SEATTLE — The standings show that the Angels are 12-7 and leading the American League West by 1 1/2 games.
It has been suggested, however, that the season doesn't open until tonight, the true test coming in the form of 32 straight games with the Eastern juggernauts Boston, Toronto, Milwaukee, New York, Detroit and Baltimore.
Former Angel manager John McNamara leads the Red Sox into Anaheim Stadium tonight to initiate this 5 1/2-week siege.
Is Manager Gene Mauch nervous?
Mauch brushed a hand through his already gray hair Sunday and said:
"If we play our best game it doesn't matter who we're playing."
The Angels didn't play their best game Sunday but it didn't matter because they were playing the shipwrecked Mariners, who have now lost eight in a row and 12 of their last 13, a span in which they have been outscored 89-33.
The Angels got only five hits, stranded 12, had baserunner Doug DeCinces miss the sign on a fourth-inning squeeze play, used four pitchers and still won, 2-1.
Seven walks in a 3-inning stint by Seattle starter Salome Barojas were instrumental as the Angels won their seventh in a row on the road, their fourth in a row overall and their 10th in the last 13 games.
They also emerged with a new injury and the hint of bad blood toward the docile Mariners.
The injury occured in the sixth inning when Tommy John strained an abdominal muscle pitching to Domingo Ramos with two outs.
John, who had not worked in 10 days because of a strained neck that forced him to miss his last start, had scattered six hits, including a solo homer by Phil Bradley in the fifth.
He felt the strain on his first pitch to Ramos, tried one more, then summoned Mauch, who summoned Doug Corbett.
John later compared the feeling to the cramping that comes from doing too many situps. He was examined by the Seattle team physician who told him he may have tried to put too much on the pitch to Ramos and also may have experienced the effect of a lingering cough that possibly weakened the abdominal muscle. The physician prescribed muscle relaxants and told John that he should not miss a turn.
"I may miss some work around the house but I won't miss any pitching," John said.
Corbett combined with Rafael Lugo, who pitched 1 shutout innings in his major league debut, and Donnie Moore to preserve the 2-1 lead and John's first win since Aug. 6, ending his string of five straight losses. Moore, who pitched the final 1 innings, has not allowed a run in his last seven appearances, registering three saves.
The bad blood festered in the seventh when Rod Carew was hit on his right elbow by the first pitch from Seattle southpaw Ed Vande Berg.
Both Carew, who remained in the game but later wore an ice pack on the elbow, and Mauch suspected that Vande Berg was retaliating for an inside fastball with which John moved Alvin Davis off the plate following Bradley's homer in the fifth.
Davis and Manager Chuck Cottier viewed it as pay back for the Bradley homer and jawed briefly at plate umpire Dale Ford.
"Evidently, Vande Berg sat down there (in the bullpen) and said to himself that T.J. took a shot at Davis," Mauch said later. "I don't think it was dictated from the bench, but it did upset me.
"Maybe John did (throw at Davis) and maybe he didn't. I don't know and I don't care. That pitch used to be an integral part of the game."
John said he was only trying to come in on Davis after pitching him away. Carew scoffed at the idea of the sinkerballing John throwing at a hitter. However, he definitely felt that was what Vande Berg did.
"It was stupid," Carew said. "I don't mind getting brushed back but I don't like a pitch that's behind me because there's no place to go.
"Bryan Clark threw one at my face (initiating a fight) when he was with the Mariners a couple years ago, and I had to have a talk with (Seattle rookie) Karl Best yesterday because he told some guys after pitching against us Friday night that he wanted to knock me down.
"Maybe it's because I'm swinging the bat good, I don't know, but I told Best that if he wants to brush me back or that if he gets me out that's fine, but if he knocks me down by throwing at me, then I'll have to come out after him."
Best replaced Vande Berg Sunday and shut out the Angels over the final 2 innings, striking out Carew in the ninth.
The Angels, meanwhile, had scored solo runs off Barojas in the first and second innings.
The explosive Gary Pettis opened the game with a triple. Carew walked. Brian Downing struck out as Carew broke for second on the front end of a delayed double steal. Catcher Donnie Scott threw to second baseman Harold Reynolds. Pettis didn't break until Scott made his throw. Reynolds caught it in front of the bag, made no play on Carew, but the fleet Pettis still beat his return throw to Scott.
Seattle generosity produced the run that proved decisive. Bobby Grich walked to open the second, moved to second on a ground out, to third on a wild pitch and scored on a passed ball on Scott.