Erasmo Ramirez celebrated his 24th birthday Friday. Gifts did not include run support.
Nope, it wasn’t until long after the right-hander headed to the showers that the Tacoma Rainiers bats perked up.
Ramirez, making his 2014 Triple-A debut, struck out eight in 5 2/3 innings and was facing a well-pitched loss until the Rainiers rediscovered their offense in the eighth, leading to a 6-4 victory over Las Vegas in Pacific Coast League play at Cheney Stadium.
Outside of a Chris Taylor home run, which tied the game in the sixth, Tacoma batters were quiet until the eighth inning, helping the Rainiers (14-12) erase a 3-1 hole.
James Jones started the onslaught by extending his hitting streak to 10 games with an RBI single.
An avalanche of runs, coming a variety of ways, followed.
Ty Kelly drew a bases loaded walk, Jabari Blash picked up an RBI on a sacrifice fly and Xavier Avery hit a soft pop-up which barely found its way over the infield to score another run, all contributing to a five-run eighth.
“As a player, the last thing you want to do is waste good pitching,” Tacoma manager Roy Howell said. “Ramirez threw a great game for us. I thought (Las Vegas starter Logan Verrett) was dealing, too, tonight. This is a big win for us. To come back like we did.”
Wilmer Flores smacked his second home run in the ninth, but it was all the Las Vegas could muster.
The 51s (20-9) scored two runs in the eighth, including a close call at the plate on a fielder’s choice which resulted in the ejection of both Howell and catcher Jesus Sucre after each took a turn arguing the decision.
Ramirez, who started the season with the Seattle Mariners before being optioned to Class-A Advanced High Desert, was transferred to Tacoma on April 28.
His first start in Tacoma this season couldn’t have come against a hotter-hitting lineup, as Las Vegas has been pushing runners across home plate at a torrid pace.
The 51s entered the game as the PCL’s top-scoring team with their 201 runs, a gaudy 42 more than any other team.
Eight times Las Vegas has scored 10 or more runs, highlighted by a 21-run outburst against El Paso and Thursday’s 19-2 drubbing of Reno.
A pair of those high-scoring games came at the expense of the Rainiers and early on it looked as if the 51s were going to put up another big number as Ramirez got off to a shaky start, allowing a Flores solo home run in the first.
Ramirez quickly hit his stride and cruised through the next four innings, fanning seven and holding Las Vegas to a pair of harmless singles as each time the following batter hit into double plays, ending both the third and fourth innings.
Ramirez opened the sixth by notching his eighth strikeout, but singles from Flores and Andrew Brown combined with a 106-pitch count led to his exit. He was replaced by Nick Hill, who kept it a 1-0 deficit for the Rainiers by getting out of the inning unscathed despite Las Vegas having a runner in scoring position for the first time.
Hill’s appearance was relatively short. Back-to-back singles and a walk loaded the bases in the seventh for Las Vegas with one out.
Jonathan Arias took over and was aided by a third Tacoma double play to end the threat.
The Rainiers continue their homestand against the 51s on Saturday. First pitch is scheduled for 5:05 p.m. Mark Rogers (1-0, 2.25 ERA) gets the start for Tacoma. Las Vegas counters with Dana Eveland (2-1, 4.29).