A GRIP ON SPORTS
In every baseball season there is one or two games that are impossible to explain. The M's had one of those yesterday. Read on.
• I have three words for you this morning: Hector Noesi. I know, that's only two words. But the word I wanted to write before “Hector,” I just can't publish, even on the Internet. Who saw this coming? Ya, me neither. I had mentally slotted Sunday's game in the win column when I saw the pitching matchup last week. Taijuan Walker vs. Hector Noesi? Come on. The Mariners are going to score three runs on bases-loaded walks alone. And a couple more on solo home runs on 0-2 pitches. We've seen Noesi pitch enough in the past five years or so to know he isn't major league caliber. Except yesterday. Thanks to the M's themselves. See, Noesi doesn't like to throw strikes. All you have to do is wait. After he's walked a couple guys, he takes something off his fastball to get it into the strike zone, it flattens out and yells “hit me.” Easy, huh? Except the M's didn't wait. They decided to attack. And Noesi shut them out. Yep, shut them out by hardly ever throwing a pitch in the strike zone. For example, Corey Hart, the savior who came off the disabled list and immediately supplanted Kyle Seager in the cleanup spot, had one mid-game at bat that went to 3-2. And then he struck out. What's so noteworthy about that? The tracer showed Noesi only threw Hart one strike. The first pitch of the at-bat. Every other one of the eight pitches in the at-bat were well out of the strike zone. And yet Hart kept swinging. Until he walked back to the bench. Professional hitter my eye. Noesi kept throwing pitches off the plate and the M's kept swinging. Maybe it was a “thank you” for his days as a teammate. Maybe he used to pick up the dinner tab a lot. Or maybe, as Lloyd McClendon said afterward, maybe it's just the M's have to learn when to attack and when to wait. Until that happens, the lineup will be filled with .230 hitters.
• I will say this. The M's did hit a few balls right on the sweet spot yesterday. But many of them either resulted in lineouts right at defenders or the White Sox made outstanding defensive plays. There were more great diving catches yesterday than I've seen in a couple weeks this season.
• One other related note. We were talking on the radio last Thursday about the M's All-Star picks. The consensus was they would get at least three guys. I went against the pack, saying it would be Felix Hernandez and Robinson Cano and that's all. Why? Because no one outside the Pacific Northwest ever thinks about the M's except to acknowledge the greatness of those two guys - or to criticize Cano's work ethic. Fernando Rodney leads the American League in saves? The best-kept secret nationally since the Manhattan Project. Kyle Seager is the second-most productive third baseman in the league? Kyle who? Now the duo might make it to Minnesota as injury replacements but that's sort of a consolation prize. Until the M's win something or, at the very least, play in the postseason, ignoring them will be the national pastime.
• WSU: I missed this the other day but ran into it this morning and decided I should still pass it along. It's USA Today's preview of the Cougars' football season.
• Indians: Win Sunday and Spokane would have a three-game lead over Vancouver as the Northwest League marches toward the end of the first half. Lose and the lead would be just one game. So what did the Indians do? Explode for six runs in the first inning on three home runs and ease to a 9-3 win over the Canadians. Greg Lee has the game story.
• Shadow: The Shadow picked up a draw yesterday, extending its unbeaten streak to eight games.
• Preps: The Spokane Northstars won the Wood Bat Classic's senior division yesterday with an 11-7 win over Bellingham Post 7.
• Sounders: As the starters melted away last weekend in the loss to Vancouver, a sub deep down the roster, Tristan Bowen, was given an opportunity. He made the most of it.
• Another work week begins. It's going to be a hot one. Stay cool my friends. Until later …