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Grip on Sports: Indians’ late-season charge has put a smile on everyone’s face

Spokane Indians' Curtis Terry (28) smiles after he hit Jax Biggers, (1) into home during a baseball game against the Salem-Keizer Volcanos on Monday, Aug. 27, 2018, at Avista Stadium in Spokane, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Spokane Indians' Curtis Terry (28) smiles after he hit Jax Biggers, (1) into home during a baseball game against the Salem-Keizer Volcanos on Monday, Aug. 27, 2018, at Avista Stadium in Spokane, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • It may be the beginning of football season, but it’s still a bit early to give up on baseball, isn’t it? Especially when the local team has made the playoffs. No, not the M’s. That’s not looking good. We’re going hyper-local here. The Indians. Yes, they have earned a spot in the Northwest League playoffs. Read on.

••••••••••

• For much of the first half of the Northwest League season, the Spokane Indians didn’t seem capable of winning a road game let alone earning a playoff berth.

But the Short A team did what Short A teams are supposed to do: improve throughout the year. And yesterday at Avista Stadium, that improvement showed in a 3-1 win over the Vancouver Canadians.

Why was that win significant?

It clinched the NWL’s second half title in the North Division, pushing the Indians into the league’s short but intense playoffs. 

A big part of the credit can go to manager Kenny Holmberg, who balanced the minor league’s player development emphasis with the goal of winning, two things which are often at opposite ends of the spectrum. 

But most of the credit has to go to the youngsters on the field, many fresh from high school or college, playing professionally for the first time. Heck, for some of them, traveling away from home for the first time.

Which makes Sunday’s winning pitcher so out of character. That would be Chi Chi Gonzalez, who was one of the youngsters back in 2013. But his advancement through the Rangers’ minor league chain was snapped by Tommy John surgery, so Texas sent him to Spokane for a rehab stint.

Five perfect innings later, the Indians were on their way to the North title series. It begins Wednesday in Everett. Game two is in Spokane on Thursday night. If a third game is needed, it will also be at Avista on Friday afternoon.

The weather is supposed to be exceptional. Just like the Indians’ run to the second-half crown.

•••

WSU: Fess up. You had questions about the defense, especially the front three, right? Many of those questions were answered Saturday. Theo Lawson tells you how. … I don’t know how, but yesterday I missed one of Theo’s stories – sorry man – and all his post-game videos. The story concerned the return of defensive lineman Nnamdi Oguayo, who missed most of the preseason practice. The videos are of interviews from Mike Leach, Will Rodgers III, Max Borghi, Gardner Minshew and Hunter Dale. … Luke Falk was cut by the Titans and was out of work for less than 12 hours. Miami picked him up and added him to their practice squad. … Finally, there is this story at The Athletic concerning how Leach's Cougar players see him. It was written by some idiot. It may surprise you a bit. It did me.

Elsewhere in the Pac-12, Washington learned some lessons in the loss to Auburn. … It is Big Sky week in Oregon with both schools, Oregon State and Oregon, hosting FCS schools this weekend. The Beavers will have to regroup after the rout in Ohio while the Ducks have things to work on. … California seems to have made some progress. … So has a Colorado defensive back. … Utah takes on a Group of Five opponent and the Utes are doing it on the road. … USC has anything but an easy game. The Trojans match up with recent nemesis Stanford. … UCLA’s offense is back to square one with the quarterback injury. … Arizona State will have to take what it learned in the opener into a home matchup with Michigan State. … Arizona also learned lessons against BYU but they came in a tough loss.

Gonzaga: The women’s soccer team lost for the first time this season.

Idaho: The Vandals’ soccer team won at Montana’s tournament. … Around the Big Sky in football, Montana may have picked up a crucial win, but there were still flaws. … Northern Colorado failed its first test.

Chiefs: Adam Beckman had two goals and Spokane picked up a 3-2 win over Seattle in Everett’s preseason tournament. … Also at the tournament, host Everett got past Portland.

Indians: As we said above, Spokane clinched a playoff berth with a 3-1 win over Vancouver at Avista. Here is Dave Nichols’ story, part of Dave’s exceptional coverage of the Indians short but intense season. It will continue after today’s regular season finale. … Elsewhere in the Northwest League, Eugene and Hillsboro will meet for the South title after both won Sunday.

Mariners: We wrote about hope over the weekend but today we have to focus on doubt. After an 8-2 loss in Oakland yesterday, the M’s only split the four-game series, which means they are still 5.5 games behind the A’s for the final wild-card spt. The worst thing is they only have 25 games left. Time is running short. … The ticking clock brings ups some questions about trades and other items. 

Seahawks: The cuts were made Saturday, so yesterday was all about perusing other teams’ lists and picking up a player here or there. Which also means more cuts. … It is awards time already? … The season ahead may be tough.

•••        

• We rarely binge watch a TV show in the Grippi home. Too busy for that. But we did this weekend. We went through the eight episodes of “Jack Ryan” like Ryan cuts through all that CIA malarkey. There was one problem, though. I kept expecting John Krasinski, who plays the lead role, to turn to the camera at some point in one of the CIA’s interminably stupid management meetings and shrug, a la his “Office” persona. Sadly, it didn’t happen. It would have been epic. Until later … 


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