CLEVELAND – The Seattle Mariners had ended the first half of their season on a roll, brimming with confidence.
They started the second half Thursday on a downer, brimming with sloppiness.
Playing as ragged a game as they have all year, the Mariners fell, 4-1, to the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field.
“Not exactly the game we were looking for to come out and start the second half,” said Mariners’ manager Don Wakamatsu.
Facing the team with the worst record in the American League – but with the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner, Cliff Lee, on the mound – the M’s started sloppy, and got sloppier.
Starter Garrett Olson struggled mightily, and slogged his way through 22/3 innings before Wakamatsu had seen enough. But that was long enough for Olson to give up five hits, three walks and three runs.
“I didn’t think Olson came out and had much of a feel,” Wakamatsu said. “I thought he pitched a little defensively and his tempo was poor.”
It hardly got better. The Mariners made four errors and stranded eight runners. That’s on top of the 10 hits, two wild pitches and four walks allowed by their five pitchers.
In a bit of an oddity, the M’s had one hit in each inning, but their only run came on Ronny Cedeno’s home run in the fifth.
Wakamatsu’s postgame comments were tinged with irritation.
For the Mariners, each game from now until the July 31 trade deadline is vital as their front-office tries to determine whether to be buyers or sellers. This was an inauspicious start to that stretch of 15 games.
“You could see with Wak in the dugout today that he’d like to see us play a little bit better,” said Russ Branyan. “He didn’t want that game today, four errors, and us to spread out our hits like that, not really being able to manufacture a couple of runs.”
Branyan himself was at the center of the Mariners’ frustration. In the first inning, he smashed a ball off the center-field wall that caromed away from Cleveland center fielder Grady Sizemore. It had the makings of a triple, but Branyan, who had tweaked his back on the swing, trotted into second base.
“It was a little bit tight all day,” said Branyan, who has had periodic back spasms this season. “It got a little bit better as the game went on, and I think it will be a lot better tomorrow.”
It likely cost the Mariners a chance to jump ahead. Branyan died at second as Jose Lopez and Ken Griffey Jr. grounded out.
Lee, who came into the game with a 4-9 record (to go with a 3.47 ERA) never allowed the Mariners to get to the bullpen. He fired a complete-game nine-hitter, striking out six and not walking any.
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