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Mariners Homecoming King Erasmo Ramirez finally fits in

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Distance makes the taste grow sweeter as Erasmo leads the Mariners to a walk-off win.

Cleveland Indians v Seattle Mariners
You made it, yes, you.
Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

Tonight I made a chart, and I want you to enjoy it as I do. Anyone who finds advanced metrics intimidating, fear not, there’s naught but basic arithmetic ahead. The chart is as banal as graphics get - a bar graph that tracks quantities of digits:

This chart made me smile after a week where the Mariners fell flat on their face in a season where that fall led to 10, then 30, then 60 days on the disabled list. If you’re keeping a vigilant eye, its dimensions may stand out to you, but I suspect those are few at this point. Both tonight’s heroes are included within it, however.

Nelson Cruz is held within the second column, among the nine. He’s been a Mariner for just under three years now, yet it’s hard to imagine the team without him. When he was signed before the 2015 season it was viewed nearly universally as an error, yet, with the egg on their faces long since wiped clean. a crowd of 27,462 sprung to their feet in elation as Nelson Cruz sent a walk-off 2-run homer into the seats in right-center field. A six-game losing streak, curtailed. Handing Cleveland just their second loss in 30 games. Félix Hernández is the longest-tenured Mariner, having been signed back on Independence Day in 2002, but nobody, not even Carlos Ruiz, has been in professional baseball as long as Nelson Cruz. Tonight, after brilliant pitching performances from both Trevor Bauer and Erasmo Ramirez, the man signed by the New York Mets on February 17, 1998 sent everyone home happy.

Usually the player with a walk-off homer is the centerpiece of any recap but the Mariners have now had eight walk-off victories this year. They’ve only had three starters go eight innings in a start this year, and just two of those starts involved just one run or less being allowed. The last month of baseball has seen more quality starts from Mariners pitchers than we’ve known what to do with, making their subsequent inability to match scoring with run suppression all the more frustrating, of course. That’s been to the credit of Mike Leake, and in lesser part Marco Gonzales and Andrew Moore. Before Leake arrived, however, it was thanks to Erasmo Ramirez.

He finally fits.

You all probably know the Erasmo Ramirez basics. He's more little than big. Strike-thrower. Not overpowering. Fast riser. Young. Not thought of as a top prospect. As a matter of fact, Baseball America left him off the list of the Mariners' top ten prospects entirely. If you want to cram it all into one terrible sentence, Ramirez doesn't need high ceilings, and he doesn't have a high ceiling.

That’s from Jeff Sullivan, on March 16th, 2012.

Three years later, almost to the day, Brendan Gawlowski wrote this following an uninspiring late-March start by Erasmo before the 2015 season:

The outing encapsulated Ramirez all too well. As a righty without a plus breaking ball and no weapon for same-handed hitters, he's subject to the whims of the batted ball to an uncomfortable degree. Neither his slider nor his curve are good enough to regularly induce swings on pitches out of the strike zone and they don't have enough movement to consistently draw weak contact when thrown for a strike. He was also burned by bad control of his secondary offerings, a problem that has plagued him in the past, and one that partially explains how he's nibbled his way to a career 3.14 BB/9 ratio after throwing nothing but strikes in the minors. Ultimately, Ramirez is a tweener without the track record or upside to warrant a spot on a very strong Mariners pitching staff. Without an obvious role on the team, Ramirez no longer fits into Seattle's plans.

Brendan was right. A team with plentiful pitching depth had no space for an inconsistent righty with no minor league options left. Ramirez was traded, shuffled, then, astonishingly, traded back. The peak of his prospect hype was in 2011-12 as he finished the season Seattle’s 13th overall prospect. He was one of many, amongst but always behind Danny Hultzen, Taijuan Walker, and James Paxton. Erasmo Ramirez started the game for the Mariners tonight, and was the best he’s ever been.

Still somehow just 27 years old, the second-youngest of that foursome had the best start of his entire career. 8 IP, 10(!) K’s, just 1 BB, and 1 ER to match - a solo homer to Giovanny Urshela in the 3rd inning. He left the game with a 1-1 tie, and watched Edwin Díaz work a scoreless 9th to set up Cruz’s game-winning blast. Ramirez mixed everything in, using each of his five pitches at least a dozen times, and peppering the edges of the zone. The result was what Seattle had looked for all year - stability and efficiency - except with Erasmo the search has been longer. It took years, it took failures, it took being given up on. Erasmo has improved, yes, but the Mariners have changed too. They were the right pair at the wrong time, and improbably they’ve been reunited.

Everyone who has ever had something to say about Erasmo as an individual has showered him with praise. His performance was never atrocious, but it wasn’t quite enough to solidify his role, and both his health and diminutive stature limited him. He never quite fit with the image of the top-prospects surrounding him in the Jack Zduriencik era, yet from 2012-2014 Ramirez kept appearing, making starts, being remarkably young, and struggling to find consistency. Tonight’s Game Score for his start was 83, the best he’s ever had, and one of the top-three by any Mariners pitcher this year.

Jerry Dipoto has made hundreds of moves since taking control of the Mariners after the 2015 season. He acquired Yonder Alonso, who drove in Kyle Seager with a laser to right field. Jerry has procured 27 players currently on the active roster in total. Three more of Dipoto’s targets are finishing the season in the minors. Nine are remnants of the Jack Z era, including Nelson Cruz. Félix, of course, was famously signed by Pat Gillick’s front office way back in 2002. As we know, however, one of Jerry’s acquisitions, has been here before, signed all the way back on September 1st of 2007:

Erasmo Ramirez is the last remaining player acquired by Bill Bavasi’s Mariners. He survived, escaped, and returned. Tonight, he even managed to dominate. The Mariners need Erasmo Ramirez, and will need him next year too. Finally.

They’re a match over 11 years in the making.