A GRIP ON SPORTS
After the disappointment of the U.S. World Cup loss to Belgium yesterday, I'm sure we were all in the need for a pick-me-up. If you watched the Mariners' game, you got one. And another. And another. Read on.
• It's funny. I got home from an errand with Robinson Cano at the plate yesterday, runners on first and second. I thought, as I turned off the car and headed inside, the M's had done another good job of wasting a scoring opportunity, as Dustin Ackley had just been thrown out at the plate. But, as usual with this team lately, the pessimism was unwarranted. When I turned on the TV and saw the M's up by five runs, I realized what had happened. Cano had doubled down the left-field line (pictured), scoring Endy Chavez and James Jones. But that was just the beginning. The M's went on to duplicate my favorite hamburger order – double-double, double-double – and added another two-bagger and a single to boot. Seven runs. All with two outs. OK, so they are playing the Astros, not the toughest of competition. One 13-2 win shouldn't be blown out of proportion. But add that to the 10-4 win of the night before and the M's are doing what good teams are supposed to do: Kick the living daylights out of bad teams. If you mix in the facts they are eight games over the break-even mark, they have won 9 of their last 11 and their pitching has been as good as anyone's in baseball, you might get the idea it's OK to show some optimism. Of course it is. With caveats, of course. You can't have gone through the past few seasons we've had to endure around here without having caveats about everything with this team. Heck it was just a few seasons ago they had a decent mark in July before a long losing streak destroyed any hope. And that could happen again, except I don't think it will. The pitching is too solid. I also am not ready, however, to mark this as a playoff team. Not yet. The lineup holes are still there. Other than Jones, Cano and Kyle Seager, right now the 2-3-4 hitters, everyone else seems to believe a .250 average is the high-water mark. That's not good enough. Could it change? Sure. It could go bad in the bullpen and the season could melt away or it Cano's all-fields hitting mentality could spread throughout the lineup and the runs could continue to mount. But this team, after years of futility, is on the razor's edge. A stiff wind could blow them over either way, positive or negative. Which, in itself, is a positive step for the franchise. Recently, by this time of year, the season had already been blown up.
• If you wondered if replay would change baseball, the verdict is in. Yes, it has. That was confirmed yesterday when the Indians turned a triple play in Los Angeles. A triple play that took two replay reviews to make official.
• WSU: Jacob Thorpe blogged yesterday about D.J. Shelton earning an opportunity with an NBA summer team. … ESPN.com's Pac-12 blog has an interview with Cougar special teams coordinator Eric Russell. It also has a look at the conference's offensive lines. … Jon Wilner has more on the changes at California and other places. … Former WSU assistant Jody Sears, now head coach at Sacramento State, hired former Cougar James Montgomery for his coaching staff.
• Gonzaga: Patty Mills did not show up at St. Mary's alumni game over the weekend. This might have been the reason. A tough break for a tough player.
• Indians: Trailing by a run entering the top of the ninth at Eugene, the Indians managed just a single hit. It was a big one though. Jose Trevino's three-run triple lifted Spokane past the Emeralds, 7-5.
• Seahawks: As you may know, NFL.com is counting down the league's top 100 players, as voted by their peers. The website's experts don't have a lot of love for Russell Wilson, however, which probably suits him just fine. … Others have different views about the Hawks.
• Mariners: The M's five doubles in the sixth inning tied a franchise record and ensured Hisashi Iwakuma (pictured) would walk away with another win. Of all the positive signs yesterday, Iwakuma pitching well might be the most long lasting. He was the staff ace last season but has struggled to get going this year. Returning to last season's form is pretty much a requirement if the M's want to play in the postseason. … I'm all-in on Jones, who seems to be that unknown minor leaguer that explodes in the major league. You know what I mean, right? The kind of guy other teams have come along and the M's seems to have been missing recently.
• Sounders: Even the Sounders got their work done early yesterday so they could watch the U.S. match with Belgium. Coach Sigi Schmid had some thoughts before the match. His star players should be returning soon, but when no one is really sure. … Tim Howard was about as good as a keeper could be in the 2-1 loss to Belgium, but even that was not enough for the U.S. to move on. If you didn't understand the attraction of the sport before, the first 90 minutes might not have explained it to you. But the final 30 probably did, especially the last couple minutes when the U.S. was trying desperately to score the game-tying goal. Of course, all that could have been avoided if Chris Wondolowski had just found the pretty-much open net in extra time (pictured).
• We'll be on the radio today though I can't tell you when we will start. We – that would be Keith Osso, Rick Lukens and myself – will follow the M's get-away game in Houston. You can listen to the show on 700 ESPN here if you like. I do know we will be off the air by 6 p.m. Until later …