SEATTLE -- Cliff Lee was as fabulous as advertised in his Seattle debut. His curveball dipped and dazzled. Fastballs clipped each side of the plate. And a diving slider showed why he was the Mariners' prized acquisition from Philadelphia this winter.
"This team is known for pitching and defense," Lee said after he returned from injury to strike out eight Texas Rangers in seven scoreless innings Friday night. "And tonight was a perfect example of it."
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Too true for Seattle.Elvis Andrus scored on a wild pitch by Brandon League to break a scoreless tie in the 12th inning and Texas beat the offensively inept Mariners 2-0, spoiling Lee's sterling season debut."Lee was probably as good as you can ask," Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said. "I mean, he was near perfect."Julio Borbon's RBI groundout against League (3-2) came after moments after a throwing error by shortstop Matt Tuiasosopo, an extra-innings replacement for defensive whiz Jack Wilson.Wilson came out when pinch-hitter Mike Sweeney hit into a rally-killing double play to end the 11th.League had retired all six Rangers he'd faced in the 10th and 11th. But he had to keep pitching because Eric Byrnes, another late-game replacement, botched a suicide squeeze.Frank Francisco (3-3) pitched the wild 11th for Texas before Neftali Feliz finished for his fourth save.Texas starter Colby Lewis matched Lee, who allowed three hits in seven scoreless innings, and then exceeded him with nine scoreless innings in all. Lewis retired 21 consecutive batters and struck out 10 for the third time in five starts this season.Lee, the 2008 AL Cy Young Award winner with Cleveland, struck out eight. He walked none, went to a three-ball count just twice in 25 batters and threw a first-pitch strike 19 times.He made 98 pitches, two below the limit the Mariners set for him. It was his first start against a major league team since March 15 -- the day he strained his abdomen in a spring training collision behind the plate with Arizona's Chris Snyder during a scoring play."It went really well," Lee said. "To give the team a chance and not give up any runs, I've got to be happy with that. It was exciting. I had fun."Ian Kinsler was 1 for 5 and struck out twice in his season debut for the Rangers after six weeks of rehabilitating a high ankle sprain.The Mariners wasted bases-loaded chances with one out in both the 10th and 11th innings.Ichiro Suzuki led off the 11th with his third single, against Francisco. Chone Figgins then bunted in front of the mound for a single.Franklin Gutierrez, the No. 3 hitter who struck out against Lewis in his previous two at-bats, twice failed on sacrifice bunt attempts before striking out again, a sequence that particularly galled Wakamatsu. Francisco walked Jose Lopez to load the bases for Byrnes, who had entered as a pinch-runner for Ken Griffey Jr. the previous inning.Byrnes then inexplicably pulled the bat back on an outside pitch during a suicide squeeze play. Matt Treanor dropped the ball but recovered to tag Suzuki on the left shin for the second out.Texas manager Ron Washington was ejected for arguing with plate umpire Jim Wolf that there should have been a strike called on Byrnes. He just "could not fathom" that Byrnes pulled the bat back.Asked if he'd ever seen that in his 39 years of professional baseball, Washington said: "No, never have. That's why I couldn't believe when Jim told me that Eric pulled back on it. Ichiro's flying down the line, Eric squares the bunt -- how can you pull a bat back? But he did."To top it off, Byrnes froze when Francisco threw a 1-2 pitch right down the middle for strike three, squandering Seattle's chance to make Lee's debut with the Mariners a winner.Byrnes bolted out the front door of the clubhouse riding his beach cruiser bicycle mere minutes after the game ended. He made a right turn down a tunnel and then made a 90-degree left turn around approaching Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik before he could make eye contact.A bizarre end to a bizarre night."We'll discuss that tomorrow. Don't know what happened," Wakamatsu said of the play, not the bike bolt.In the visiting clubhouse, a handful of Rangers cracked up at a television replay of Byrnes pulling the bat back.
Lee's arrival meant RHP Ian Snell (and his $4 million-plus salary) is leaving the rotation for the bullpen. ... The Mariners optioned reliever Shawn Kelly to Triple-A Tacoma when Lee came off the disabled list. ... Texas placed INF Joaquin Arias on the DL with a lower back strain. Arias had hit .321 and started 13 games at 2B for Kinsler.