SEATTLE — Erasmo Ramirez finished folding his clothes into his bags. A trip to Tacoma awaited him, but not for the reasons that have previously earned him a demotion to the minor leagues.
Ramirez pitched his best game of the season Wednesday night. He consistently worked in the strike zone. He matched a career high with 10 strikeouts. He gave up a manageable two runs in seven innings.
And that’s what made the Mariners’ 3-1 loss to the Mets in front of 18,681 at Safeco Field so frustrating.
The Mariners wasted a perfectly good outing from the up-and-down Ramirez, who was headed back to Class AAA Tacoma after just one start with the Mariners to make room on the roster for Taijuan Walker, the starter for Wednesday’s game.
“In the minors I’ve been working a little bit and everything was working good,” Ramirez said. “And now was the time to show the difference up here and say, ‘Hey, I can pitch here, and I’m able to pitch good here.’ “
He did that. He just didn’t get much help.
With a runner on first in the second inning, center fielder James Jones rushed in on a line drive and slid. He tried to make the catch to his side, but the ball bounced in front of his glove and rolled to the wall. One run scored on the play, and the miscue cost the Mariners a second run later in the inning.
“That was a big point in the game,” Jones said. “If I caught that ball, the guy would still be on first base. But I still would take the chance on that.”
He added, “I thought I had it. It wasn’t like when I was diving I was like, ‘Ah, I don’t know about this.’ I really thought I was going to make that play.”
Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said Jones probably shouldn’t have taken that chance, and he thought Jones should have dove instead of slid.
“I’m not very fond of slides,” McClendon said. “I think the only reason you slide to a ball is if you’re avoiding the wall or you’re avoiding a player. That’s something that he’ll learn from. If he would have dove for the ball, he might have caught it or he certainly would have blocked it.”
Otherwise, Ramirez flirted with very little trouble. He ran into a jam in the sixth inning, when he sailed a wild pitch wide and in the dirt and then hit a batter on the very next pitch to put two runners on. But he struck out the next two hitters he faced to end the inning.
The skepticism surrounding Ramirez was fairly earned. He had struggled with control in his previous starts for the Mariners, and volumes of base runners marred even his outings that produced good results.
But Ramirez limited his mistakes, and therefore his damage, against the Mets. McClendon called on him to pitch the seventh inning despite being over 100 pitches because McClendon was hoping to ease the burden on his bullpen.
Ramirez answered by retiring the side and striking out two more hitters to get to 10 for the night.
It was the most strikeouts he’s recorded in a game since his rookie season in 2012. It was also his longest outing since his first start April 1.
“He did a tremendous job,” McClendon said. “I was very pleased.”
The Mariners’ offense just didn’t do much to support him.
Willie Bloomquist led off the fifth inning with a single, and Dustin Ackley drove him in with a double to the gap; Ackley ended up on third because of a throwing error.
But the threat stalled when Mike Zunino popped out to shallow left field with one out after getting ahead in the count 3-0, and Endy Chavez grounded out to second.
The Mariners also had a chance with Jones on second with Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager up in the first inning, but both Cano and Seager struck out.
“When we did have the opportunities,” McClendon said, “we just didn’t take advantage of them.”