Well, the Seattle Mariners didn’t have to use Juan Nicasio or Edwin Diaz for the fourth consecutive game.
At least, if the Mariners were looking for something positive.
Erasmo Ramirez joined some rare territory and not in a good way. He allowed five solo home runs in five innings in the Mariners’ 6-5 loss to the Cleveland Indians and reigning American League Cy Young winner Corey Kluber on Friday at Progressive Field – despite a late Mariners rally in the ninth inning.
Ramirez is one of four pitchers in Mariners history to allow five home runs in a game, joining Jason Vargas (2012), Jamie Moyer (2006) and Mark Langston (1988).
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“Erasmo just made too many mistakes in the middle of the plate,” Mariners manager Scott Servais told reporters afterward. “And the home runs certainly hurt us.”
By the time Mitch Haniger hit his ninth home run of the season (the Angels’ Mike Trout entered the day leading the majors with 10 HRs), the Indians had already built a 6-0 lead in the seventh inning.
Haniger’s shot was about the only mistake Kluber made in earning his fourth win in five starts. The Mariners entered having handed Kluber his only loss this year, a 2-1 win on Opening Day at Safeco Field.
But Kluber’s revenge ended the Mariners’ (14-11) three-game win streak, and their three-game streak of a starter going at least six innings.
And the Indians spotted him a three-run lead with three home runs in the first inning.
“Scoring multiple runs against a pitcher like that is always tough,” Haniger said. “He’s a Cy Young pitcher and he’s got really good stuff and we spotted him. But I thought we did a good job battling back.”
Kluber pitched 8 2/3 innings before Kyle Seager’s single with two outs in the ninth inning chased him after 116 pitches.
So the Indians turned to closer Cody Allen and Haniger followed with a double off of the wall. Mike Zunino then crushed a three-run home run – his third home run in the past six games.
Ben Gamel lined out to end the game.
But Ramirez put the Mariners in too big a hole. He lasted five innings, allowing six runs on nine hits with five strikeouts in his second start since being activated off the disabled list (lat strain).
He actually appeared to find something of a groove, striking out three consecutive batters from the fourth and into the fifth inning.
“They were just swinging first pitch,” Ramirez said. “A little high, but I was attacking more this time. These guys just don’t mess around with the first-pitch strikes. They got really good contact and the bad news was everything was way gone.
“That’s a big part of the game is just keeping the ball inside the ball park and give yourself more of a chance to win ball games.”
Then former Mariner Yonder Alonso led off the sixth inning with a solo home run (his third in five games against his former team this year) and Yan Gomes made it back-to-back homers the next batter.
It was the second back-to-back for the Indians. Francisco Lindor led off the bottom of the first with a solo shot before Michael Brantley hit one and Edwin Encarnacion hit his sixth home run and followed with his signature “walk-the-parrot trot.”
The Mariners pitching staff entered the game allowing 1.4 home runs per nine innings (tied for the third-most in the major leagues).
“Offensively we’re fine,” Servais said. “We just got to get a little more consistent with Erasmo and some of our starters.”
Brantley had a day, finishing with the home run, a sacrifice fly to the warning track in center field, a triple and a single.
The Indians had 13 hits in eight innings against Mariners’ pitching, though Marc Rzepczynski and Wade LeBlanc combined to throw three scoreless innings in relief.
But, worse for the Mariners, Dee Gordon was removed from the game for the seventh inning after jumping awkwardly and crashing into the wall chasing Gomes’ home run in the sixth inning.
The Mariners had announced it was for precautionary reasons. Andrew Romine replaced him.
“Dee should be OK,” Servais said. “When he jumped at the wall he kind of felt his knee give a little bit. But he’s OK. He check out fine. I just thought where we are at in the ball game and give him a couple of innings to recoup. Hopefully he’ll be OK tomorrow.”
Ramirez rocked: Erasmo Ramirez’s eighth pitch of the game might have given this away.
He threw a two-seam fastball in the middle of the plate and Francisco Lindor jumped on it for a leadoff home run. And that would be one of the Indians’ three home runs in the first inning.
It’s a concerning trend now for Ramirez. He’s allowed 17 home runs in 13 starts for the Mariners since he was re-acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays last season.
“We’ve seen Erasmo be very, very good for us last year after we acquired him,” Servais said. “He’ll get back there again.
“The crispness to his stuff just isn’t consistent. Obviously in the first inning he made a number of mistakes giving up the home runs. But everything is kind of running together. There’s not a ton of separation in his pitches and he’s got to do something to change the eye level for some of the hitters, too.”
The Mariners’ staff has already been a home-run prone group. They entered the day tied for the third-most home runs allowed per nine innings in the majors (1.4).
Killer Kluber: Since 2014, only Red Sox left-hander Chris Sale has more 10-strikeout games than Kluber (Kluber has 39 games, Sale has 52).
No one has thrown more complete games than Kluber, who has won two Cy Young awards, in that span, and he was one out and one strike away from his 33rd in the past five seasons.
He was pulled after 116 pitches and 8 2/3 innings after Kyle Seager pulled a single to right field.
This came after the Mariners handed Kluber his only loss so far this year in a 2-1 win on Opening Day on March 29. Kluber threw all eight innings for the Indians that day and only allowed a two-run home run to Nelson Cruz.
“Story of the night was obviously Corey Kluber,” Servais said. “He was really good again. We put a little pressure on him, but obviously not enough.”
Hani-Zuni power: Start with Mitch Haniger.
He entered the day tied for second in the American League in RBIs (24) behind the Yankees’ Didi Gregorius and he picked up two more with a home run against Kluber (and we already established how good Kluber is).
And it wasn’t just any home run. Haniger crushed it, hitting it 434 feet and over the 19-foot wall in left-center field.
“Yeah, (Kluber) doesn’t make many mistakes,” Haniger said. “Finally I got one in my third at-bat.”
That was Haniger’s ninth home run this year and he followed with a two-out double to the wall in the ninth inning.
Haniger is batting .307 with a 1.604 OPS in 25 games.
And Zunino has turned it on, too. He hit his third home run in the past six games when he shot a three-run blast to left field with two outs in the ninth inning, cutting the Indians’ once 6-0 lead to 6-5.
Play of the game: Of all the home runs – seven in this game – the sacrifice fly was the difference.
Michael Brantley lined a shot to the warning track in center field in the third inning to score Jason Kipnis after his double.
Top pitcher: This one is easy. Go with the two-time Cy Young winner.
Corey Kluber’s final line: 8 2/3 innings, allowed four hits, three runs and struck out 10 on 116 pitches. His ERA actually ticked up a little bit – to 2.18.
Top hitter: Mitch Haniger again brought his big bat, hitting a two-run home run and a ninth-inning, two-out double. But the Indians’ Michael Brantley made the biggest dent in this game.
Brantley homered in the first inning, hit a sacrifice fly to the warning track to score Jason Kipnis in the third inning, hit a triple his next at-bat and then a single – finishing a double short of the cycle.
Quotable: Scott Servais was asked about the month Haniger’s been having.
“He gets pitched tough and certainly teams in the league are aware of him and what he’s doing,” Servais said. “The power has been great. He hit the tar out of that ball tonight to go out where it did.”