Mariners and Hawks and Storm and Huskies and Sounders. Oh, my!

Mariners' hopes for a playoff spot are fading, right as new coaches for the Hawks and the Huskies prompt hope for turnaround seasons.
Mariners' hopes for a playoff spot are fading, right as new coaches for the Hawks and the Huskies prompt hope for turnaround seasons.

Seattle beat Kansas City 14-10 Saturday (Aug. 29). A couple of hours later Seattle beat Kansas City 8-4. High-scoring baseball double-header? Naw, it'ꀙs just an odd coincidence that the seasonal transition of sports emphasis involved a pair of burgs pitting football and baseball teams against one under a few thousand miles apart. Football begins just as baseball ends.

The Seattle Mariners have won five of seven during the current home stand but can'ꀙt seem to climb higher than fourth in the hunt for the American League wild-card berth. As September beckons, the surprising 'ꀙ09 M'ꀙs (68-62) are nonetheless consigned to also-ran status against better wild-card competitors Boston, Texas, and Tampa Bay. Win or lose, the M'ꀙs normally are no better than seven and a half games behind in the climb to become the league'ꀙs fourth playoff team. With just 32 games remaining, it seems unlikely that the Mariners have much of a shot at the post-season.

Injuries have kept the club'ꀙs better performers (Ichiro, Adrian Beltre, now Russell Branyan) out of action. The team has been winning with improbable combinations of names that either weren'ꀙt on the Day One roster or didn'ꀙt figure to be effective. The Aug. 29 game featured six guys in the starting lineup who weren'ꀙt with the team as the season began. A seventh starter, Rob Johnson, was a back-up catcher in April.

It doesn'ꀙt hurt that the M'ꀙs have been playing a pair of the league'ꀙs bottom-feeders: three wins against the Oakland A'ꀙs and a 2-2 split against the Royals. Then the West Division-leading Los Angeles Angels fly in for three. The M'ꀙs no doubt will need the return of Ichiro (calf injury) and Beltre (bruised testicle) for a chance at taking games from L.A. But Branyan is on the 15-day disabled list with back problems.

The Seattle Seahawks also are nursing wounds, with much of the first-string offensive linemen in various states of physical distress. Yet the Hawks, albeit in exhibition games (they'ꀙre 3-0 after the 14-10 win over the Chiefs), already have nearly as many wins as they amassed during last year'ꀙs regular season. Judging from online optimism, fans expect new coach Jim Mora to improve immediately on the 'ꀙ08 4-12 record. The early schedule (starting with a Sept. 13 home game against the St. Louis Rams, followed by San Francisco away, Chicago at home and Indianapolis on the road) is favorable enough so that the Hawks actually could have four wins by the first week of October.

The Seahawks have upgraded in a number of areas, but football success starts with an offensive line. Guards and tackles are relatively anonymous amid the marquee luminaries. T.J. Houshmandzadeh (not that it would fit on many marquees) was a terrific pick-up at receiver; Edgerrin James, acquired just last week for insurance purposes at running back, boasts Hall of Fame credentials. But the offense will be pressured if the O-line is depleted. Even given a rich supply of linebackers and a better secondary, Mora and company can'ꀙt expect to blow anybody away if mended quarterback Matt Hasselbeck is pressured all the time.

Nevertheless it'ꀙs a heady time to be a Seattle-region sports fan, what with the addition of a playoff-qualifying Storm team (temporarily without the services of injured star Lauren Jackson) and a Sounders club that drew nearly 33,000 prior to the M'ꀙs game.

Not lost among tens of thousands of other fans is the Sept. 5 debut of the Steve Sarkisian-era University of Washington football team, variously seen as a 15- to 20-point betting under-Dawg at home against Louisiana State. Too bad the Huskies aren'ꀙt playing a team from Kansas City.


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