For right-hander Erasmo Ramirez, the Mariners’ longest road trip of the season begins Friday in a familiar place: Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Ramirez spent two-plus seasons at Tampa Bay before returning to the Mariners in a July 28 trade for veteran reliever Steve Cishek.
It says much about the current state of the Mariners’ rotation that Ramirez might be the most reliable member of the group. He limited the Angels to one unearned over six innings in his previous start.
"Every time, I’m feeling stronger," he said. "I was able to keep my speed into the sixth inning (against the Angels). That was awesome to see. Being able to throw strikes in the sixth and have the same speed is something you’re looking for."
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The Mariners would take something similar this time around.
Ramirez is 0-1 with a 4.40 ERA in three starts since returning to the Mariners and 4-4 overall with a 4.73 ERA. Cishek has not allowed a run in nine innings over nine appearances for the Rays since the trade.
The Mariners are 61-61 and trail Los Angeles by 1 1/2 games in the race for the American League’s final wild-card berth as they begin a 12-game trip through four cities. The good news? They are 19-9 on the road since late May.
***Tampa Bay is starting rookie right-hander Austin Pruitt (6-3 with a 5.07 ERA) in the series opener at 4:10 p.m. Pacific time. Pruitt entered the rotation in late July and has allowed just four runs in 18 1/3 innings over his last three starts.
***The Mariners swept a three-game series against the Rays when the clubs played June 2-4 at Safeco Field.
***Tampa Bay (60-63) is 7-13 in its last 20 games and 11-19 in its last 30.
***The Rays activated Kevin Kiermaier from the 60-day disabled list prior to the game. He’s been out since June 8 because of a fractured hip. He was batting .258 with seven homers and 20 RBIs in 62 games prior to his injury.
***Third baseman Kyle Seager’s status remains uncertain. He traveled with the club to Tampa Bay but missed the last two games because of a stomach virus that resulted in a 12-pound weight loss.
***Reliever David Phelps is scheduled to throw from a mound Friday for the first time since leaving an Aug. 6 game in Kansas City because of what was diagnosed as an impingement in his elbow. Barring setbacks, he could be activated within a few days.
***The Mariners rank eighth in the American League in scoring at 4.69 runs per game, while the Rays are 13th at 4.29. The league average is 4.70. The Rays rank fourth among AL clubs with a 4.06 ERA. The Mariners are 10th at 4.50. The AL average is 4.37.
***Nelson Cruz has seven homers in his last 11 games and leads the American League with 96 RBIs.
***The Mariners have won seven of their last nine games at Tropicana Field and 10 of their last 15 — after losing eight in a row.
***The Mariners and Rays have been involved in 14 trades involving 40 players and one manager since Tampa Bay gained a franchise in 1998.
It was 25 years ago Friday — Aug. 18, 1992 — that Jay Buhner became the first right-handed batter to hit a homer over the right-field scoreboard at Camden Yards in Baltimore.
Buhner’s blast came in the fourth inning against Ben McDonald and helped the Mariners to an 8-3 victory.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners