Perhaps manager Don Wakamatsu summed tonight’s loss perfectly when he said: "Not exactly the game we were looking for to come out and start the second half.”
No, skip it was not. It was ugly four errors, two wild pitches, seven runners left on base but it all started with Garrett Olson’s outing of 2 2/3 innings.
“I think we’ve talked all year long the importance of the starting pitcher establishing a tempo,” Wakamatsu said. “I think it was two-fold. No. 1, I didn’t think Olson came out and had much of a feel. I thought he pitched a little defensively and his tempo was poor.”
Poor? Olson grinded that game into a mind-numbing halt, agonizing between pitches and basically pitching like Miguel Batista with Rickey Henderson on first base.
"It just was one of those unfortunate days when I could not find a rhythm, even in the first inning," Olson said. "I just really had a hard time finding the zone consistently."
And the lack of rhythm led to the extended moments between pitches, between hitters, between breaths.
"I feel like I forced myself to kind of slow down," Olson said. "I think when you do that, you can continue take yourself out of a rhythm instead of just attacking hitters. Looking back, I should have just grabbed the ball, get the sign and attack the hitters."
Wakamatsu said Olson was being defensive and trying to be too perfect.
“That’s where we talk about sometimes guys want to be too perfect,” Wakamatsu said. “We talked about it after the first inning. I said you don’t have to be too perfect out there. It’s not for lack of care or anything else. It’s probably caring too much. I think he put a lot of emphasis on him being outstanding today, instead of going out and doing like he does out of the bullpen. At least he’s done such a tremendous job. I saw a little different body language and maybe trying to carry a club out there the first two innings.”
Olson admitted that he wanted to help the team get off on a good start in the second half, but didn’t think he was putting too much pressure on himself. He did think he might have been trying to be too fine.
“It seems to be like I was trying to make good pitches out there instead of letting it just go through the zone like I have been doing most of the season,” Olson said. “I guess its another way of putting it, definitely.”
So what happens next for him? Well that’s a good question. Can the Mariners afford to start him again in their four man rotation and have an outing like that. They are going to be five games back on Friday with the Angels winning.
It should be noted that the Rainiers rotation slotted out with Steven Shell pitching tonight, Ryan Rowland-Smith starting on Friday, followed by Gaby Hernandez, Brandon Morrow and Jason Vargas. But watch to see if they shake-up the rotation, or limit Rowland-Smith so he could possibly make that start on Tuesday in Detroit, or even Vargas for that matter.
Let’s get to Russell Branyan. I must offer a bit of an apology for saying that Branyan got into his home run trot on that first inning double. Apparently he tweaked his back when he was running to first and that’s why he didn’t get a triple.
Branyan says its nothing major, and it must not be because he played the rest of the game.
"I think it was just maybe the three days off and it just was tight getting back into the swing of things," he said. "It was just when I started running. It was a little bit tight all day. It got a little bit better as the game went on and I think it will be a lot better tomorrow."
If Branyan doesn’t tweak his back, he swears he would have gotten a triple and the Mariners would have had another run on Jose Lopez’s grounder to second.
Still the Mariners got a hit in every inning, but only the one hit. Ronny Cedeno got the only run with a solo homer.
Perhaps, but maybe a day off wouldn’t hurt since the Indians will start another lefty and give Chris Shelton more than a token pinch hit appearance.
As for the error in the second inning, he lost the ball in the sun, which we all figured.
Branyan was honest about the team’s efforts on Thursday.
"Coming back form three days off, teams respond differently," Mariners first baseman Russell Branyan said. "We came out a little bit flat today."
It is still way too early for the Mariners or the fans to begin panicking about such a uncharacteristic outing. It is after all the first game after the all-star break.
No one on the Mariners is fretting.
"I think we’ll get it out of our system this one game, and tomorrow we’ll come back and we’ll start to see a more polished ball club," Branyan said. "I don’t think anyone here is really worried."
Let’s hope so.