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

A Grip on Sports: The Mariners leave August with a grand slam type of victory

Seattle Mariners' Abraham Toro is greeted in the dugout after he hit a grand slam off Houston Astros relief pitcher Kendall Graveman during the eighth inning of a baseball game, Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021, in Seattle. The Mariners won 4-0.  (Associated Press)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • We enter September with some trepidation. But on a full night’s sleep. Which means we missed Abraham Toro’s electric moment in real time against Houston. No worries. Like the Mariners, such things never die.


• What a wacky way to wave goodbye to August. Eighth inning. Bases loaded. Scoreless game. Toro in the box to face, wait for it, Kendall Graveman.

Yep, a little more than a month after the two were the centerpieces in the most divisive trade of 2021 – Mariner version – they meet with a game on the line.

Eight pitches later, Toro is circling the bases and social media is erupting with “Mariners win the trade!” or some sort of such nonsense.

All that really matters as baseball’s bounce-back season enters its final full month? The M’s won this game. And stayed alive in the American League wild card race. That’s all that matters every day. From here until the season ends in a little more than a month.

It’s time. September. When we check the standings every day. Not the American League West standings, though Oakland and the M’s still have a shot there (the A’s trail Houston by five games while Seattle is 7.5 back). What really matters, at least in the Northwest, is the wild card race.

A few days ago, the Red Sox seemed a lock to face the Yankees in the one-game playoff preliminary. But a three-game losing streak has put a dent in the Boston lead over the rest of the A.L. contenders. The Yankees? After their hot streak put them on top, they have lost four consecutive times, giving everyone on the West Coast (and Canada) hope.

The A’s, who have won their last three, trail Boston by just a game. The M’s are 3.5 behind the Sox. And Toronto is hanging around, a game behind the Mariners.

It certainly seems as if Tampa Bay is going to win the American League East. The same can be said about Chicago in the Central. Houston will probably win the West, barring a collapse – triggered by last night’s defeat, maybe?

Those races don’t hold a lot of excitement right now. But the wild card one? Oh yes.

What was once seen as a weird, wacky invention is now crucial to baseball holding onto some part of the national consciousness as football season starts. And the M’s have remained a part of it.

• Speaking of pennant races, the Spokane Indians are right in one as well. With three weeks left, the Indians are 1.5 games out of first – Eugene took over that spot by itself with its win over Hillsboro last night – in the High-A West and just a game behind Everett for the second playoff spot.

No one is hotter than Spokane – figuratively at least, as last night was one of the coldest night’s of the season. The Indians have moved from well down the standings to challenging for a postseason berth in just a few weeks, posting a 20-6 record in August.

With the fair scheduled to start, the series with Tri-City is the final chance to get out to Avista and watch. Unless, of course, the Indians make the best-of-five playoffs. A month ago, that seemed a longshot. Today, it seems plausible.


WSU: When Utah State runs onto Gesa Field late Saturday night, it won’t be the same team that finished last year’s truncated season 1-5. The Aggies have attracted quite a few transfers and many of them will be counted on to play key roles vs. the Cougars. Colton Clark has a handful of new USU players for you to keep an eye on. … Dan Doornink is a Washington success story. A WSU running back. A UW medical school graduate. A Seahawk for years. And now, it seems, a COVID-19 survivor. He’s doing better after an ICU stay. … Ryan Leaf has a debt to Washington. He’s trying to repay it. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12 and college sports, if COVID-19 doesn’t stop a game this fall, you may not be able to breath easy. Because, you know, wildfires. This disaster movie of a year sucks. … What should we expect out of Washington in the near-future? How about throwbacks to 1991? And some run for a linebacker with a great story. … Depth charts are out everywhere, it seems. California had a surprise at running back. Stanford still hasn’t decided on a starting quarterback. … Oregon’s starting QB, Anthony Brown Jr., is hoping to be back to form after two knee surgeries. He’ll have a lot of help from the Ducks’ top two running backs. … A couple months ago Sam Noyer was battling for the starting quarterback spot at Colorado. Saturday he will start for Oregon State. … Back in Boulder, the Buffs’ best defensive player is back from injury. … Want to attend a Utah game at Rice-Eccles and watch Charlie Brewer guide the offense? You better be a little computer savvy. … The Los Angeles County COVID-19 rules are more restrictive than anywhere else in the conference. Whether that will impact USC and UCLA remains to be seen. … Don’t expect Arizona State to take it easy on Southern Utah. … Arizona has quite the challenge ahead against BYU.

EWU: They aren’t exactly giant killers (as that would imply they are small in comparison), but the Eagles have done their share of cutting FBS schools down to size over the years. They get their latest chance Thursday night in Las Vegas. Dan Thompson has more on the opportunity. … Around the Big Sky, Montana will rely on young running backs in the early season, including Saturday at Washington. … Expect Northern Colorado’s offense to be fun to watch. … A key Montana State offensive lineman is healthy. … Weber State coach Jay Hill enjoys playing FBS schools and thinks such games are good for the sport. … Idaho State will feature an experienced quarterback. … The same can be said for a Northern Arizona linebacker. … Portland State is ready to start its season. … UC Davis is ready for its opener. … In basketball news, the Griz announced their nonconference schedule.

Whitworth: The Pirates’ football season begins Friday night at the Pine Bowl against Carnegie Mellon. Larry Weir and the voice of the Pirates, Bud Nameck, talk about the game and more on the latest Press Box podcast.

Indians: Spokane finished out its hottest month with a series-opening 6-4 victory. Dave Nichols has all the information you will need in this game story.

Mariners: The best omen within Tuesday night’s win? Yusei Kikuchi, who the M’s need to shine down the stretch, did just that. The veteran lefthander threw seven shutout innings, using 95 pitches.

Seahawks: The initial 53-man roster was released yesterday and there were a few surprises. And then practice began and there was another in the defensive backfield. Yep, the season is just around the corner. … Quandre Diggs will play, he says. But he still wants a contract extension. … Just how good can the Hawks be?


• There were frost warnings in the Spokane area for last night. Are you kidding me? My tomatoes are just starting to become what I hoped they would be: big, juicy, tasty additions to a hamburger. Or a salad. And the frost hits? Thankfully, it didn’t get that cold at my house – though I did close the slider in the wee hours of the morning. And I have slippers on as I write. The sun, however, has already warmed the windows. It’s going to be another beautiful late-summer day. Until later …