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

A Grip on Sports: Yes, baseball can be eccentric as well as exasperating, exciting and exhilarating

A GRIP ON SPORTS • We’ve some wild comebacks in our more than 60 years of watching baseball games. Participated in some, on both the good and bad sides. But few matched the oddball nature of Monday night’s 8-4 win at T-Mobile. As Maximus Decimus Meridius once said, “Are you not entertained?”


• Entertained? Sure, let’s go with that.

Gobsmacked is more like it. Down four runs entering the bottom of the eighth against the woeful – is there a worse term for a team than woeful? – White Sox. Blanked on the scoreboard. Feeling a bit disrespected by the plate umpire. The Mariners were staring a homestand-starting loss square in their beat-up and battered faces.

Then Dom Canzone hit a solo home run. Can we call him Dom? Seems friendly. What he did to Erick Fedde’s last pitch certainly wasn’t. Crushed it 413 feet to centerfield. With that blow, exit an almost-perfect starter, enter a less-than-perfect Sox bullpen.

Hope also accompanied Michael Kopech’s 100-mile-per-hour fastball. Ryan Bliss, only in the lineup because Dylan Moore left to be with his wife as she prepared to deliver their baby, turned a 97-mph heater into a single to left. J.P. Crawford walked. Josh Rojas fought off another heater, slicing it between third and short. Bases loaded. No one out. Time for the big boppers.

Julio Rodriguez. Strike out. Swinging. Cal Raleigh. Strike out. Looking. Scott Servais. Save.

As in saving Raleigh, who was fed up with Chris Guccione’s bouncing-around strike zone. The Big Dumper was ready to unload. But Servais did what a manager is supposed to do, sprinted to home plate, got between his key player and the umpire and took the thumb. A different type of sacrifice. Expensive, sure. But worth it.

Two outs. Mitch Haniger, professional hitter at the plate. On an 0-2 count, he dumped a flare into right field, scoring Bliss and Crawford, moving Rojas to third and pulling the M’s within a run. The Sox were reeling. The M’s celebrating. A bomb here and the game was all but over.

What did Luke Raley do, as Chicago shifted third baseman Lenyn Sosa more toward shortstop? To quote another great movie character, or characters, the Hanson Brothers, Raley went “old-time.” As in old-time baseball, not hockey.

A bunt. A perfect bunt. Toward a vacated third-base line. Raley blazed down to first, Rojas scored and the M’s were tied entering the ninth.

Us? We were glued to the television set. Even as the Sox threatened against Ryne Stanek. No matter. The righthander struck out Chicago’s best hitter, Luis Robert Jr. – a possible teammate down the stretch – and celebrated just like he would if he ever gets the last out in a playoff game.

Appropriate? Sure. Luke Raley may have gone old school with his 30-foot game tying bunt, but the rest of the final two innings were decidedly modern. Including the final play.

With an out in the bottom of the ninth, Crawford and Rojas each coaxed walks from Jordan Leasure. Rodriguez followed with a single to left that was hit too hard for Crawford to score. Guess who was up?

No, not backups Mitch Garver or Seby Zavala. Servais had saved us that fate with his timely ejection. Instead, Raleigh was in the left-handed box. Taking two close pitches. Both called balls by Guccione.

There was no need for Guccione to make a decision on the third pitch. The center-cut 97-mile-per-hour heater was pummeled. Driven deep into the right-field stands.

A grand slam. A 383-foot one. And the M’s celebrated an improbable 8-4 win.

Add them up and the two key hits covered about 413 feet. Each was crucial. Each ignited something. In Raley’s case, a dugout of guys pushing and laughing. In Raleigh’s? A home plate covered in bubble game and celebrating teammates.

Improbable? Certainly. Wild? Definitely. Needed? Positively. Every win is needed. Especially to open a series against a team that recently lost 14 consecutive games, is 17-50 and about ready to jettison any player with any value toward contenders.

A bunt and a blast. That’s all it took. Well, that and a timely save.


