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MARINERS AND BONDS RESUME CHASES

The Seattle Mariners are heading toward the playoffs with a shot at becoming the winningest team in American League history.

The Mariners (109-44) will open an important three-game series tonight at Safeco Field against the AL West's other playoff team, the Oakland Athletics.

The A's swept Seattle in Oakland last weekend, but the Mariners bounced back with a three-game sweep in Texas.

"We're back to playing our kind of baseball," center fielder Mike Cameron said. "We were in a little rut for a minute, but we're back on track now."

With nine games to go, including seven at home, the Mariners still have a mathematical chance of breaking the 1906 Chicago Cubs' modern record of 116 victories. But they'd have to win eight more.

What's more likely is breaking the AL record of 114 wins, set by the 1998 New York Yankees. The Mariners would have to win six of their last nine for that to happen.

"I don't know if we can catch the Cubs," second baseman Bret Boone said. "That would be awfully tough. We've got a chance to catch the Yankees, though."

Only the 1906 Cubs, 1998 Yankees, 1954 Cleveland Indians (111 wins) and the 1909 Pittsburgh Pirates (110) and the 1927 Yankees (110) had more victories than the 2001 Mariners.

Bonds salutes Gwynn

SAN FRANCISCO -- It's hard to imagine that Barry Bonds, at 37, owner of 561 home runs and a first-ballot Hall of Famer, would need a mentor. While at San Diego's Qualcomm Stadium last week, he simply had to walk down the hallway to find one.

His name was Tony Gwynn.

With Gwynn making his final visit to San Francisco this weekend during a three-game series at Pacific Bell Park that begins tonight, Bonds knows a unique talent like the soon-to-be-retired Padres right fielder doesn't come around often.

"If you want to learn from the best you've got to watch the best," Bonds said. "That's the bottom line. If I had been in a Padres uniform he wouldn't have gotten nothing by me. I would have picked his brain so bad he wouldn't have any brain cells left."

Gwynn, 41, will bring his 3,139 hits, two shy of tying Robin Yount for 15th place on the all-time list, to the City by the Bay for the final time. The Giants are planning a 10-15 minute ceremony honoring him before Sunday's game.

If Gwynn's swan song and Bonds' pursuit of the single-season home run record aren't enough to make Pac Bell the place to be, how about Rickey Henderson's drive for two milestones?

Henderson needs five hits to reach 3,000 and two more runs to break Ty Cobb's record of 2,245. Henderson did not start the past two games in Colorado specifically so he could try to achieve his landmark figures in the Bay Area, where he was born and raised and played much of his career with the A's.

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