ARLINGTON -- For three innings, Erasmo Ramirez looked strong Tuesday in his return to the Mariners' rotation. Then things got sideways with a pair of long home runs and a quick hook from manager Scott Servais, but it's not surprising the 27-year-old would run out of gas early.
Ramirez had been pitching in relief for the Rays for the past six weeks and hadn't thrown more than 37 pitches in an outing since his last start on June 21. So the Mariners will take those first three scoreless frames and the no-walk, five-strikeout performance in Tuesday's 8-7 win and try to build on it.
"It was exciting to be back where everything started," said Ramirez, who signed with Seattle in 2007 and played his first three big league seasons there from 2012-14. "And to have the chance to start is the best. I don't want to let them down. I'm just going to keep working, get my endurance up and keep the ball down and have a better mix when I get to the fourth inning. Because when I'm fresh, I know I can execute. When you get to the second time facing hitters, you have to work different."
Ramirez, acquired on Friday in exchange for reliever Steve Cishek, was coveted by the Mariners for his versatility and ability to perform either as a starter or in relief. They've ticketed him for a starting role for now in place of struggling rookie Andrew Moore, but there's a reason starters build up their arm strength over the course of time.
"We knew with Erasmo not making a start in a long time that it would be interesting how long we were going to stay with him," manager Scott Servais said. "I thought he threw the ball really well early in the game, his stuff was very sharp, then he kind of hit the wall. The ball started to get up and just wasn't as crisp."
The Rays opened the year with Ramirez in their bullpen, then shifted him to the rotation for eight starts from mid-May to mid-June. He went 3-2 with a 6.05 ERA in those starts, with the numbers skewed by a June 18 game in Detroit in which he gave up eight earned runs and nine hits in 4 2/3 innings.
But Ramirez showed again Tuesday what he's capable of when he's on target, striking out the side in the second inning and working through the first three frames without any runs despite a couple defensive miscues behind him.
The ill-fated fourth began with a throwing error on backup shortstop Danny Espinosa, with Rougned Odor following with a 415-foot homer into the second deck in right field. After striking out Mike Napoli, Ramirez then threw a 2-0 fastball over the middle that Joey Gallo launched onto the roof over the center field batter's eye.
"To be able to execute pitches was the best part in the first three innings," Ramirez said. "I was so happy, then it turned into something different."
But from his perspective, the issue wasn't about getting tired, it was about making the wrong pitches to Odor and Gallo his second time through the lineup.
"Odor was jumping at the cutter," he said. "The pitch wasn't that bad, but he was maybe expecting the cutter, and he jumped on it. And Gallo, that was just a mistake pitch right in the middle. He's got really long arms, and he just put the barrel on it. He's got good power. That was the wrong pitch to throw in that count."