WSU: We received an email yesterday asking for an update on the athletic director position. The basic premise? Why hasn’t Anne McCoy already been hired? Patience isn’t a core value among college sports fans, is it? Anyhow, McCoy’s recent visit to Seattle is at the core of this Mike Vorel column concerning Washington State uncertain future. The column ran in the Times, and we linked it, but also is available on the S-R website. We link it again. … Though we aren’t a fan, we can understand why Cougar fans will have a tough time reading this story from Boulder on Andrej Jakimovski. He was a fixture in Pullman for so long. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12 and the nation, John Canzano was asked a few questions over the weekend. He answered them Monday in this mailbag. One was downright nasty. … Before we move on, we wanted to pass along this tidbit of news. Members of North Carolina State’s 1983 national title basketball team are suing the NCAA. They want their cut of the money the organization made off their cardiac-inducing run to the title. Expect more and more of such lawsuits. Pandora’s Box has been opened. … The NIL changes have allowed a lot of folks who worked in the shadows to come into the light. … OK, back to the West Coast. We have an Oregonian numbers story on the Ducks to pass along as well as a position preview from Oregon State. … There is also this Pac-12 baseball post-mortem. … A look back at Oregon State’s season too. … Oh. Another Beaver story. This one on the softball roster’s on-going rebuild. … An OSU-adjacent story. Washington makes it official. The Huskies officially hired an Oregon State assistant basketball coach. … A former USC football player has settled a COVID-19 era fraud case. … Finally, it was a good last year in the Pac-12 for Arizona.

Gonzaga: Jon Wilner offers an updated preseason men’s basketball top 25 after Dan Hurley’s decision yesterday. The Zags are No. 2 in his ranking.

EWU and Idaho: Around the Big Sky, Montana State lost a football game late, but at least the Bobcats have been compensated. … Montana has added a women’s basketball assistant.

Hoopfest: Yes, the participants are crucial. The organization too. But as Luke Pickett shares, the mammoth 3-on-3 basketball tournament downtown doesn’t happen without the work of thousands of volunteers.

Seahawks: Mini-camp, the final event before NFL players begin a six-week hiatus, starts today in Renton. The three days probably will cement these six thoughts from Bob Condotta.

Mariners: We covered all of last night’s fun above. And linked a few stories. We have one more. The M’s are mentioned at least three times in this long Athletic piece about possible trades before the July 30 deadline. … Bryan Woo will pitch tonight. (Against former Cal Poly teammate Drew Thorpe, actually, who is making his MLB debut.) Matt Calkins tries to explain how Woo has been more successful in the big leagues than anywhere else.

Kraken: Hey, Edmonton scored. The Oilers led early, actually. Went into the third period knotted at one. Then Florida scored three times. After the 4-1 victory, the Panthers are just two games away from skating around with Lord Stanley’s cup. The series does return to Canada, though, for the third game. Let’s see what happens.

Storm: Seattle’s core four stars should all receive at least a few all-star votes. … The one person who is acting like an adult while addressing Caitlin Clark not making the U.S. Olympic basketball team? That would be Clark herself. Taking the high road is never a wrong turn.

Sonics: As NBA fans await the Celtics’ coronation, their eyes strayed a bit yesterday. Would Dan Hurley leave UConn, where he has won back-to-back NCAA titles, and take over the L.A. Lakers? Nope. He’s staying in Storrs. Which begs a question: How does a franchise with more money than anyone else, and no coaching salary cap limits, not just ask what it would take from Hurley and give it to him? If it’s $17 million, $20 million, heck, $25 million a year, pay it – if he’s the guy you want. Just charge a million more for each of those front-row tickets and the Hollywood glitterati will pay it. Dumb.

Golf: The U.S. Open begins Thursday on Pinehurst No. 2, an iconic North Carolina course with elevated greens and a history of great champions. Who will win this year? If it is anyone other than Scottie Scheffler, we will be surprised. He’s been playing Tiger-like golf in a decidedly un-Tiger-like manner.  


• Baseball is weird. One hit travels a few feet. Another hundreds. Both are needed for joy to happen. Weird. Until later …