Erasmo Ramirez was remarkably efficient on Friday, throwing 93 pitches and 73 strikes in 7 1/3 innings, the longest start by a Tacoma Rainiers pitcher this season.
But thanks to a rough first inning and a couple of costly errors in the seventh, he was not a winner.
Nor were the Rainiers, who led for most of the game before an error-riddled three-run seventh inning boosted the El Paso Chihuahuas to a 7-5 Pacific Coast League victory before a crowd of 4,597 at Cheney Stadium.
Ramirez, who began the season in the Seattle Mariners’ starting rotation, took the loss to drop to 0-3 at the Triple-A level through four starts. But he probably pitched well enough to deserve to win, despite allowing nine hits and a two-run home run to Jake Goebbert in the first inning.
“We didn’t make some defensive plays behind him. This game doesn’t forgive,” Rainiers manager Roy Howell said. “You make a couple boo-boos and that’s just the way it happens. … We made a couple mistakes, and it cost us some runs, and we just never recovered.”
Only three of El Paso’s runs were earned, and each of the three runs the Chihuahuas scored in the seventh were of the unearned variety. That inning started with a single by Cody Decker, then became troublesome when Rainiers third baseman Leury Bonilla misplayed a slow grounder hit by Jonathan Galvez, who reached on the error.
Alex Castellanos followed by laying down a bunt in front of home plate. It would have been a close play at first base — Castellanos may have had it beat, anyway — but catcher Humberto Quintero’s throw sailed high and up the right-field line, allowing Decker to score. Galvez moved to third. Castellanos wound up on second, with still nobody out.
Ramirez got a sharp ground-ball out to first base from the next batter, which helped. And shortstop Gabriel Noriega threw Decker out at home on a grounder hit by Tyler Greene for the second out of the inning. But there was Goebbert again, singling to right field, driving in both runners and giving El Paso its first lead since the first inning.
Castellano added a solo homer with two outs in the ninth off Tacoma reliever Zach Miner.
Howell said Ramirez showed progress Friday, particularly in his effort to put batters away when he gets ahead 0-2 or 1-2. That hasn’t always been a strong point for the 21-year-old this season, but it happened a lot Friday.
“To have a game without walks, that’s awesome,” Ramirez said. “And to throw strikes, that’s another good part of the game. And to battle. We’re not even close to the middle of the season. We still have a lot of games coming. Your team is going to be there, you want to be there, show them you’re going to improve, get better for next time.”
Tacoma (20-25) showed some power, too, responding to a 2-0 first-inning deficit by plating four runs in its first turn at bat against El Paso starter Keyvius Sampson — two of them via Ty Kelly’s fourth homer of the season, then another two on a two-out double by Xavier Avery.
El Paso pulled within 4-3 after Jace Peterson’s RBI single in the fifth, but Abraham Almonte homered to left field to lead off the bottom of that inning and push Tacoma’s lead to 5-3.
Logan Morrison, the Mariners outfielder who began a rehabilitation assignment Friday as part of his recovery from a hamstring injury, was 0-for-3 with a walk. He also grounded into a 6-4-3 double play with runners on first and second and nobody out in the eighth. Howell said he’ll continue to DH on Saturday before playing some at first base.
The Rainiers will play a doubleheader against El Paso on Saturday beginning at 5:05 p.m. Both games are scheduled to last seven innings. Left-handed pitcher James Paxton is slated to begin a rehabilitation assignment and will start for the Rainiers in the first game against right-hander Michael Nix (0-0, 0.00 ERA). Paxton strained a muscle in his back during an April 8 start for the Seattle Mariners, and has been on the disabled list since. He won’t throw more than about 75 pitches. Right-hander Matt Palmer (1-0, 1.17) is scheduled to start the second game for Tacoma against right-hander Tim Sexton (0-1, 4.78) Both of Saturday’s games will air on 850 AM.