The Mariners' great successes of the early 1990s followed considerable instability within the organization. As the fate of the club shifted from Jeff Smulyan to Fusajiro Yamauchi, the team cycled through several managers, from Jim Lefebrve to Bill Plummer to Lou Piniella. On the field, however, the M's finally established themselves, clawing their way to the top of the division in 1995.
July 18, 1991
It was not a good day for the Brewers.
By the eighth inning, Milwaukee was trailing by two runs, both RBI line drives off the bat of Ken Griffey, Jr. Right-hander Jamie Navarro was crafting his seventh loss of the year: through seven innings, he allowed the Mariners eight hits and three walks.
When relief arrived for Navarro, the inning had already begun to implode. A 10-run burst propelled the M's to their second-biggest shutout in team history. Before Dave Valle grounded out to end the inning, the team had reached base in nearly every way possible: base hit, walk, fielding error, double, triple, home run.
Perhaps most impressive of all were the coinciding performances of Griffey and Omar Vizquel, both of whom recorded five hits in the game. To this day, it is the only time two Mariners have had five hits in the same game. Vizquel didn't miss a beat, going five-for-five with five singles, an RBI, and scoring two runs. For his part, Griffey managed a double and four base hits in six plate appearances, driving in three batters and scoring a single run.
August 19, 1992
For the first time in his career as a Mariner, Bret Boone hit over .300 in 2001. Back in January, Jeff examined this phenomenon, noting the distinct un-Bret Boonness of his second stint in Seattle. Boone mashed 37 home runs. He led the league with 141 RBI. He finished third on the ballot for 2001 AL MVP.
In 1992, Boone made a different, less baseball-centric kind of impression. He was celebrated not on his own merit, but simply for stepping onto the field as the third Boone to wear a major league uniform. Carrying the legacy of All-Stars Ray and Robert, Bret garnished his MLB debut with a walk and a base hit against the second-place Baltimore Orioles.
And, while the game's historical implications may have titillated fans and players alike, Boone's memories of the day were a little harder to pin down. From Bob Finnigan's recap in the Seattle Times: "The game was awesome, he [Boone] said, "but I honestly can't remember it. I just know it was awesome."
By the end of his first major league season, Boone was toting a batting line of .194/.224/.318 through his first 33 games. In 1994, an uncomfortable pattern of releasing soon-to-be successful players continued, and Boone was sent to the Cincinnati Reds.
April 22, 1993
Chris Bosio never had a perfect game spoiled.
There is something gut-wrenching about that first baserunner in a no-hitter, whether he reaches by walk, by a stray pitch, or by a fielder's misstep. On April 22, 1993, 30-year-old Bosio didn't feel the sudden pang of disappointment when the visiting Red Sox got on base. Neither did the 13,604 fans at the Kingdome.
Instead, Bosio began the game with back-to-back walks to Ernie Riles and Carlos Quintana. When Mike Greenwell came up, it took Bosio 12 pitches to induce a ground-ball double play. The Mariners quickly provided a generous serving of run support, accumulating seven runs through six innings and leaving their starter to finish off the last three innings on his own. In eight innings, not a single Red Sock reached base.
Unlike Randy Johnson's no-hitter of 1990, Bosio was stingy with his strikeouts. He retired just four Red Sox, allowing his teammates to field the remaining 23 outs. Since that day, no Mariner has recorded as few as four strikeouts in a no-hitter. What Bosio lacked in deceptive pitches and whiffs, however, he made up for in economy. The right-hander tossed just 97 pitches, the fifth-lowest in MLB no-hitter history.
Oh, and as for the Red Sox -- they haven't been no-hit since.
July 9, 1994
In 1993, the reports were coming in with exclamation points and capital letters. "As good a high school prospect as you want." "Better at 17 now than all the superstars in baseball were when they were seniors in HS." "Can do it all -- right now!" "ONE OF THE BEST PLAYERS IN THE AMERICAN LEAGUE."
Before his name was rhymed with steroids, before a lucrative contract betrayed the trust and affection of the Seattle fanbase, Alex Rodriguez was the most exciting thing in the Mariners' system. At the ripe old age of 18, he debuted at Fenway Park on July 8, 1994, a game better characterized by his smooth fielding than his 0-for-3 performance at the plate.
The next night, the Red Sox were less fortunate. Chris Bosio took the mound again, this time without a no-hitter in hand. The M's won handily, beating the Red Sox 7-4 on 13 hits and Edgar Martinez's two home runs. A-Rod picked up his first two hits and a stolen base in a Seattle uniform, accentuating his performance with a rundown and pickoff more suited to the style of Brendan Ryan.
It wasn't until 1996 that the Mariners got a full taste of the young shortstop's potential. In what would become a 16-year streak of nominations and awards, the 20-year-old received a Silver Slugger, a place in the All-Star lineup, and second place on the AL MVP ballots, losing the bid by a single vote to Texas right fielder Juan Gonzalez.
October 2, 1995
On September 1, 1995, the California Angels led the AL West by 6.5 games.
On September 15, the Angels led by four games.
On October 1, they were tied.
The tie-breaking game was played in the Kingdome in front of a playoff-hungry crowd. Neither the Mariners nor the Angels had developed a taste for the postseason yet -- it was Seattle's first shot at a title, while Anaheim struggled to end a nine-year drought.
Were it not for Randy Johnson, the Angels might have had a chance. Johnson carried a perfect game into the 6th inning. Batting ninth, Rex Hudler poked out a single to disrupt the no-no, only to be foiled by an inning-ending strikeout from third baseman Tony Phillips. Still, the Mariners were up by just one run, a lone RBI single by leadoff batter Vince Coleman. It took just one more inning for the game to explode.
In the 7th, Luis Sojo stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs. Mark Langston had given up seven hits, a run, and three walks. It was his last at-bat of the playoffs. Sojo ripped a double to right field and scooted around the bases to drive in four runs. He beat Mark Langston on the tag at home. He fist pumped. He high-fived Tino Martinez while Langston lay on home plate and stared at the roof of the Kingdome.
Four pitching changes later, the Angels were scrambling for outs. In the 8th, Tino Martinez punched an RBI single through the infield. Dan Wilson hit a two-RBI double, scoring both Jay Buhner and Mike Blowers. Not to be outdone, Joey Cora picked up a run on a double play, allowing Martinez to cross home plate for the M's ninth and final run of the game.
By the 9th, the Angels had just enough left in their tank to put themselves on the board. Tony Phillips redeemed his previous at-bat with a leadoff home run, the third hit of the night for Johnson. Unfortunately for Phillips, his efforts went unrewarded. Pinch-hitters Spike Owen and Eduardo Perez made quick, unproductive outs. With two outs and no one on base, right fielder Tim Salmon struck out for the fourth time that night, handing Johnson his 12th strikeout, 18th win, and the division title.
Photo credit: Last October, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's Casey McNerthney released a gallery of photos from this game. Previously withheld from the public, they reveal some of the fonder moments of the game -- for Mariners fans, that is.
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