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

A Grip on Sports: The Mariners take over first place in a weak – thus far – A.L. West as the week careens toward the NFL draft

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Two facts. You pick which is more important. A 12-11 record. First place in the American League West. Both describe the Seattle Mariners on this Wednesday.


• Fourteen percent of the Major League Baseball season is finished, at least for Seattle. Is that enough time to make any declarations? Assumptions? Aspirations, maybe?

One aspiration they have achieved: Spending time atop the A.L. West standings. Tuesday’s 4-0 shutout of the Rangers in Texas lifted them there. Albeit by a half-game over the defending World Series champions. And with a record that isn’t a point of pride.

But, hey, first place. The bad news? There are seven teams in the American League with better records than the M’s. Which means, of course, a loss tonight, for example, puts them in ninth place in the wild-card chase. Razor’s edge is all we can think of at this point.

Maybe that’s because we need a shave. Or we were watching Logan Gilbert throw a slider so sharp last night it was better than anything Gillette has ever created. And he lived on the edges of the strike zone. The guy is a wonder when he’s on, and a 2-0 record with a 1.87 ERA and a .8 WHIP shows he’s been on more than not.

The shutout had to cut deep with the Rangers, a team that prides itself on out-scoring the opposition. Though thus far this season, the offense hasn’t hit its stride. Texas is scoring almost ¾ of a run less than last season.

With Bryce Miller next up for Seattle that trend may just continue. The second-year right-hander has been the M’s second-best starter thus far – and might even be No. 1 to some. The guy is 3-1 but luck plays a part there. His ERA is 1.85, but ditto to that. His ERA+, which eliminates the ballpark factors, is 200, best on the team. And he yields a team-low 4.8 hits per nine innings.

If Miller keeps it up, by this time Thursday, we will be able to focus on the M’s 1 1/2-game lead in the West.

• Maybe we’re just more aware. Or maybe it’s because the NFL’s draft machine has been turned up to 11. But we’re certain we’re being inundated by more draft news this April than ever before. And that comes in a year when NIL has cut down on the number of draft eligible non-seniors – usually well-known stars – entering the fray.

Our guess at the uptick in noise? Quarterbacks. There are a bunch who have high-volume games. From the top – Caleb Williams – to the bottom – Spencer Rattler – there are handful of guys who are expected to make a huge difference over the course of their careers.

Which probably means there is someone we haven’t really focused on who will end up in the Hall of Fame.

OK, we knew you would ask. Which guy do we think is outside the top seven – Williams, Drake Maye, Jayden Daniels, J.J. McCarthy, Bo Nix, Michael Penix Jr. and Rattler – will be the surprise?

Western Kentucky’s Austin Reed. Call it a hunch. The guy has a quarterback’s name. And a gunslinger’s mentality.

• As we all know, you can bet on anything these days. Anywhere. It may be part of the reason why events such as tomorrow night’s NFL draft have so much buzz. And do we have a bet for you – though you’ll have to pay attention to Saturday’s final day to cash in, or out.

Who will be this year’s Brock Purdy or Ryan Sucoop? Mr. Irrelevant, that made-up title (and celebration) of the last guy taken. We were unable to find out odds today on a player, which makes sense. But their position? That’s the ticket.

The favorite is quarterback at +250. The longest odds? Kicker/punter/long snapper (+1800).

Since the draft began, the most-often picked position in the final spot? Running back, with more than a dozen taken. But recently (the past 20 years), wide receiver has been the position of choice most often. Take of that what you will. And of this advice, too. Don’t bet on this stuff. It’s an interstate to perdition.


WSU: This is why, in this era, you hire a sitting head coach. David Riley has attracted a core group of Eastern Washington players to Pullman, the latest of which is outside-shooting big Dane Erikstrup. Greg Woods has more in this story. … Greg also has a couple football stories. The first comes from the morning, as he covered the 13th spring practice. … The other football one? A possibly historic series. WSU and Virginia have agreed to a home-and-home, with the Cougars traveling to Charlottesville – the Pullman of the East – in 2025. The Cavaliers are scheduled to return to the Palouse in 2031. If they do make that journey, they will be the first ACC school to do it. Unless there is no ACC by then. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12 and the nation, Jon Wilner’s conference draft preview? It is on the S-R site this morning. … He also looks at the conference quarterbacks in the Mercury News. … Should Penix be a first-round choice? … Washington practiced yesterday. Things happened. … We can say the same for Oregon, which includes Dan Lanning talking. … The roster drain continues at Oregon State. … The turnover at Colorado is continuing even as spring practice rolls on. … A Utah player with local ties is prepping for the NFL draft. … Entering the portal didn’t mean a UCLA player was leaving. … Though it did for one receiver, who is moving across town, back to USC. … How will Arizona State deal with its sanctions? … Arizona practiced yesterday as well. … Oregon’s men have been doing OK with their roster, which is news in itself. The Ducks are asking the NCAA to give a key player another year of eligibility. … Oregon State has added to its roster. … Arizona may lose another starter if the NBA makes the right offer. … The Duck women are rebuilding their roster.

Gonzaga: Everyone knew, sure. But the Zags made Michael Ajayi’s transfer official Tuesday. We have this story to pass along from Theo Lawson, which makes it officially official. … Elsewhere in the WCC, the hits just keep on coming for Saint Mary’s. The best recruit the Gaels had, a San Francisco player, has decided he can find a better offer. … The other recent blow? Joshua Jefferson is heading to Iowa State.

EWU: A long-time Eastern track and field assistant is calling it a career. That news leads of the S-R’s latest local briefs column.… Elsewhere in the Big Sky, our friend John Johnson has resigned as Portland State’s athletic director. Like a lot of us, he has elderly family to deal with. … A Montana football player is headed to Nebraska. … Northern Colorado just lost two of its best to the portal. … Montana State’s new offensive coordinator is trying to answer questions.

Preps: Dave Nichols has a roundup of Tuesday’s action that includes a baseball no-hitter.

Indians: No no-hitter for Spokane, but a road win. And a shutout. Dave has this coverage of the 4-0 victory at Vancouver. … Speaking of hitters, Dave has a feature today. It is about Spokane’s Kyle Karros, whose last name should sound familiar to baseball fans. … Elsewhere in the Northwest League, Eugene kept its one-game lead over the Indians with a 6-2 decision against visiting Hillsboro. … Everett pounded host Tri-City 15-5.  

Kraken: The decision about Dave Hakstol’s future is crucial for general manager Ron Francis.

Mariners: We had a bet going on in the house. Our son had Julio Rodriguez. We had backup catcher Seby Zavala. The wager? Who would hit a home run first this season. Ty won. Rodriguez connected yesterday in the 4-0 win. Then gave the Trident a long hug. … Mitch Garver was given a ring by the Rangers.

Sounders: Seattle made a trade yesterday, sending Xavier Arreaga to New England. It was about opportunity and money.

Seahawks: More on the draft. About the Hawks and running backs. … OK, a lot more, including players they should be ready to take in the first round and how this draft will be about John Schneider more than any other. … Hey, we have a couple more mock first rounds for you. And the Hawks’ picks.


• What a beautiful morning we had today. Thanks to getting up earlier than usual, we had a chance to stop mid-writing, brew a cup of coffee and sit on the deck for a while. It’s how we discovered Reggie Bush was getting his Heisman back. Good for Bush. Wonder if the NCAA is going to give Villanova’s Howard Porter back his Most Outstanding Player award from the 1971 tournament next? It’s too late, sure (Porter was murdered in 2007) but it would be the right thing to do. Until later …