Erasmo Ramirez was by no means the only culprit in Seattle’s 3-1 defeat Saturday against the Oakland Athletics.
But Ramirez, Seattle’s starting pitcher who relies so heavily on command, fought his control all night. And although he kept the game from getting out of hand early, his start raised some concerns for manager Lloyd McClendon.
“He just did not have command,” McClendon said. “I didn’t see command of the fastball. I didn’t see command of the secondary pitches. A very disappointing outing. I thought I would see better this time, but for some reason he didn’t have command. It was a tough night for him right from the start.”
It also was the second consecutive start in which Ramirez has struggled with his control. He has now walked six batters in his past two games, while not lasting longer than five innings in either start.
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He went five innings Saturday and gave up three runs on six hits. At one point in the third inning he had thrown more balls than strikes, and the crowd sarcastically cheered following a strike after watching Ramirez walk two consecutive batters.
“I am concerned,” McClendon said. “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t because he’s a command guy. He’s a strike thrower, and his last two outings he’s pitched behind in the count quite a bit.”
Ramirez agreed with McClendon’s assessment and echoed the concern about his inability to consistently locate his pitches. He said his ball is “running” too much lately, although he wasn’t sure why.
“I’m not happy about my control and my command,” Ramirez said.
Yet here’s the reality: Ramirez’s final stat line could have been much worse. He allowed the leadoff hitter to reach in each of his five innings, including in the first inning.
After Coco Crisp reached on a single, Josh Donaldson made Ramirez pay when he threw a cutter that didn’t cut and Donaldson ripped it for a two-run home run. Ramirez also walked the first two batters of the third inning but limited the damage to just one run despite also giving up two hits in the inning.
“I will say this: Erasmo really battled, gave us five innings and actually kept us in the ballgame,” McClendon said. “It was an ugly five, but he kept us in it. We had opportunities. We just didn’t take advantage of it.”
Things started off well enough. Abraham Almonte led off the first with a single, and Brad Miller followed with a single. A Robinson Cano ground out drove in Almonte and cut Oakland’s lead to 2-1.
After that came mostly offensive silence. At one point Oakland starter Sonny Gray retired 10 consecutive batters, and the Mariners never really hit the ball hard off Gray.
The few scoring threats the Mariners did have went unfulfilled.
In the fourth inning, Dustin Ackley had two runners on with two outs, but he struck out to end the inning. In the sixth inning, Cano advanced to second base with one out, but Justin Smoak struck out and Kyle Seager flied out. And in the seventh, the Mariners had first and third with one out, but Almonte struck out.
The Mariners had a final chance in the ninth. Willie Bloomquist pinch-hit for Logan Morrison in the ninth inning and singled up the middle with one out off A’s reliever Luke Gregerson. Ackley then followed with a single up the middle. But Michael Saunders struck out and John Buck grounded out to end the game.
Ackley was involved in two strange but increasingly more common plays involving major league baseball’s new transfer rule.
Twice, Ackley appeared to make catches in left field but dropped the ball as he was transferring it out of his glove. Ackley said he believed he made both catches and said both would have been ruled catches last year. But the new transfer rule emphasizes having a clean exchange out of the glove.
Jayson Jenks: 206-464-8277 or email@example.com