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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


Up-and-down Mariners still have almost half a season to make things right

The return of Hisashi Iwakuma, right, was nothing to write home about, but the Mariners bullpen was even less impressive. (Associated Press)
The return of Hisashi Iwakuma, right, was nothing to write home about, but the Mariners bullpen was even less impressive. (Associated Press)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Lou Piniella was adamant solo home runs never beat a team. He was proven right again last night despite the fact Hisashi Iwakuma gave up four of them in his first start back from the disabled list. Read on.


• Iwakuma was the opposite of sharp in his first start in months. I guess you could call his command “dull,” though that has many way-too-negative connotations – and we don’t want anyone to take it the wrong way. Yet, despite yielding four solo blast on pitches that were not well located, Iwakuma left the game with a chance to win. That was mainly due to a M’s offense that cut through Tiger starts Alfredo Simon like a machete, scoring five runs in the first four innings. The biggest blast? Logan Morrison’s two-out, full-count, three-run home run. That should have been enough for Iwakuma and an M’s bullpen that has been better in the past. But not this night. Iwakuma left in the sixth with a runner on first. He also left with a 5-4 lead. In came the newest members of the M’s bullpen, Mayckol Guaipe (pictured) and David Rollins. Out went the lead and the game. Guaipe, a big right-hander, didn’t record an out. Rollins did, but not until the Tigers had sewn up the 12-5 victory. The M’s are well past the halfway point of the season and are still treading water. (For a veteran baseball writer’s thoughts on their season, check Larry Stone’s column this morning.) They are seven games under .500, have yet to put together a decent winning streak and have been inconsistent in all phases of the game. Other than that Mrs. Lincoln ... Anyhow, the team we expected to see this season has never materialized. A big part of that, as we said last week, is on Robinson Cano, though now we know his excu ... er, his explanation of what his problem might be. It would be ironic if the M’s multi-million-dollar investment in success this season was derailed by a stomach ailment, something totally out of the franchise’s control. Or maybe it’s appropriate. Remember the most successful season in M’s history? No, not 1995, that was the most exciting and important. The most successful season was 2001, the year of winning – nearly every day. There was no better team in baseball that season, until the tragedy of 9/11 occurred. Before the awful events of that day and the more than week without games, the M’s were 104-40, playing .722 baseball. After, the M’s were 12-6, or, if you include the postseason, 16-10. Baseball wasn’t as important to any of us, or as fun. This season isn’t any fun either. It still can be successful – the M’s have 79 games left and if they find a way to win 50 of them, they would finish the season 88-74. That should be good enough to make the postseason. After that, anything can happen. But who in their right mind would think the M’s can find a way to win 50 more games? Ah heck, who ever said baseball fans were in their right minds? We listen to, and build our philosophies around, the mutterings of people like Lou Piniella for goodness sake. And we look for nuggets wherever we can find them. I have one for you. Cano was 2-for-4 last night, is 10-for-24 in his last six games (a .416 clip) and has raised his batting average 16 points in less than a week. If that doesn’t give you hope, I don’t know what will.


• WSU: Speaking of hope, or lack of same,’s Pac-12 blog allows (forces?) you to look back at one of the most depressing finishes in Washington State football history. Though I’m not sure it is the worst loss in Mike Leach’s career, as the piece purports to pinpoint. ... Now that Vernon Adams has been admitted to Oregon and is free to enroll in its graduate school, we’ll begin putting updates here in the WSU section. Jim Allen has an update on his status in today’s paper.

• Gonzaga: has a short piece on the season ahead. ... The mess that is Santa Clara’s new athletic administration is only getting messier as an alum pens an open letter to his peers calling for a boycott of the athletic department.

• Indians: The one constant in short-season A baseball is the up-and-down nature of the season. The Indians had one of their ups last night, with an 8-2 win over Boise. Chris Derrick has the game story and a blog post.

• Preps: It’s time for the weekly youth sports notebook and this one is dominated by girls’ sports.

• Seahawks: Russell Wilson mainly talked about his faith in a long interview with a San Diego-based church, though he did speak about his response to the last play of the Super Bowl. He said God told him “I’m using you” to show how a Christian reacts to such an occurrence. I’m surprised the Big Fella didn’t ask why Marshawn didn’t get the ball. Everyone else has. ... So who will make up the Hawks' offensive line?

• Mariners: The bullpen’s collapse last night was the tale of the game, though Iwakuma’s return was the big news. He came out of the game healthy, which is the one positive. ... Felix Hernandez is now king of the M’s All-Star pitchers. He was named to his sixth team, topping Randy Johnson’s club-record. ... James Jones was the guy sent down to make room for Iwakuma.

• Sounders: The big news for the Sounders is Osvaldo Alonso is back on the field and was for the D.C. United game. But now, with Stefan Frei still injured, he and the rest of the Sounders, will have to get used to playing with a new goalkeeper for a while. ... No soccer match ever has played to a larger television audience in this country than Sunday’s women’s World Cup final. And few sporting events this year surpassed it in ratings.


• The next few weeks I will be traveling off and on. It’s summer time and that means I’m doing my basketball thing. It also means there will be a few days I will not be able to post, including this Saturday morning. I’ll try to give you a heads up a few days in advance each time

Vince Grippi
Vince Grippi is a freelance local sports blogger for He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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