Stat rats were thought to be burrowing deep into their reference nests this week to see whether any team besides the Seattle Mariners ever won - indeed, played - three games in as many days against different opponents in separate towns. The closest comparable feat seems to have been former Food and Drug Administration Chief David Kessler getting simultaneous law and med degrees in different cities. If he'd also managed to get a third sheepskin in something really tough (journalism, say), the comparison might be valid. But here the M's were: in Seattle Wednesday, May 2, chumping the Chisox 3-2. Then they were there: in Boston the next night playing a make-up game against the Bosox, tagging hyped right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka for five in the first inning. The M's would eventually get out-hit 15 to 6 and watch a pair of Manny Ramirez long-balls finish them off, 8-7, spoiling a shot at a Friday trifecta against the Yankees in New York. They'd still lay claim to the three-straight-games-in-three-cities oddity, but fans would have preferred the three wins. That the M's would ever again win three in a row this season was thought improbable as recently as mid-April during a six-loss skein. But timely hitting and a better-than-expected bullpen have kept the Mediocre Ship Mariner (12-11) bobbing next to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in Orange County, Calif., atop the becalming waters of the American League West. Success has come despite (a) the absence of pitching ace Felix Hernandez, shelved until the Tuesday, May 8, game in Detroit, and (b) the presence of Jeff Weaver, slated to take his 0-4 record and 18.26 earned-run average to the mound at Yankee Stadium on Saturday, May 5. It's happened even though Ichiro Suzuki (.272) stopped hitting and Richie Sexson (.150) hasn't really started. The first baseman made the final out against Boston after Jose Vidro walked and Raul Ibanez doubled up pinch runner Willie Bloomquist in the ninth. So it's been a season that skeptics and rabid fans both can embrace. It's just as easy to see this team going 12-150 as 151-11. Something almost exactly in between seems likely. Let's look at the plusses: The bullpen has been better than locals have seen for years. J.J. Putz is still the imposing, intimidating closer. Rookie Brandon Morrow, who throws faster than most cars top out, is a strike-throwing maniac at right-handed set-up. George Sherrill has been just as effective at lefty set-up. Starting pitching, with one notable exception (his name rhymes with "Jeff Weaver"), has been acceptable, with two-guy Jarrod Washburn not just pitching well but endearing himself to early risers by working fast and helping get night games finished early. Miguel Batista had a workmanlike outing against Chicago in the first of the three road-tour games and is 3-2. Everyday players show promise for the long haul of the season. Vidro has been a major upgrade at designated hitter, but that's not saying much when he replaced last year's Carl Everett. Adrian Beltre apparently will never replicate his dream season with the Dodgers but he still plays killer third base and contributes to a solid defensive infield that should only get better. Maybe the greatest upgrade is offense at the catcher position, with Kenji Johjima hitting .305 and back-up Jamie Burke 6 for 16 so far. The club could use more offense off the bench. Conveniently, versatile M's roster frequenter Mike Morse of the farm-club Tacoma Rainiers was just named Pacific Coast League player of the week. Too bad baseball rules preclude Morse from playing for the M's and Rainiers at the same time. He could be the David Kessler of baseball.