If general manager Jack Zduriencik needed further impetus to pull the trigger on an offensive upgrade, he got one Tuesday night.
Zduriencik had to feel like he was being prodded with a hot poker as he watched the Mariners squander another outstanding effort from a starter in a 3-1 loss to the Mets Tuesday. This time it was Erasmo Ramirez who dazzled in a spot start in front of 18,681 at Safeco Field.
Ramirez pitched as well as he has all season in holding the Mets to two runs on five hits and two walks over seven innings and 116 pitches. He struck out 10, matching a career high he set his rookie year of 2012 against Oakland, yet he lost for the fifth time in a row.
“He did a tremendous job. I was very pleased,” manager Lloyd McClendon said, adding that it was the best he’s seen from Ramirez. “I would say it was. (He) commanded the strike zone for the most part, pitched in, (and his) changeup was exceptional.
“He gave us an opportunity to win a ballgame and saved the bullpen.”
Again, the opportunity wasn’t seized.
Seattle fell behind 2-0 in the second inning when centerfielder James Jones misplayed a line drive off the bat of Travis d’Arnaud. Caught between, Jones attempted a sliding catch rather than dive, or play the ball on a hop. The ball scooted past Jones more than 75 feet, allowing 40-year-old Bobby Abreu to score from first with one out.
“I really thought that I was going to get that ball,” Jones said. “I felt like I had a better chance sliding, but I don’t know. That’s what my body told me to do.”
Ramirez (1-5, 4.35 ERA) held the Mets scoreless on two hits over the other six of his seven innings. The third-year Nicaraguan showed some moxie largely absent from his previous 11 starts as he pitched out of a jam in the sixth.
New York put runners on first and second with one out after a single and a hit batter. Ramirez rallied to strike out Kirk Nieuwenhuis (on a 3-2 changeup) and Juan Lagares.
The Mets added a run in the eighth when Lucas Duda slammed a Tom Wilhelmsen pitch 448 feet off the façade of the second deck in right-center field.
Seattle (53-47) managed one run on five hits against New York’s rookie starter Jacob deGrom, (4-5, 3.01 ERA) who used a mid-90’s fastball, pinpoint command and a solid changeup among multiple offspeed offerings to keep the Mariners befuddled.
Sporting a head of hair that would make Randy Johnson proud, deGrom rolled through four innings, allowing one hit — a leadoff single to Endy Chavez in the first. In the fifth, Willie Bloomquist and Dustin Ackley delivered consecutive hits with one out to scratch across the M’s first run.
But Mike Zunino and Chavez failed to score Ackley from third and the Mets maintained a one-run advantage. Ackley had two hits for the fourth time in the last five games.
DeGrom, 26, made his major league debut against the Yankees on May 15. In 12 starts entering Tuesday night, he went 3-5 with a 3.18 ERA and 1.33 WHIP in 73.2 innings. He was even better over his previous two as he racked up a career-high 14-inning scoreless streak. The Seattle hitters saw why.
“He throws 95 (mph) and then he’s got command of two other pitches,” Logan Morrison said. “We hit the ball early, they found gloves and he settled in and he was pretty tough to get to.”
Jones didn’t see anything different from the deGrom version he and his teammates witnessed from video.
“We knew he had a live fastball, that he would go to his slider with two strikes — we just didn’t execute.”
With the trade deadline eight days away, the biggest rumor surrounding Seattle remained a potential trade for Rays’ starter David Price. Ramirez’s outing should concentrate Zduriencik’s focus on an upgrade to the offense.
Jesus Montero has been torrid for Triple-A Tacoma in July, hitting .464 (32-for-69) with six home runs and 26 RBI in 15 games.
Ramirez was optioned to Tacoma after the game to make room for RHP Taijuan Walker, who will start Wednesday’s matinee against the Mets. Walker, 21, will make his third start in 2014 and first since he pitched four innings versus the White Sox July 7 . . . In his second minor-league rehab outing, LHP James Paxton (shoulder inflammation) pitched three innings and threw 60 pitches. He gave up three runs (two earned) on three hits and a walk while striking out four. It is expected that Paxton will make at least one more rehab start before joining the M’s rotation.