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MONDAY, JULY 28, 2014, 6:04 A.M.

Is the M’s season slipping away?

A GRIP ON SPORTS

Why do I have the feeling the best of the Mariners' season just might be over? Maybe it's because they are unable to win consistently at home. Or it may be because they can't seem to score consistently. Or because the stress of all the close games seems to be wearing on the pitching staff. Whatever, it seems ominous as July fades into August. Read on.

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• The Mariners traded for Kendrys Morales, a known commodity and a switch-hitter who was (and is) expected to help shore up the offense. They brought up a shortstop from the minors, a player expected to add a bit more punch – and has. They hoped for more from someone in the lineup – and received it from Dustin Ackley (pictured), who is hitting .462 in the past seven days. And yet they continue to sink in the West and the wild card standings. They enter today just three games above the break-even mark, having lost six of their last eight games, all but one of them in Safeco. In that stretch, they have scored 20 runs. Five of the six losses have come by two or fewer runs, four of them by a single run. The M's are close to being OK, but close doesn't count in baseball. Not by a long shot. They need an outfielder with some pop, but everyone in the major leagues knows it, so more than likely any trade talks include asking for every piece of the team's future. It's a tough call. Gamble on winning now, when one more bat might be enough – or may not – or keep hanging tough, hoping the pitching stays together and the offense comes together often enough to make the playoffs. Today is an off day – the M's open a road trip in Cleveland on Tuesday – and it comes with Seattle 1.5 games behind Toronto in the race for the second wild-card spot. The Yankees are also ahead of them, with Kansas City nipping at their heels. With the Angels firmly entrenched in the No. 1 wild-card spot, it seems as if the M's will be battling four or five teams over the next couple months for one berth. No matter how much I hope it may come true, looking at this team as it is currently constituted, I can't see it scoring enough runs to earn the spot. Not unless Kyle Seager, James Jones, Logan Morrison and Mike Zunino join Ackley in putting together hot streaks. History tells us that rarely happens. Mariners' history tells us, if Edgar Martinez is not part of the lineup, making the playoffs doesn't happen. And Edgar isn't coming out of retirement, though he might be able to hit .275 these days.

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• Indians: Ah, the sweet feeling of being home. It was a panacea for the Indians, who won the homestand's first game after a poor start to the Northwest League's second half. Chris Derrick has the game story and a blog post from Sunday night's 4-2 victory over Vancouver.

• Preps: It was not a good day for Spokane teams at the state American Legion baseball tournaments.

• Seahawks: Each day at training camp allows the media a chance to highlight a player. Maybe it's because he was made available for interviews. Maybe it's because he had a great day of practice. Maybe it's a combination of both. Whatever the reason, the player highlighted after Sunday's workout was Richard Sherman. He's always a good choice. ... Whenever Pete Carroll talks, it's also wise to listen. ... Is the Hawks' window already closing? In a sense, the windows are always shrinking in the NFL, so why should the Hawks be any different?

• Mariners: New shortstop Chris Taylor couldn't make a tough play in the top of the eighth inning and the Orioles took a 2-1 lead. Zunino (pictured) homered in the bottom of the inning – solo, of course – to tie it. Then the M's couldn't get the winning run across and the Orioles did, winning 3-2 in 10 innings. Fun fact. Six of the M's final seven outs came via the strike out. If you can't make contact, you can't score runs. ... Ackley's hot streak is getting noticed. ... The pitching is still holding up and more help for the starting staff is about ready to arrive.

• Sounders: Seattle still sits atop the MLS standings but the gap, once 10 points, has been closed. Why? Because the Sounders haven't played a MLS match in seemingly forever. That ends tonight when they host the L.A. Galaxy on ESPN2. ... Sigi Schmid has 199 MLS wins. No coach has ever won 200. Of course, no coach had 199 wins until Schmid got there. ... Portland rallied for a 3-2 win at Montreal.

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• Fun fact. The Mariners have been in existence since 1977. In all those years, they have had only two winning seasons when Edgar Martinez wasn't on the roster. 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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