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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Grip on Sports: As summer looms, the promise of a strong pitching staff gives Mariner fans hope

Seattle Mariners starting pitcher James Paxton throws to a Minnesota Twins batter during the first inning of a baseball game Friday, May 25, 2018, in Seattle. (Elaine Thompson / AP)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Holiday weekends are the best. And the one that kicks off summer? The best of the best. Especially when the Mariners have an ace. Read on.


• When your local major league baseball team has at least one dominate pitcher, the sun shines brighter, the sky is clearer and the grass is greener. Or that’s the way it seems. So if the weather is well, perfect, where you are this weekend, thank James Paxton.

Or, in the vernacular of the millennials who hang around our house, blame Canada. 

Paxton was superb again last night and the injury-riddled Mariner lineup needed it. The offense scored just two runs. But that was one more than the Twins. And once again the M’s are 10 games above .500.

With help on the way, via their minor league affiliate in Florida.

Jerry Dipoto gave away two pitching prospects, Andrew Moore who showed flashes in a big league stint last season, and 20-year-old Tommy Romero, the guy the Rays really wanted. In return, Seattle received a lights-out reliever in Alex Colome, who will become the M’s Andrew Miller in the bullpen, and centerfielder Denard Span, a serviceable veteran who will fill the gap while Robinson Cano serves his suspension.

It’s a win-this-season type of trade and, 50 games in, it should give Mariner fans hope this team can actually make the postseason.

Winning 30 of every 50 games, as Seattle has done so far, pencils out to about 94 wins this season. That will be enough to make the playoffs. It will be enough to mollify a fanbase that has suffered through almost two decades of wandering in the wilderness. And it will be enough, along with the bullpen Dipoto is building, to put the fear of Thor into other American League teams come October.

The M’s have at least five relievers who, at the top of their game, can blow through an inning like a hurricane. Edwin Diaz, Colome, Juan Nicasio, James Pazos and possibly Ryan Cook all have the potential to overpower a lineup, giving Scott Servais a five-to-six inning window to manufacture a lead. After that, game over.

Those are the type of pens that win these days.

• By the way, the Mariners spent a bit of the Cano money yesterday, picking up some salary. But the Rays offset part of the bill, which means there is still a few dollars more available for other needs.

If I was a betting man, I would bet Dipoto saves it for later and then buys another relief pitcher to throw into the mix. He seems like the guy who pushes his chips all in when he feels he has the strongest hand.


WSU: The NCAA championship is the goal of every track and field athlete. Another Washington State athlete has reached that goal. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12, former Colorado football coach, Bill Mallory, died yesterday. 

Gonzaga: The Zags defeated Pepperdine yesterday at the WCC baseball tournament and need one more win – in two chances today – to make the NCAA tournament. … David Stockton enjoyed his time in Utah and hopes it isn’t done.

EWU: Have you wondered how Bill Chaves is doing in America’s heartland? Wonder no longer. Larry Weir talks with the former Eastern athletic director in his latest Press Box pod

Preps: What a busy weekend, the last on the high school sports calendar. We start with track, with two stories from Sean Kramer at the 4A, 3A and 2A championships in Tacoma as well as two stories from Greg Lee at the 1A, 2B and 1B championships in Cheney. … Dave Nichols is at my favorite event, the 4A girls softball tournament and has this story as Central Valley earned a semifinal berth. … We also have a story on 2A baseball where West Valley lost in the semifinals, and 1A baseball, where Freeman will play for a title. There are roundups from softball and boys and girls tennis

Mariners: You’ll have to decide what was the bigger news, the trade that brought two proven veterans from Tampa or the 2-1 win over Minnesota as Paxton struck out 11.

Seahawks: We have more answers for you. … Seahawks fans are everywhere.

Sounders: If Seattle is going to bang out a win, it will be today. The Sounders host a Real Salt Lake team that has been awful on the road.


• What’s tops on your agenda this weekend? Bike ride? Adult beverages on the stoop at sunset? Sleep until noon – twice? Work? If it’s the last one, sorry. Our goal? See three movies. All of the superhero variety. Then be bitten by a radioactive squirrel in the backyard and turn into SquirrelMan. My super power? Be able to make every dog in a three-block radius bark at the same time. Until later …