SEATTLE -- Before Saturday night, Erasmo Ramirez's transformation into a starting pitcher wasn't making much progress. He hurled 58 pitches in his first start with the Mariners on Aug. 1 against Texas, lasting 3 1/3 innings. He improved slightly in his next outing, tossing 66 pitches and enduring five innings.Saturday
SEATTLE -- Before Saturday night, Erasmo Ramirez's transformation into a starting pitcher wasn't making much progress. He hurled 58 pitches in his first start with the Mariners on Aug. 1 against Texas, lasting 3 1/3 innings. He improved slightly in his next outing, tossing 66 pitches and enduring five innings.
Saturday was a major step in the right direction in building his stamina.
Ramirez exited the game with a 3-1 lead, allowing one run (unearned) on three hits while walking one and fanning one over six innings in the Mariners' eventual 6-3 loss to the Angels. His only run allowed came when Yonder Alonso's errant glove flip sailed over Ramirez's head at first base, allowing Kaleb Cowart to be safe on what would have been the third out, while C.J. Cron scored.
It was his longest outing since May 24 and the most pitches he's thrown since he hurled 88 pitches on June 21. It was his longest start without an earned run since April 16, 2016.
"Erasmo threw the ball really well," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "Giving us six innings was probably more than we would expect from him going into the game. But he was on top of his game. Not a lot of punchouts or anything like that, but it was soft contact and pretty aggressive all night long, which is pretty great to see.
"At that point, we were in pretty good shape."
Casey Lawrence would serve up a two-run homer to Luis Valbuena in the seventh and Tony Zych allowed three runs on two hits to follow two leadoff walks in the eighth. It was the second consecutive night Seattle's bullpen has given up a lead. Mariners relievers have allowed 13 runs in three games.
With a depleted rotation and a seven-man bullpen, Mariners relievers have been relied upon heavily. The last Mariners starter not named James Paxton to surpass five innings pitched was Ariel Miranda, who tossed 5 2/3 innings in a 5-1 loss to the Rangers on Aug. 2.
"I think at this point of the season, there are times everyone feels stiff," Zych said. "I don't think that factors in tonight. I walk two guys and I'm in a bad situation when I give up a hit. You know, it's the point of the season where you have to grind."
But the performance of Ramirez, who was the least-equipped starter to pitch deep into a ballgame after working primarily as a reliever with the Rays, was a positive sign.
"He's building everything back up," Mariners catcher Mike Zunino said. "He's done a good job of expanding himself, working that pitch count up and you could see him get stronger as he gets deeper in games now."
Ramirez admitted he was struggling with command in the sixth, even though his arm didn't feel fatigued.
"Every time I'm feeling stronger," Ramirez said. "My body acting the best way to be able to keep my speed, and maybe bring it higher in the sixth, was awesome to see and feel, too. That brings more confidence. When you're able to throw strikes in the sixth and have the same speed is something you're looking for all the time."
Josh Horton is a reporter for MLB.com based in Seattle.