Olson helps Mariners get to .500
Branyan homers, drives in three runs against O's
BALTIMORE -- When the rains came in the third inning, Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu was already plotting his strategy. Fill-in starter Garrett Olson had been hit hard, had already coughed up a two-run home run to Luke Scott and Wakamatsu was wondering how deep Olson could go and how much slack his bullpen could pick up.
The ensuing 27-minute stoppage answered those questions. Olson rebounded to gut out five innings, while Baltimore starter Koji Uehara briefly lost his ability to locate pitches and the Mariners pounced on his mistakes.
Russell Branyan homered and drove in three runs, Olson turned in a workman-like five innings and the Mariners rallied for a 6-3 victory over the Orioles on Thursday.
"Olson came out a little too aggressive. He didn't really find his command, but after the rain delay, I saw a different pitcher," said Wakamatsu. "During the rain delay, we were thinking about having to blow up the bullpen and he came right back out and gave us some depth there and saved the bullpen. ... He was just a little amped up the first two innings, then he settled down."
The victory gave the Mariners, who have won six of nine, a fourth straight series victory and helped them even their record at .500 (29-29) for the first time since May 10, when they were 16-16. Ichiro Suzuki went 2-for-5 and has now reached base in 40 consecutive games, the longest streak in the American League this season. That ties Ichiro's career high, established in 2004.
"We struggled for a good, solid month. We better not slow down," Mariners designated hitter Ken Griffey Jr. said.
Olson, an ex-Oriole called upon to start when the injured Ryan Rowland-Smith's Minor League rehabilitation assignment was extended, allowed two runs on five hits, walked three and struck out one. Olson (1-1) wasn't particularly sharp and allowed his share of well-hit fly balls in the club-record ninth straight game in which Mariners pitching yielded three or fewer runs.
"A win feels great," Olson said. "I think just being able to come back to this ballpark makes it even more special. It was fun to be able to do that."
Olson was lucky to escape the first only down 2-0. After walking leadoff hitter Brian Roberts, the next two hitters clubbed pitches that died in the humidity on the warning track. Scott, who let Olson stay in his condo last year when both were teammates in Baltimore, then blasted a 1-0 pitch over the wall in center for his 14th homer. Two more fly-ball outs extricated Olson from a two-on, none-out jam in the second.
"I was leaving the ball up a little bit over the middle of the plate too much," Olson said. "I didn't want to go out there picking at the zone. I still wanted to be aggressive, even though I didn't feel like my fastball command was on the first two innings. So you just kind of take a chance with that, let your defense play behind you."
Then came the rains, in the third inning after Endy Chavez had led off with a single against Uehara (2-4), who was activated off the 15-day disabled list earlier in the day after missing time with a left hamstring strain. The delay solved whatever was troubling Olson, but Uehara wasn't the same pitcher who got through two innings unscathed.
"I think just the speed of the game [changed]," Olson said. "It definitely felt faster the first two innings. I felt I was able to slow down after that and kind of stay within myself."
Uehara lost his command as quickly as Olson seemed to gain his. A three-pitch sequence resulted in three consecutive Seattle hits and fueled a go-ahead, three-run rally. Ichiro worked the count to 2-2 before hitting a Uehara changeup off the right-field scoreboard for a double.
Branyan followed with a broken-bat RBI single to center on the next pitch, an 87-mph fastball, and Beltre hit the first pitch he saw, a flat changeup, to left for a 2-2 tie. Beltre was erased on Griffey's fielder's choice that moved Branyan to third, and he scored on Jose Lopez's sacrifice fly, giving the Mariners the lead.
"Three in a row and he got them up in the zone," Wakamatsu said. "Before that, he had good command."
Added Branyan: "I think maybe [Uehara] got a little tired. ... He started leaving his split up a little bit and he was going to that more often. The first time around, he focused on getting us to swing at strikes."
Ichiro tripled to center leading off the fifth and scored on Branyan's sacrifice fly to right, making it 4-2. Uehara departed after the fifth, having allowed four runs on seven hits, walking one and fanning three.
Branyan connected on a 450-foot shot to center off Brian Bass leading off the seventh, his 14th homer. It tied for the sixth-longest home run in the history of Camden Yards and Griffey ribbed his teammate, who lamented not being able to connect on anything but a solo shot.
"If you hit them that long, they should be solos, so you can enjoy the whole thing," Griffey said.
Once Olson was pulled, the bullpen did the rest, allowing two hits over the final four innings. Baltimore scored its third run when Chris Jakubauskas uncorked a wild pitch with runners on second and third in the seventh. David Aardsma notched his 11th save with a 1-2-3 ninth.
Pete Kerzel is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.