A GRIP ON SPORTS
What can I say? I think I'm a little under the weather. Have I caught a mild case of Mariners fever? Read on.
• I really only caught one inning on TV last night, but it was the right inning. With the right at bat. While having dinner, I settled in to watch the M's fourth. It started with a Robinson Cano inside-out, opposite-field ground-rule double and ended with the Mariners scoring seven runs in their 13-2 win over the Red Sox. It was the type of inning the M's don't often have. Their offense isn't really clicking and, with Felix Hernandez on the mound recently, the runs have been few and far between. But last night was different thanks to that fourth inning and a couple of Logan Morrison – does anyone on the roster swing harder at every pitch? – home runs. The key to the inning was a one-out at-bat by Dustin Ackley that stretched over 13 pitches and frustrated to no end Red Sox starter John Lackey. Ackley fell into a 1-2 hole – usually the death knell for a hitter – but kept fouling off strikes and taking balls. The foul balls were never hit really hard but they served their purpose: giving Ackley another opportunity – and Lackey the chance to make a mistake. He finally did and Ackley hit a hard ground ball into the hole between first and second. Long story short, Lackey didn't cover first, Ackley beat it down the line and the Sox couldn't turn an inning-ending double play. A couple batters later, with the bases loaded, Endy Chavez hit the ball to the right-field wall, it was booted by Brock Holt, all three runners scored and Chavez was given a gift triple. (It was an obvious double and an error on Holt, who knocked the ball six feet away when he tried to bare-hand the carom, but for some reason the official scorer gave Chavez a triple.) Chavez's hit ended Lackey's night, but it was really done in by Ackley's productive at-bat, one that hurt his average but helped his team. It's the type of at-bats this Mariner team needs because they don't have a true cleanup hitter and lack power, despite Monday's show by Morrison (pictured). But they are winning with pitching and defense, the two parts of the game that can be a bit underappreciated. It isn't easy to win 2-1 games, but it's something the M's, who won for the fourth consecutive time Monday night, have to do if they want to start in postseason hunt. They are there right now, five games over .500 again (41-36), which is good enough these days to be considered a playoff team. And wouldn't that be different? A Mariner team in a pennant race, or what passes for a pennant race in 2014. One would have to be suffering from some sort of illness – a fever, perhaps – to believe that's possible.
• WSU: One area the Cougars hope to improve under new basketball coach Ernie Kent is their recruiting. They have an offer out to a 6-foot-10 post from Portland. ... USC has decided to take advantage of a change in NCAA rules and offer four-year scholarships for football and men's and women's basketball.
• Gonzaga: About 14 months ago, Marco Gonzales was trying to pitch the Bulldogs into the NCAA tournament. Now he's ready to make his major league debut. The left-hander with movement on every pitch will be St. Louis' starter tomorrow night.
• Indians: It's been more than 100 years since a Spokane professional baseball franchise has started a season with a better record than the Indians' 9-1 mark. All the way back to 1911, in fact, when Spokane began 13-1. The Indians got to nine wins last night, pounding Boise 12-6. Chris Derrick has the game story and a blog post on the historic victory.
• Shock: When Spokane began its arena football history, Chris Siegfried was the Shock head coach. Now, less than a decade later, he is no longer coaching football. Jim Meehan catches up with Siegfried in a Then and Now feature.
• Preps: One local girls fastpitch team has come up with a colorful way to support a fan battling cancer. It's part of our youth notebook for the week.
• Seahawks: There really isn't much of a quiet time in the NFL offseason, but if there is one, we are in the midst of it. So there is just a few links to pass along. One is a story on the best high school offensive lineman I've ever seen in person, Bellevue's Steve Schilling, whose professional journey has brought him back to Seattle. ... Tony McDaniel is ready to step up on the defensive line. ... Marshawn Lynch is a man of few words.
• Mariners: John Blanchette was at Safeco last night and has his thoughts on the resurgent M's. I wouldn't say John has a fever, but he's warmed to them a bit. ... The M's introduced first draft pick Alex Jackson (pictured), he took some swings, watched the game and is now headed to Arizona to start his professional career. ... You might remember when this story first broke. Now the bill has come due for Carlos Peguero's wife.
• Sounders: In the midst of World Cup fever – the TV ratings for the match with Portugal shows the disease has infected much of this country – the Sounders have to hit the pitch tonight for a U.S. Open Cup match with MLS rival San Jose. Expect a physical matchup though both teams will not use a lot of their regulars. ... Two guys who are missing from Seattle's lineup, Clint Dempsey and DeAndre Yedlin, are busy in Brazil. ... Former Sounder star Fredy Montero is in town, still roots for the team and will be at tonight's game. ... The Sounders have moved a late July game a couple days.
• Last night was the first warm evening of summer. And I wasn't ready for it. The house got overheated in the afternoon, it never really cooled off and I slept like a baby – up every two hours whining. Which makes me a grumpy gus this morning. I hope it showed in my writing. I want to spread the infection around. Until later ...