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Grip on Sports: When did Thursday become the night for change?

Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Felix Hernandez reacts after allowing a soft bunt-single by Texas Rangers' Carlos Tocci during the third inning of a baseball game Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2018, in Arlington, Texas. The Rangers won 11-4. (Brandon Wade / AP)
Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Felix Hernandez reacts after allowing a soft bunt-single by Texas Rangers' Carlos Tocci during the third inning of a baseball game Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2018, in Arlington, Texas. The Rangers won 11-4. (Brandon Wade / AP)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • A pretty eventful Thursday evening, wasn’t it? The M’s debuted a new lineup (it worked), Felix Hernandez was exiled to the bullpen and NFL preseason games were seemingly everywhere, including in Seattle. Read on.


• The biggest news probably came from Houston, where not only did the M’s outscored the American League West-leading Astros, they also made a momentous decision after the game.

Manager Scott Servais, no doubt consulting with general manager Jerry Dipoto, told the assembled media after Seattle’s 8-6 victory Hernandez was not going to make his start Sunday.

In fact, for the first time since he debuted in August of 2005, Hernandez would be shuttled to the bullpen due to ineffectiveness. 

In a way, it’s the end of an era. The King Felix Era. And era many of us remember for its extreme lows and its occasional highs, most of which were supplied by Hernandez himself. 

The best of those, of course, was his perfect game six years ago this week. 

But there were more. There was his Cy Young Award winning season of 2010, which followed his best season of 2009, when his 19-5 record and 2.49 earned run average was not good enough to win the award. Same thing happened to him in 2014, when he was 14-5 and had a 2.14 ERA. 

Notice a bit of a pattern here? Up until 2015, Hernandez was good. Really good. One of the best in baseball. And he was Seattle’s. He never wanted to be anywhere else. But neither he nor the M’s could take the final step into the postseason and, now, when the Mariners are playing their best baseball of his career, he can’t help.

His 5.73 ERA is not only his career worst, it is by more than a run. His WHIP (walks plus hits divided by innings pitched) is even worse than when he was a wild (but effective) youngster. Basically, he is not very good right now.

So, at age 32, it’s OK to say Felix’s best years are behind him. And to replace him in the rotation – if the M’s have someone they are certain is better. Who that is, I’m not sure. But, with Oakland building a cushion in the wild-card race, Seattle needs to compete every time out. And Hernandez wasn’t doing that.

It’s tough. It’s sad for Mariner fans. It’s also necessary.

• So was a lineup shake up, though without a lot of depth, all Servais could do yesterday was shuffle the order. Dee Gordon, with his on-base percentage below. 300, was dropped from the leadoff spot. Mitch Haniger, with the best on-base percentage, was moved to the top, followed by Denard Span, Jean Segura and Nelson Cruz.

It worked. Really worked. The new top three was 8-for-8 with a walk at one point, the M’s scored six runs in the first two innings and chased Justin Verlander. (Well, the plate umpire tossed him in the middle of the second inning, but he wasn’t long for the game anyway.)

Think the M’s will keep the same basic lineup tonight?

• If the Mariner game didn’t keep your interest, there was always the Seahawks’ first preseason game.

They lost, which isn’t what matters. The key stat afterward was zero, as in how many key players were injured. The Hawks, as thin as they are in talent these days, can’t afford any of their stars hurt.

Oh sure, C.J. Prosise didn’t play – his hip was bothering him – but no one was surprised when they heard that. And a couple of backups were banged up but despite appearances, Pete Carroll didn’t think any was all that bad.

And Russell Wilson? He played one series, led the Hawks on a touchdown drive and became a spectator like the folks in the CenturyLink stands

One down, three to go and then we’ll see what the regular season brings.


WSU: The Lewiston portion of preseason camp is over, the last day held in heat only Cerberus could love. Theo Lawson was there, chewing on his phone charger to get a spark for today’s stories. It must have worked. He has 10 things to watch when the Cougars scrimmage tonight in Martin Stadium, as well as the news Fred Mauigoa is on another award’s watch list. … There are also six videos to pass along, including Mike Leach and assistant Steve Spurrier Jr., as well as players Sean Harper Jr., Jamire Calvin, Max Borghi and Trey Tinsley. … Former WSU player Jordan Simone, who finished at Arizona State, will be on the Sun Devils’ radio team this fall. … Tyler Hilinski’s suicide is still having repercussions. Arizona’s Tony Fields II, who delivered a crushing blow to Hilinski last season, has been struggling to deal with the quarterback’s death. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12, the first week of Oregon State’s preseason practice is over and the Beavers are poised to surprise someone. … Oregon hopes to stretch the field with its tight ends. … The Ducks agreed to a football series with Boise State. … California lost a lot from its receiver corps, but there are some weapons left. … Colorado has experience at the inside linebacker spots. … Utah expects its offense to be sharper in Troy Taylor’s second season. … USC has a linebacker with a bit different attitude. And the Trojans look at the kickoff return differently. … The same can be said of the cornerbacks at UCLA. … Though it couldn’t visit for the usual week, Arizona State traveled to the mountains for one day. … Arizona feels its defense will be better.

Gonzaga: There is little in the way of rest for Rui Hachimura, who played for the Japan national team this summer. This week he’s at the Nike Basketball Academy in Los Angeles, one of 25 college players invited. … The women have a challenging nonconference schedule, highlighted by a visit from Stanford. Jim Allen has all the particulars

EWU: Like many colleges around the nation, Eastern is dealing with a budget shortfall in its athletic department. Ryan Collingwood talked with new athletic director Lynn Hickey about it and more, all of which is covered in this story. … Bodie Reeder was sort of thrown into the offensive coordinator role last season. This year he’s more comfortable and expects the Eagle offense to roll. Ryan also has a story on that. … Around the Big Sky, there is an interesting father-son duo at Northern Arizona, with both having Inland Northwest ties. … Southern Utah is still deciding who will be its quarterback. … Montana State has a battle for the running back spot. … There are some new faces at Montana. … Idaho State has high hopes for its offensive line.

Idaho: Larry Weir’s Press Box pod focuses on the Vandals’ preseason football practice and the athletic department budget.

Indians: Despite five Boise errors, Spokane couldn’t get past the Hawks, losing 5-4 in the first game back following the all-star break. … Around the Northwest League, Robinson Cano played first base for Everett but his bat wasn’t enough to lift the AquaSox past Eugene. … Hillsboro topped Tri-City.

Preps: Coeur d’Alene’s Little League all-star team suffered its first loss yesterday and now has to win two consecutive games to make it to Williamsport. 

Mariners: Yes, the M’s won, which allowed them to stay within shouting distance of the new-look A’s. And, yes, Felix Hernandez was out in the bullpen last night, getting acclimated. … Kyle Seager won’t have a nickname on his nickname jersey. 

Seahawks: There were a lot of little-known players who stood out for the Hawks in the 19-17 loss to Indianapolis. … Shaqueem Griffin was one who stood out, but he’s probably not in the little-known category. … Tre Flowers probably is, as is Rasheem Green. … The anthem issue won’t go away, though it probably won’t be as big a deal as time goes by.


• Tomorrow is the 39th wedding anniversary for Kim and I. Yep, 39 years ago in a sweltering Lutheran church in Covina, Calif., we tied the knot. Four years later we were in Spokane and never left. Funny thing. I used to work with an S-R features editor who was married on the same day in Colorado. It was hot there too. Until later … 

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