A GRIP ON SPORTS
Far be it for me to second-guess a Mariners' manager, especially as we delve into football season. Usually by now we're all more interested in the Cougars or the Eagles or the Seahawks. And Lloyd McClendon has done a masterful job keeping the M's – a flawed team – in contention for a wild-card berth. But something that happened over the weekend had me shaking my head. And I still am. Can't you hear the rattling? Read on.
• Probably the find of the season for the M's has been Chris Young, a Washington Nationals castoff – among others – not all that long removed from arm surgery. But Young, a 6-foot-10 right-hander who throws more like Jamie Moyer than Randy Johnson, has been masterful at times this season, posting 12 wins and giving the M's rotation the solid third starter it needed. But most of his masterful-ness, if that's a word, has occurred in the friendly confines of Safeco Field, still a pitcher's ballpark despite the fence contractions this season. Young is 8-4 at home, which isn't all that significant. But what is significant is all the other numbers. His ERA is 2.35, his strikeout-to-walk ratio is 2.36, batting average against .185 and WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched) is 0.971. All of which are really good. On the road, however, Young has been, well, mediocre. After yesterday's horrendous start – more on that in a second – his road numbers are all significantly worse. The ERA is 4.71, his strikeout-to-walk ratio is 1.21, opponents are hitting .274 against him and his WHIP is 1.458. Not good. So you would want him to have has many starts in Safeco as possible, right? Well, not this weekend for some reason. Young was originally scheduled to start Saturday against the Nationals, one of his old teams. But the M's refigured the rotation, moving him back from Saturday to Monday in Oakland, ostensibly to give the 35-year-old a couple more days of rest. If that was truly the reason, it seems odd there was a story over the weekend in which Young said he felt better at this time of the year than he had felt in a long time. A veteran, he probably knows his arm better than anyone. So was the reason for the delay because the M's didn't want Young to pitch against Washington? That's seems plausible as they didn't move him back just a day, which would have made it necessary to also push Hisashi Iwakuma back a day, to Monday. The M's kept Iwakuma in his regular spot and it worked, as they won Sunday despite the right-hander yielding three solo home runs in six innings. The Young move, however, didn't work. Somewhat predictably, Young struggled against Oakland – it was his fifth start against the A's this season – though no one probably thought he wouldn't get out of the first inning. Whatever the reason behind the change, and I still haven't been able to discern one, it failed. Which should have come as no surprise if you studied the numbers. And study this number: The M's are 1.5 games out of the second wild-card spot and face a September with 17 road games. Luckily, even with Young's road woes, they are 10 games over .500 away from Safeco. Maybe they can juggle Young's starts from here on in so he'll only pitch at home. Well, then let's just say “oops.” By pushing him back two days last weekend, McClendon ensured Young will pitch twice on this road trip instead of just once. Unless he gives Young another couple days off.
• WSU: OK, back to football. Jacob Thorpe uses his WSU notebook to exam the changes already apparent after one game in Connor Halliday's leadership style. Call it the most positive form of “senioritis.” Jacob also has his Pac-12 power rankings. Coaches always say teams make their most obvious power ranking changes between week one and two. I don't know. Maybe they don't say that. … Here are some other power rankings. … Jacob also was at practice last night and had a summary on the blog as well as a look yesterday afternoon at some changes on the two-deep. Of course, he has his morning post as well. … Nevada is the Cougars next opponent and the Wolf Pack has their own problems to deal with this week, including possibly losing their starting left tackle. … Oregon wants to step up and meet Michigan State's physicality this weekend. … I pass along this story for a lot of reasons but the most obvious is something I wrote about when I was covering the Cougars. The two quarterbacks who played in this game ended up being teammates at Washington State, one as a quarterback (Kevin Lopina), the other as a safety (Eric Block). Block never really was healthy at WSU and ended up giving up the sport. By the way, I was at Bellevue's win that night, covering a prep game for the S-R.
• EWU: The Eagles dropped to No. 2 in the polls after North Dakota State pounded Iowa State on the road Saturday.
• Idaho: The Vandals are still discussing with Florida what to do about last weekend's suspended game. Think maybe money is a big part of the discussion? John Blanchette has an update in this story as well as more, including a good Paul Petrino quote, in this blog post. “They say you make your biggest improvement between Game 1 and 2,” Petrino said. “We're just going to have to make it between canceled Game 1 and 2.”
• Whitworth: The Pirates' men's soccer team is off to a nice start.
• Indians: Spokane will begin the NWL playoffs coming off another loss to tonight's first-round opponent, Vancouver. Chris Derrick has an advance of the postseason, which continues Wednesday night in Spokane. … Hillsboro would have to be the NWL favorite after the season the franchise has had.
• Seahawks: The last time the Hawks hosted Green Bay in Seattle, there was – understatement alert – a bit of controversy. But, heck, hardly any of the Seahawks even remember that game, the odd outcome or the defensive dominance of the front seven in the first half. … The defense will be tested by Packer quarterback Aaron Rodgers, as defenses have been tested all over the NFL for years. … The Seahawks' secondary won't be tested by the new rules, according to Richard Sherman. Is it because they have grit, whatever that is? … It may be the season opener, but there are injuries to report. … Pete Carroll is in midseason form, meaning that's he's optimistic and upbeat as always. … There were some roster changes, as per usual.
• Mariners: The final was 6-1 yesterday but it could have been a lot worse if not for the bullpen work of Taijuan Walker, called up from Tacoma as rosters expanded yesterday. … Adam Dunn (pictured), acquired in a waiver deal, made an impressive Oakland debut, starting Young's downfall with a barely out-of-reach, two-run, two-out first inning home run.
• It's really Tuesday? It seems more like a Monday. I guess that's just the holiday hangover – caused by an excess of hamburger meat – talking. Until later …