Erasmo Ramirez provided the final start to his season he'd been looking for, just not exactly the perfect ending to this game.
The Mariners discovered firsthand Tuesday night just why the pesky Baltimore Orioles are in a first-place battle in the American League East with two weeks to go.
Down to their final three outs, the Orioles rallied for two runs to tie it off Ramirez in the ninth, then finally scored two more in the 18th inning to hand the Mariners a 4-2 loss Tuesday night at Safeco Field in one of the longest games in their history.
Taylor Teagarten blooped a one-out single to right field off Lucas Luetge in the 18th to score Nate McLouth from second base with the go-ahead run. Another run scored when third baseman Chone Figgins bobbled a ground ball and had to settle for his team getting an out at third rather than throwing home.
Jim Johnson then closed it out for the Orioles, who extended their franchise record with a 14th consecutive extra-innings win. Orioles reliever Tommy Hunter tossed two scoreless frames for the victory.
The five-hour, 44-minute game was the fifth longest by time in Mariners history and tied for their fourth-longest by innings. Luetge was the seventh Seattle relief pitcher to work the game after Ramirez was charged with the two tying runs in the ninth.
The Mariners went 0 for 17 with runners in scoring position, a big reason why things were even in extras after Ramirez dominated the Orioles while allowing only two hits through the first eight innings.
Seattle squandered a leadoff double by Kyle Seager in the 17th and a leadoff walk in the 16th by Miguel Olivo â" his career-high third of the night â" and failed to score over the game's final 14 frames.
Mariners rookie Ramirez was treated to warm applause by the 12,608 fans as he headed out for the ninth with his pitch count at 95. But leadoff singles by Robert Andino and McLouth put the tying run on base and brought closer Tom Wilhelmsen in to replace Ramirez.
After a bunt moved the runners up, Chris Davis tied it 2-2 with a single under the glove of diving second baseman Dustin Ackley.
Olivo had provided the Mariners with all of their offense back in the fourth inning. After a two-out walk drawn by Casper Wells, Olivo deposited a pitch from Orioles starter Wei-Yin Chen over the left-field wall for a two-run homer.
Ramirez is making the most of the limited starting opportunities given him by the Mariners since being called back up from Class AAA this month. Unlike his teammate, Hector Noesi, who was pulled out of the rotation Tuesday after making just one abbreviated start out of a planned two, Ramirez has gone at least seven innings in both his efforts while allowing just two runs each time.
The Mariners do not have any more starts scheduled for Ramirez at this time, though he is expected to see some relief work. If this was his final start, it was an exclamation point on a so-so first big-league season dampened somewhat by an elbow injury mid-summer.
Last week in Toronto, he held the Blue Jays to two runs over seven innings to pick up his first career victory. But he turned things up a notch in this effort, retiring the first nine batters he faced before a leadoff single in the fourth by McLouth.
Ramirez didn't allow another hit after that until a sixth-inning double by McLouth that was almost caught in center by a diving Franklin Gutierrez. At first, Gutierrez appeared to be in pain after jamming his hand into the turf while breaking his fall. Mariners trainers began racing on to the field, but Gutierrez waved them off halfway and remained in the game.
The emergence of Ramirez as a possible rotation candidate for next season is good news for the Mariners. They know they have Felix Hernandez and Jason Vargas back for next season, but the status of pending free agents Kevin Millwood and Hisashi Iwakuma is still unclear.
There is a good chance Millwood will retire after the season, while Iwakuma's asking price is somewhat of a mystery and will be based off a half-season of performance. With minor league prospects Danny Hultzen, James Paxton and Taijuan Walker unlikely to break camp with the big club next spring, there will be a need for additional arms to fill in the rotation gaps.
Current starter Blake Beavan is one of those expected to be in the mix for a starting job. And now, based off the last two performances, Ramirez has to be considered as a potential candidate as well.