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The road trip could have been great, but the Mariners will have to settle for good.
The prospect of going 5-1 to start the season was just intoxicating enough that it made falling short with Sunday’s loss feel a little anti-climactic.
Manager Lloyd McClendon reminded his team that regardless of Sunday’s mistakes, the road trip was a positive and a good way to head into Monday’s off day and prepare for the home opener on Tuesday at Safeco Field against the Los Angeles Angels.
“Any time you come off a road trip with a winning record, regardless of how you got there, that’s a successful trip,” he said. “I told our guys that it was tough today but we had a successful road trip and to rest up and get ready to play in front of our fans. I know they’re all excited to get back.”
A large reason for that success on the road trip has been starting pitching. Coming into Sunday’s finale, Mariners starters had combined to go 4-0 with a 1.62 ERA (six earned runs in 33 1/3 innings pitched) with 37 strikeouts.
But Erasmo Ramirez couldn’t keep that run rolling. The little right-hander struggled with his command all game and never quite found a rhythm.
“Today I didn’t feel it,” Ramirez said. “I didn’t feel like the strike thrower I am.”
And if you aren’t throwing strikes, the A’s aren’t going to help you out. Oakland hitters waited Ramirez out, refusing to help him out with cheap strikes.
The Mariners got two runs in the second inning. But it could have been more. For the second time on this road trip, Abraham Almonte was thrown out on a base-running mistake with Robinson Cano coming to the plate. Not good.
“It was a bad play,” Almonte said. “With two outs, it was a little bit risky. I will try to do better next time. If the ball was hit a little bit softer I might have had a chance, but the ball was hit so hard.”
McClendon wasn’t angry at Almonte. He understands this will happen early on.
“I’ve told my guys I want them to unleash their talents and be aggressive, but you also have to be intelligent,” McClendon said. “I said it before, ‘he’s going to make some mistakes.’ In that situation, you gotta know we got our best hitter coming to the plate. In this game, it’s unfortunate, the only way you learn is to make mistakes and learn from them.”
The Mariners made it 3-0 in the third inning on Justin Smoak’s soft single up the middle to score Cano.
But the lead disappeared in the bottom half of the inning.
Ramirez’s command issues came back bite him. With one out and runners on first and second, a poorly placed fastball resulted in a three-run homer for Brandon Moss.
What’s odd is that pitching Rick Waits had just visited the mound moments before.
“It was just to calm me down and to get me to think about what I’m doing,” Ramirez said. “They said to relax and execute the next pitch.”
He didn’t. It was supposed to be fastball down and away. Instead, it stayed up and over the middle of the plate. Moss knew exactly what to do with it.
“It was a bad pitch, bad location,” Ramirez said. “He got good contact, tie ball game.”
Ramirez was charged with five earned runs in four innings pitched. He walked three batters and struck out one. Of the 83 pitches he threw, only 49 were strikes.