Ramirez fans 10 but Mariners come up short

Ramirez fans 10 but Mariners come up short

Ramirez fans 10 but Mariners come up short
SEATTLE -- Mariners right-hander Erasmo Ramirez threw an eight-inning gem Monday night against the A's, but he wound up on the short side of a rookie pitching duel with Tommy Milone as Oakland pulled off a 1-0 win at Safeco Field.

Making his third Major League start, Ramirez, 22, became the eighth Mariners rookie to record 10 strikeouts in a game and allowed just three hits, one walk and the lone run on a second-inning home run by Seth Smith.

"You saw a complete performance by a young starting pitcher," said Mariners manager Eric Wedge.

He was talking about his own youngster, but Wedge could have said the same of Milone. The 25-year-old became the first A's rookie in franchise history to win eight games before the All-Star break as he scattered seven hits over seven shutout innings to improve to 8-5 with a 3.83 ERA.

The Mariners have now gone 23 straight innings since scoring their last run in the fourth inning of Saturday's 5-1 win in San Diego. It was the third 1-0 loss by Seattle this season and 50th in franchise history. They've been shut out nine times this year, including two in a row after falling 2-0 at San Diego on Sunday.

The offensive shortcomings were a familiar story, particularly at Safeco Field, where the Mariners are now batting .203 and averaging 3.0 runs a game. Their 12-20 home record is the second-worst in the Majors behind only the Royals.

But the new story Monday was Ramirez, the 5-foot-10 rookie from Nicaragua who had gone 0-1 with a 9.00 ERA in his first two starts since being recalled from Triple-A Tacoma. Including seven games in relief earlier this season, he now owns a 4.18 ERA but is still searching for his first Major League win.

He did everything else right in this one with a sparkling performance that including striking out the side in the first and seventh innings, clocking 93-96 mph with his fastball and looking much sharper than his previous two starts.

"The difference was I was more consistent in throwing down in the zone," Ramirez said. "I was being aggressive with my pitches, not trying to be perfect. That was something that wasn't working for me the last two outings, because I was trying to throw the ball right in the corner.

"And when you try to hit just the right spot, you have more chance for mistakes. Tonight I just tried to throw the ball as hard as I can and follow the catcher."

The only problem Ramirez ran into was when Smith turned around one of his 94-mph fastballs in the second inning, driving the first pitch he saw over the fence in center field for the night's only run.

"I tried to get ahead in the count and the ball was down the middle and he took advantage of the fastball," Ramirez said. "It just happened. Maybe sometimes he hits a ground ball, but tonight it was a homer."

Oakland's only other hits were singles by Brandon Moss in the fifth and Brandon Inge in the eighth before Tom Wilhelmsen came in for a perfect ninth.

"We had limited scouting on him, but you look at some of his previous games, he pitched a lot differently," A's skipper Bob Melvin said of Ramirez. "He seemed a little bit more predictable in his last games, and he pitched backwards today.

"You couldn't tell based on the numbers and watching video that he was that good, but he pitched that well tonight. I didn't think we just had a bad approach. He pitched that well and dominated."

Milone wasn't quite as overpowering, with five strikeouts and seven hits allowed, but he was equally effective.

The A's have won 10 of their past 13 games to pull to 36-38. They had allowed just 49 hits over their previous 10 games, the fewest by an A's pitching staff over a 10-game span since 1916, and Seattle added just seven more on Monday.

"This guy Milone was throwing the ball perfect," said Mariners catcher Jesus Montero, who tallied two of Seattle's hits. "He was putting the ball on the corners really good. Cutters in, fastball outside, the changeup was good. He pitched a helluva game today. He was really good."

Milone was one of the players obtained from the Nationals in the Gio Gonzalez offseason deal. His eight wins trail only the nine by Yu Darvish of the Rangers among American League rookies.

The Mariners put together six hits over the first four innings but couldn't make anything of them as Milone used a pair of double-play grounders and some good two-out pitching to maneuver out of trouble.

Milone then retired nine straight batters before Miguel Olivo's two-out single in the seventh, but Seattle again could do no further damage. Relievers Grant Balfour and Ryan Cook finished things off with just one walk in the final two frames.

Thus on a night the Mariners got a golden outing from their young starter, their offense couldn't scratch out a run of support.

"We've just got to get to the point where every area of our club is clicking at the same time," Wedge said. "We couldn't put an inning together. We had some good swings on the ball tonight, but we didn't put an inning together. That's really all you really need to do when you're talking about a 1-0 ballgame."

Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.