HOUSTON -- Erasmo Ramirez's return from a three-month stint on the disabled list couldn't have gone much better on Sunday at Minute Maid Park, as he threw five scoreless innings in the Mariners' 4-3, 10-inning win over the Astros.
Reliever Nick Rumbelow was optioned to Triple-A Tacoma as Ramirez replaced Felix Hernandez in the rotation after the longtime ace was moved to the bullpen on Thursday by manager Scott Servais. Herenandez went 8-10 with a 5.73 ERA in his first 23 starts.
Ramirez allowed just three hits and no walks as Seattle secured a four-game sweep.
"You always want to come back and try to help the team the most you can," Ramirez said. "Today, I was able to execute pitches. And when I got in trouble, I was able to hit the spots I wanted to hit. It was something huge for me, waiting for this moment to come out there and give 100 percent to the team and try to help."
Ramirez has been on the 10-day disabled list since May 1 with a right teres major strain. He made seven rehab starts with Triple-A Tacoma, Double-A Arkansas and Class A Advanced Modesto for a combined 0-2 record and 2.45 ERA with 26 strikeouts and four walks in 25 2/3 innings.
"We didn't really know what we were going to get or how long he could go, but Erasmo was effective today," Servais said. "Good sinker, pretty good cutter. He elevated some balls and threw some good changeups in there at times. He kept them off balance.
"Houston isn't swinging the bats great right now. We were in that spot a few weeks ago. It happens. It's the ebb and flow of a season. We got just enough out of Erasmo to get it to the back of the bullpen and got it done from there."
Ramirez limited the Astros to a lone single in the first four innings, then loaded the bases with no outs in the fifth on two singles and a Kyle Seager error. But he struck out Kyle Tucker and got a double-play grounder from Martin Maldonado and then punched his glove and came off the mound with a rare show of emotion.
"You might see that a little more often," said the seven-year veteran. "It's been a long wait, and every play and every time I can get out of the inning and put a zero on the scoreboard, it's going to be a huge deal for me when I'm pitching these last two months."
Ramirez missed most of Spring Training with a strained lat muscle and then went 0-2 with a 10.24 ERA in two April starts before going on the DL. But he came into the season expected to hold down a spot in Seattle's rotation after posting a 3.35 ERA in his final nine starts of 2017 after being reacquired from the Rays for reliever Steve Cishek.
In seven Major League seasons with the Rays and Mariners, Ramirez is 30-37 with three saves and a 4.29 ERA in 184 games with 84 starts.
Rumbelow didn't appear in any games in his latest time with the Mariners after being recalled from Tacoma on Thursday. He's posted a 7.84 ERA in 10 1/3 innings over eight games from two previous stints with Seattle.