BALTIMORE -- It says a lot about the state of the Mariners injury-ravaged rotation, but newly-acquired Erasmo Ramirez has quietly become the most consistent member of the current five-man group.The 27-year-old from Nicaragua took the loss in Tuesday's 4-0 setback to the Orioles, but threw his fourth straight quality start
BALTIMORE -- It says a lot about the state of the Mariners injury-ravaged rotation, but newly-acquired Erasmo Ramirez has quietly become the most consistent member of the current five-man group.
The 27-year-old from Nicaragua took the loss in Tuesday's 4-0 setback to the Orioles, but threw his fourth straight quality start with six innings of two-run ball and again did his part for a Seattle squad whose offense couldn't muster anything off Baltimore's Dylan Bundy.
With Felix Hernandez, James Paxton, Drew Smyly and Hisashi Iwakuma all sidelined, the Mariners are trying to stay in the American League Wild Card hunt with a makeshift rotation that also includes recent trade acquisitions Marco Gonzales and Andrew Albers and holdovers Yovani Gallardo and Ariel Miranda.
Ramirez, who'd been pitching in relief for the Rays a month ago, has stepped into the void in impressive fashion.
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"He's been exactly what we thought we were getting, somebody who could come in and get through the lineup three times," said manager Scott Servais. "He's given us six really competitive innings every time out there and hopefully it continues. We certainly need it."
Ramirez, acquired from the Rays for reliever Steve Cishek on July 31, struggled initially in his first two starts as he needed to build up his arm strength after spending the previous six weeks in Tampa Bay's bullpen.
But the versatile right-hander has gone 1-1 with a 2.25 ERA over his last four starts and he threw a season-high 101 pitches on Tuesday, allowing just five hits with two walks and seven strikeouts.
"I like the way I feel -- my body and the way I can handle going to 100 pitches," Ramirez said. "I wish I could go like seven innings, that would make a difference. But little by little, step by step. I just try to keep the ballgame close and give the team a chance to win. That's the idea all the time."
The Orioles did their only damage with a pair of home runs off Ramirez -- solo shots in the first by Jonathan Schoop and in the sixth by Manny Machado -- but those were the first homers he'd given up in those last four starts.
"The long balls got me today," Ramirez said. "I was a little away from long balls the last three games, but today they got really good contact on the two homers. Both were what I wanted to try, it looked like they were guessing on that pitch. Machado is a good hitter. He's got good range. It was a pitch down and he got good contact. He didn't look comfortable when he hit it, but he got the middle of the bat and he's got enough power to hit a homer."
Ramirez pitched out of his biggest jam in the third, striking out Adam Jones with the bases loaded on a changeup, and he stranded Jones at second after a one-out double in the sixth before giving way to reliever James Pazos.
"I thought Erasmo threw the ball fine. He really did," Servais said. "Certainly the solo home runs got us all night, but just the one inning he had the bases loaded and made some pitches to get out of it. I thought he was sharp and kept the ball down for the most part. He had the good sinker and cutter going and gave us a chance. We just did nothing to help him out offensively."
Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.