Olson, Mariners hurt by miscues in opener
Solid relievers unable to negate shaky start, four errors
CLEVELAND -- The Mariners' bullpen was pretty good Thursday, but Cliff Lee was better.
Starter Garrett Olson never found a rhythm, checking out after 2 2/3 innings as Seattle stumbled to a 4-1 loss to the Indians to open the second half of the season -- all while Lee went the distance at Progressive Field.
Olson gave up three runs -- two earned -- before exiting early and forcing Seattle to lean hard on its bullpen. Poor defense in the form of four Mariners errors helped undermine the bullpen's 5 1/3 innings of one-run ball. The run allowed was, of course, unearned.
"Not exactly the game we were looking for to come out and start the second half," manager Don Wakamatsu said.
Olson was in trouble every inning, but after he walked Travis Hafner with two outs in the bottom of the third, the Mariners pulled the plug, beginning a long night of work for Seattle's bullpen. Olson threw 69 pitches, only 34 of which were for strikes. He also walked three Tribe batters and gave up five hits.
"I think we've talked about it all year long, the importance of the starting pitcher establishing a tempo, and I think it is two-fold," Wakamatsu said. "I don't think Olson came out and had much of a feel. I thought he kind of pitched a little defensively, and his tempo was poor."
Olson found himself in too many three-ball counts, and he said his biggest problem resulted from overthinking his pitches.
"I had a hard time finding the zone consistently," Olson said. "It's kind of one of those things where you slow down rather than attacking hitters. ... I should grab the ball, get the sign and attack hitters."
Wakamatsu added: "When you have to throw that many pitches, it's not an equation for success."
Chris Jakubauskas answered the first bullpen call, faring better than Olson in his 2 1/3 innings, but he committed the second team error, making the run he allowed unearned. Two wild pitches also helped dampen what otherwise would have been a decent outing for Jakubuskas, who gave up two hits and walked one.
Shawn Kelley, Roy Corcoran and Mark Lowe each added a scoreless inning of relief.
In all, the Seattle bullpen gave up an unearned run on five hits and a walk -- which was good, but not as great as Lee.
"But the positive, and I try to find one every game we play, was the bullpen," Wakamatsu said. "We got everybody some work after the break, got them in, and we pitched [5 1/3 frames] with an unearned run. I'm not going to sit here and chastise the whole team and try to find out who comes back after break and is locked in. Other guys maybe have to get an adjustment."
First baseman Russell Branyan was slow to adjust. Branyan doubled off the center-field wall in the first inning, but tightness in his back kept him from trying to stretch it into a triple. An inning later, Branyan's first error let Ben Francisco, who would later score, reach base.
Branyan lost the throw to first on Francisco's ground ball in the sun, he said.
"I never even saw that ball," Branyan said. "I tried to put my glove where I thought it was."
According to Branyan, the tightness is nothing to worry about, just a little rust from the All-Star break.
"When I started running little, it was a bit tight," Branyan said. "It was tight all day, but it got a little better as the game went on, and I bet it will be better tomorrow."
The Mariners managed little against Lee, who struck out six and walked none while scattering nine hits over his complete-game effort.
Kenji Johjima fared the best against Lee, going 3-for-4, and Jose Lopez added a pair of singles, but nothing came of the multihit nights.
"With Lee, he showed why he was a Cy Young winner last year and why he has been so good over his last 10 starts or so," Wakamatsu said. "He never got anything over the plate."
Ronny Cedeno's solo homer in the fifth plated the Mariners' only run.
Seattle went 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position, as Lee ended the threats before they became anything serious. In addition to Branyan's double, Franklin Gutierrez also doubled, but he was left standing on base.
Stephen Ellsesser is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.