well but I'm still a bit dubious. Let's just hope everyone stays healthy another week and we'll see what the regular season brings. The Hawks are going to be good, really good, again. That's a given. They are the favorites to win the NFC West and the conference crown. They should be. But as much as it seems right to go batty about the M's, it seems right to stay subdued about the Hawks. At least now. The NFL season is a grind, a 16-game traffic jam full of fender-benders and potholes. Enjoy each passing mile but don't get too giddy when the passing lane opens up. There could a 16-car pileup just around the bend.
• WSU: What the heck? Jacob Thorpe missed football practice to cover, hold me back, a soccer match? Really? What happened to the Delta I used to know? It's football, man. Every second of every workout needs to be documented. Even if you can't see three-quarters of the practice field. Anyhow, here is Jacob's story on the Cougars' christening of their rebuilt soccer pitch with a 3-0 win over TCU. ... Jacob does have a football story, about the wide receiving corps, and a blog post that passes along WSU's official game notes concerning the Rutgers' game. ... He also has a morning post with links. ... I'm sorry to say DISH subscribers, it looks as if you may not be able to see the game. ... ESPN.com's Pac-12 blog has its weekly mailbag. ... Mark Rypien explains why he stayed in Spokane all these years. This is part of an Oregonian travel love-fest about Eastern Washington.
• EWU: Today's the day. The day college football begins in America. No wonder I saw a formation of geese heading south this morning. It's that time of year. ESPN is out in Cheney today for the Eagles' game with Sam Houston State and that's a big deal for an FCS school. Jim Allen is out in Cheney most every day and besides the advance linked above, he also has a feature on the return to the Inland Northwest of ESPN personality Colin Cowherd, who learned everything he needed to know about sports while apprenticing under the tutelage of our Greg Lee at the Eastern school newspaper. ... By the way, Eastern and the Bearkats have some history, as the photograph shows. That's Vernon Adams in his freshman days after the home playoff loss in 2012.
• Golf: There is hope the Idaho Club will be available for people like you and me to play. After walking the course with Jack Nicklaus while he was creating and nurturing its development, I always hoped that would be the case. Jim Meehan seems to indicate in this column that some day it will.
• Seahawks: Ho hum. Another Friday, another dominating preseason victory, this one 34-6 over the Chicago Bears. Even the Hawks know that and $4.95 will get you a grande at Starbucks. Or a venti. Pete Carroll was happy with the play as was Russell Wilson. But when they met with the media they stressed the lack of importance attached to the final score. ... Percy Harvin showed us, once again, what he can bring to the offense. And Earl Thomas made a case why he should be the punt returner, even if the punter caught him from behind. ... Most importantly, the Hawks suffered a few injuries but nothing looked all that serious.
• Mariners: Before Friday night's game, manager Lloyd McClendon told the writers the Mariners' stretch drive had begun. The ninth inning showed the team listened. ... By the way, the A's defeated the Angels and the Tigers were blown out by Minnesota, so the M's picked up a game in the division standings and in the wild-card race.
• Sounders: DeAndre Yedlin has turned a few heads this year. But all those eyes on him have also meant his flaws have been seen as well. He's OK with that. ... There is a logjam atop the MLS standings. ... The Sounders prepped for Sunday's match at Portland, hoping to get back on the winning track and looking at making some improvements to the roster.
• Yep, saw some geese heading south today. Also saw two healthy deer with antlers grazing in a harvested field. They better get themselves out of here soon. If the geese are leaving, football is starting and the harvest is winding down, hunting season can't be too far away. Until later ...