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A Grip on Sports: Though the M’s made their fans want to pull out their hair Friday night, Saturday is a new day

Seattle Mariners’ Abraham Toro, center, reacts in the dugout at the end of the eighth inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels, Friday, Oct. 1, 2021, in Seattle. The Angels won 2-1.  (Associated Press)
Seattle Mariners’ Abraham Toro, center, reacts in the dugout at the end of the eighth inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels, Friday, Oct. 1, 2021, in Seattle. The Angels won 2-1. (Associated Press)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • It’s OK to be sad this morning. And to be excited for what’s ahead. It’s just that those emotions might be aimed at different targets.

•••••••

• The sadness is obvious – and palatable. It’s because of the way the Mariners fell short last night at the plate, especially in the key seventh inning. A team hoping to break a two-decade-long postseason drought can’t fail to score the tying run from third with three chances. The M’s did and they didn’t.

Fail to drive in Luis Torrens, I mean, and that means the great pitching was all for naught in a 2-1 loss to the Angels.

A full house tried to help, using their voices to show their support. Everyone in the Northwest watching at home tried to help as well, though psychic vibes really don’t mean much. Nothing, actually, meant much except how Abraham Toro, Jarred Kelenic, Tom Murphy and Dylan Moore performed at the plate in the fateful seventh.

Toro followed Torren’s triple with a walk, giving the M’s runners at first and third with no one out. Kelenic, who drove in the Mariners’ only run – and gave them their only lead – with a ringing second-inning double, chased a pitch out of the strike zone and struck out. Murphy and Moore ultimately struck out as well and Seattle’s hopes fell.

That inning not only sealed their doom (and might have sealed their postseason chances) it also illustrated a weakness higher-spending clubs rarely have. There was really no one on the bench Scott Servais could send up in place of either Murphy or Moore. Cal Raleigh, maybe, but the rookie catcher isn’t a veteran with years of pennant race experience.

That’s coming now for the M’s youngster and it will help in 2022 and beyond. But the 44,169 in T-Mobile and the multitudes paying attention from White Swan to Walla Walla aren’t thinking about that. Not last night. Not today. It’s time to win.

If the Mariners don’t tonight, the postseason dream will more than likely be dead. It could be even if the M’s win tonight and tomorrow, which is why Friday night’s debacle hurts so much.

But not more than the past 20 years. Not by a long shot.

• Excitement resides in Cheney right now. The Eastern Washington Eagles are 4-0, ranked sixth in the FCS and have the nation’s best offensive player in senior quarterback Eric Barriere. They will face 3-0 Montana, ranked fourth and in possession of a dominating defensive win over Washington to open the season.

And the game will be televised nationally on ESPN2. That’s about as exciting as FCS football gets this time of year.

With a 7:30 p.m. kick time, it won’t be warm in Cheney, at least not according to the thermometer. But there will be heat supplied by two rivals who have played some interesting games over the years. It’s a perfect way to finish up a long day of college football.

• The best way to spend the middle part of the day? I’m not sure anyone else but Cougar fans would say watching their team play at California, but that’s what I’m scheduled to do. At least I get paid for it.

When two 1-3 teams meet in the season’s fifth week, there’s not much to indicate it will be an exciting matchup. Except neither team can afford to lose and keep any bowl hopes alive. So there’s that.

After perusing the stats and reading everything we could about both teams, there is one inescapable conclusion: The Bears deserve to be favored by the 7½ points they are. And yet, for some unknown reason, we wonder if this is the place the Cougars post an upset. It makes no sense but I’m thinking it will happen.

After all, what’s better than posting your first road win during the other team’s homecoming activities?

•••

WSU: Colton Clark doesn’t agree. He sees the Bears winning though not covering the spread. … Colton also has a preview of the game as well as the keys to victory. … Neither California nor WSU have picked up a win against an FBS team this season. That will end today. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12 and college football, we linked this yesterday but Jon Wilner believes the conference’s officiating hasn’t been bad. … Jon also examines in this Mercury News mailbag how an eight-game conference schedule would impact some of the traditional matchups. … The best matchup of the weekend? It may just be Oregon, the conference’s last playoff hope, at Stanford, the school that loves to ruin such things. … Or it could be Washington at Oregon State, as the Beavers are the early season surprise team in the Pac-12. The Huskies hope to stay in the mix. … But more than likely it is tonight, when Arizona State travels to the Rose Bowl to take on UCLA. The winner has the inside track in the South. … USC has never lost to Colorado. If the Trojans fall today, does that mean they have hit bottom? And what would a loss mean to the Buffs? … With football season already over – metaphorically – Arizona fans can turn to basketball, as they are wont to do.

EWU: The storyline in Cheney revolves around the Eagle offense vs. the Griz defense. When that happens, usually another unit steps up and decides the game. Dan Thompson gives you three things to watch. … Larry Weir also focuses on the matchup, talking with Colter Nuanez of Skyline Sports for the latest Press Box podcast. … There is more from Missoula as well. … Around the Big Sky, Weber State is at Cal Poly. … Portland State and Southern Utah both are looking for a first conference win.

Idaho: The Vandals are fresh after their bye and travel to undefeated UC Davis. Peter Harriman offers three things for you to focus upon.

Whitworth: Speaking of byes, the Pirates had theirs last week, using the time to improve conditioning. Now they open Northwest Conference play by hosting Lewis & Clark in the Pine Bowl. Adam Chambers has this preview.

Preps: There was a Northeast 1A showdown at Freeman last night but it was visiting Riverside who went home victorious. Dave Nichols was there and has this story. James Snook adds a photo gallery. … Steve Christilaw was at U-Hi for East Valley’s 50-18 win over North Central. … For all the other games, Dave has this roundup.

Mariners: The angst and disappointment was palatable over Twitter last night. M’s fans from across the nation were ready to explode in joy, only to see their team flail away and fall 2-1. The teams go at it again tonight in a must-win game for Seattle. … Kyle Seager has been waiting his entire career for a series like this one. Will it also be his last one as a Mariner? … There will be a big crowd in the ballpark again tonight no matter what. … With Friday night’s results, the American League wild card race is still jumbled, though the Yankees and Red Sox still hold trump.

Seahawks: Whoever loses Sunday afternoon’s game in Santa Clara will have a tough road ahead. Especially if it is Seattle. … The Hawks and the 49ers will be missing key players. But Gerald Everett might be available despite being in the COVID-19 protocol.

Kraken: Seattle had a fight. Its first. And in the preseason. Also, the Kraken won.

•••       

• We will return to this site twice before the clock strikes midnight (hopefully). We’ll have our usual TV Take from the Cougar game. And then an unusual one. We’re doing the same for the Eastern game with Montana. Maybe I’ll keep track of how many times the broadcast crew mentions the red turf. Or maybe not. No matter. Make sure you come back and read both. I’ll try to make you laugh. Until then …

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