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Erasmo strong, but bullpen falters in eighth

Beyond Morales' 20th homer, Mariners bats fall silent in finale

SEATTLE -- Rookie pitcher Erasmo Ramirez has been the beneficiary of more run support than any other Seattle starter this season. On Sunday, he saw the other side of the coin, holding down Tampa Bay, but receiving little help from his offense as the Rays won, 4-1, to avoid the sweep in the final game of the series.

Entering Sunday's game, the 23-year-old right-hander had received 6.08 runs of support per game, allowing him to compile a 5-1 record despite a 5.07 ERA. But on Sunday, the Mariners' bullpen gave up a 1-0 lead, allowing three runs in the eighth to negate Ramirez's first scoreless appearance of 2013.

Over his last five starts Ramirez has a 2.27 ERA, lowering his season ERA from 7.06 to 4.57. However, Ramirez did issue a season-high four walks and has struggled with command this season, issuing 21 walks in 61 innings this season compared with just 12 walks in 69 innings a year ago.

"Even if I walked four and had strikeouts and everything, I threw for contact," Ramirez said. "Every time I'm going to throw the ball, I think about just throwing the ball for the hit and making contact and not letting the ball get right over home plate, but trying to hit the corners. Maybe for that reason I walked a lot of people today because I wanted to throw the ball closer to the corner."

Against Tampa Bay, the Mariners faced an impressive run of starting pitching. Seattle had to face Alex Cobb, Chris Archer, and Matt Moore. Those three Rays starters have a combined 31-13 record and Moore had the highest ERA at 3.18

Seattle was able to put up six runs in each of the first two games of the series, but Moore held the Seattle bats in check despite the Mariners putting five runners on base in the first two innings.

"He's a good pitcher, has a great arm and throws the ball downhill," manager Eric Wedge said. "Two or three plus pitches, he was tough on us today."

Seattle continued to struggle to bring baserunners home. Rookie shortstop Brad Miller led off the first and third innings with singles, but Seattle was unable to turn his hits into runs. Miller has excelled in his leadoff role, and is second among American League rookies with 53 hits since the All-Star break.

The Rays scored three of their four runs in the pivotal eighth inning. Yoervis Medina hit Evan Longoria to lead off the inning, and then walked Luke Scott. Back to back hits by James Loney and Sean Rodriguez drove in three runs, enough to give the Rays the win.

Ramirez breezed through the first six innings, but nearly lost the lead by allowing a walk and then a single to start the seventh. Charlie Furbush came in to relieve Ramirez, and promptly walked pinch-hitter Wil Myers.

"He threw the ball well. They have some really good pitching over there," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "Their bullpen, they have some really good arms. [Ramirez] had that little cutter, whatever it was. And he knows how to elevate."

Furbush escaped the bases-loaded, no outs jam by throwing home to catcher Henry Blanco for the forceout on pinch-hitter Delmon Young's grounder up the middle. Blanco then fired to first, beating Young for the double play. Ben Zobrist flew out to right field to end the inning and keep Ramirez in line for the win.

The Mariners got on the scoreboard in the second inning with a solo home run from designated hitter Kendrys Morales, his 20th of the season. Morales played a crucial role in Seattle's series win against the Rays, going 4-for-8 with two homes runs and three walks so far in the homestand.

Morales credited a more open stance at the plate for much of his recent success, saying through an interpreter, "I wasn't seeing the ball as well earlier, and I really worked in the batting cage to correct that. I'm seeing the pitches a lot better."

It was the second straight start by a rookie pitcher for Seattle, following James Paxton's Major League debut on Saturday. The Mariners will make it three in a row as 21-year-old Taijuan Walker makes his final start of the season against the Astros on Monday.

Jacob Thorpe is an associate reporter for
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