It’s looking almost too easy.
Of course, their magic number for clinching the American League West is still 141. But while their rivals can’t find first gear in this young baseball season, the Seattle Mariners already seem to be on cruise control.
For the first time in a decade, the M’s have opened the season with back-to-back victories - beating Detroit 9-2 Friday night as right-hander Chris Bosio somewhat startlingly discovered the rhythm that eluded him during the abbreviated spring training.
And while it was the monster mash of Ken Griffey Jr. that won Thursday’s opener 3-0 for Randy Johnson, on this night the Mariners turned to the auxiliary.
Free-agent pickup Joey Cora had a tworun homer and light-hitting catcher Dan Wilson a two-run double in a five-run fifth inning - Seattle tagging the Tigers’ wretched pitching staff for 14 hits.
Predictably, it’s too soon for any broad statements. Even Bosio resorted to “no comment” when asked something as harmless as whether the 1995 M’s were better than the previous version.
“The chemistry is very good,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of guys who hustle and play hard and I don’t think we can have anything but success.
“It’s a comfortable clubhouse this year.”
Seconded designated hitter Edgar Martinez, “We have a good team, we have confidence we can win and we’re making the plays.”
No argument so far. Thirteenth in the A.L. in fielding last season, the M’s are errorless thus far and turned four double plays for Bosio and Jeff Nelson, who pitched out of the night’s only danger after Lee Guetterman had taken over in the sixth and yielded three straight singles without getting an out. Cora and shortstop Felix Fermin, in particular, have looked sharp, and manager Lou Piniella said that’s no accident.
“That’s one of the things we really worked on in the spring,” he said. “We worked our infield especially hard. For our pitchers to improve, our defense has to improve.”
Bosio - who brought a 7.45 ERA out of three spring-training appearances - was a different pitcher indoors. He gave up four hits and fanned five in his five innings, throwing 43 of his 68 pitches for strikes.
It didn’t hurt when the M’s jumped to a 2-0 lead in the first on RBI singles by Jay Buhner and Martinez. Bosio gave up a cutfastball home run to Tigers shortstop Chris Gomez to halve the lead in the third, but Seattle ended the suspense by tattooing Detroit starter John Doherty in the fifth.
Edgar and Tino Martinez opened with singles and Wilson followed one out later with a double into the left-field corner to score both runners. Darren Bragg followed with another single to score Wilson and then Cora crushed an opposite-field home run to right - only his fifth dinger in 1,609 major-league atbats.
“We just want him to get on base and let Junior and (Jay) Buhner hit the home runs,” Piniella said of Cora, whose professional career began in Spokane in 1985, “but one every now and then is OK.”
Other than some fine plays in the field, the evening’s only excitement came when Griffey’s two-out popup in the eighth inning hit a speaker suspended from the Kingdome ceiling and fell for a base hit. Felix Fermin scored on the play, but Bragg was thrown out trying to make it home from first.
And left-hander Ron Villone gave 19,336 fans a suggestion that he might serve as Bobby Ayala’s associate closer with a 1-2-3 ninth in his major-league debut.
“I thought they really threw well,” said Tigers manager Sparky Anderson. “Bosio did exactly what he wanted to do, Nelson looked good and that last kid really looked good. He reminds me of that kid in Atlanta, (Mike) Stanton.”
The last time the M’s started the season 2-0 was in 1985 - when they ran the string to 6-0. In contrast, the rest of the West is 2-6, California winning in 10 innings Friday while Texas blew a 9-3 lead before subduing Cleveland 10-9.