By Kirby Arnold
SEATTLE — The road toward their ultimate goal, the World Series, has taken the Seattle Mariners past one of major league baseball’s most impressive records.
The Mariners beat the Texas Rangers 6-2 Friday at Safeco Field to win for the 115th time this year and set the American League record for victories in a season. The 1998 New York Yankees won 114 games.
"I’ve never managed a team that’s won over 92," manager Lou Piniella said. "In Vegas (before the season), they had us at 82."
With two games remaining in the regular season, the Mariners now are aiming for baseball’s all-time win record, 116 victories by the 1906 Chicago Cubs. The Mariners must go undefeated this weekend to beat that record.
The Mariners clinched the American League West Division championship almost three weeks ago and will begin the playoffs at home Tuesday against the Cleveland Indians.
Few imagined before the season started that the Mariners would achieve such success.
When shortstop Alex Rodriguez became a free agent and elected to sign with the Rangers last winter, he became the third superstar, along with pitcher Randy Johnson and center fielder Ken Griffey Jr., to leave the Mariners in the past three years.
The Oakland A’s, who won the AL West championship last year, were favored to win it again this season.
The Mariners, however, added leadoff hitter Ichiro Suzuki and RBI producer Bret Boone, and they strengthened their pitching staff with reliever Jeff Nelson, who played on that 1998 Yankees team. The M’s built a huge lead over the A’s in the first six weeks of the season and were never threatened on the way to their third division championship in franchise history.
"We weren’t really picked to win our division. Some people had us as the third pick behind Oakland and Texas," Piniella said. "So what these guys have done has been phenomenal to watch. I’ve marveled at it as a manager how professional they are, how resilient they are, and how they get after it every day for nine innings.
"We’re not a dominant type team. We’ve got to go out there and play our game every night."
In 115 of those games, that’s been good enough to make the Mariners winners. No other team in the American League can say that.