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An inning into the game, the Mariners looked done. I thought they were. I’m sure most of you thought they were too.
They were down 4-0 to the Atlanta Braves thanks to yet another shaky start from Erasmo Ramirez and it seemed destined to get worse.
But the ball was carrying on a warm and muggy night here in Atlanta and Braves’ starter Gavin Floyd wasn’t much better than Ramirez.
Seattle answered immediately scoring two runs in the top of the second to answer.
“You get behind four runs and normally people would think – ‘you just pack it in,'” Dustin Ackley said. “But anytime you can cut the deficit in half it is huge because it gives you the sense, ‘ok, we are back in the game.'”
With runners on first and second and no outs, Stefen Romero was called on to pinch hit for Ramirez. He belted a three-run homer in the fourth inning to tie the game at 5-5
“Initially, I thought I was going to bunt,” Romero said.
But third base coach Rich Donnelly gave him the hit sign instead.
“I just wanted to drive something in the gap,” Romero said. “I got ahead early in the count, and I got a fastball up. I thought it might go out or might hit the ball so I just started sprinting out of the box.”
It was the Mariners’ first pinch-hit homer of the season.
John Buck broke a 5-5 tie in the seventh inning with his first homer of the season – a two-run opposite field shot off of reliever Alex Wood in the seventh inning to break a 5-5 tie.
Buck got the chance because Ackley was able leg out a slow roller up the first base line with two outs, beating first baseman Freddie Freeman to the bag.
“You just got to run hard,” Ackley said. “It was kind of a tweener. I definitely didn’t think it was a hit right off the bat.”
McClendon didn’t overlook Ackley’s hustle to get Buck the at-bat.
“Those are the things I preach to my team all the time – not giving teams extra outs,” McClendon said. “We took advantage of it.”
Well, Buck took advantage of it, blasting the home run to right field off an elevated change-up.
Buck had seen Wood during his time in the National League East with the Marlins, facing him five times.
“I knew he had a good change-up and liked to throw me in,” Buck said. “I had that feeling he might go with another change-up, I looked for it up and I ran into it. ”
It was Buck’s third hit of the night and one of the 13 the Mariners banged out on the evening.
Seattle (30-28) needed every one of those hits with the hole that Ramirez put them in immediately. Called up from Class AAA Tacoma on Tuesday to make this specific start, Ramirez looked like the same pitcher that pitched his way out of the starting rotation and into the minor leagues earlier this season. He left pitches over the plate and fell behind in counts and lasted just three innings, giving five runs on eight hits.
“He struggled,” McClendon said. “You have to make quality pitches, and he just didn’t make too many quality pitches tonight.”
Ramirez gave up three straight singles to start the game to put the Mariners behind 1-0. The lead grew when hulking catcher Evan Gattis blasted a three-run homer over the wall in left field.
“I was missing my spots too much,” he said. “The things I wasn’t doing in Triple A, I did here and I paid for it. They took advantage of every mistake I made.”
Even with the win, the Mariners still have serious issues with the No. 5 spot in the starting rotation. It seems unlikely that McClendon will want to reward Ramirez with another start after Tuesday’s outing.
The hope was that young prospect Taijuan Walker would replace Ramirez in the rotation and start on Monday in Tampa. But Walker made it just two innings in his rehab start in El Paso, throwing 56 pitches with just 28 strikes. He gave up just one run on one hit with four strikeouts, but he also walked four batters and hit another.
It’s not exactly the precision command needed for major league success.
What will they do?
“I’m not even thinking about it right now,” McClendon said. “I need to sit down and talk with Jack (Zduriencik) about it.”
The Mariners’ bullpen was much more effective than Ramirez. Tom Wilhelmsen pitched two scoreless innings, Dominic Leone (2-0) followed with two dominant, hitless innings with four strikeouts, Danny Farquhar worked a scoreless eighth and Fernando Rodney, after delaying the game because he was wearing the wrong navy blue jersey, pitched a drama-free, 1-2-3 ninth to notch his 15th save of the season.
Rodney said they hung the navy BP jersey where his game jersey was supposed to be. He didn’t notice it as he wasn’t putting it on. It wasn’t till Yoervis Medina pointed it out in the top of the ninth that Rodney knew.
“I had them call the clubhouse and run my jersey out to me,” he said.
Ackley summed it up perfectly. “Nothing surprises you with him.”