Who’s he? Rays’ Ramirez ranks with AL leaders

by Gary Shelton on August 11, 2015 · 1 comment

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Who is he? Ramirez ranks with the AL leaders./JEFFREY S. KING

Who is he? Ramirez ranks with the AL leaders/JEFFREY S. KING

Tuesday, 11:30 a.m.

He was not supposed to be this good. He was never supposed to be special.

He was an afterthought of a trade, just another guy trying to eat up innings. He was not supposed to be dominant. He was not supposed to be a star.

Erasmo Ramirez was a pleasant enough guy, a pie-faced pitcher with a constant grin. That was supposed to be enough. He was obtained in an exchange of cast-offs, two teams

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getting together to swap a pair of players who didn't quite measure up. Ramirez  Kevin Kiermaier makes a rare home run trot./JEFFREY S. KINGwasn't overpowering, and he wasn't huge, and he wasn't the kind of pitcher to make your voice catch in your throat.

Lately, however, Ramirez has been electric. And the Rays should thank every day they made an overlooked trade for him.

Why should anyone have noticed? Ramirez was 1-6 with Seattle last year with a 5.25 ERA, and the raw truth is that he didn't get off to a great start with the Rays, either. He was just another guy pawing the mound.

And now look at him.

After shutting out the Braves Tuesday night, 2-0, Ramirez is now 9-4. He ranks among the league leaders in earned run average, lowest batting average against, opponents' on-base percentage, opposing slugging percentage and Whip. He has now thrown 12 scoreless innings in a row. A telling statistic: in 12 of his 18 starts this year, the Rays have given him two or more runs of support. In those 12 starts, Ramirez is 9-0.

These days, Ramirez is Felix Hernandez. He's Dallas Keuchel. He's David Price. He's a star.

“I just feel like everything is working,'' Ramirez said. “Whatever they've been saying to me, everything with the numbers, with my pitches, how I execute the pitches and get my confence to any of my pitches...it's been great to have that feeling,'' Ramirez said.

Ramirez got a break in the first inning when Daniel Nava threw to Logan Forsythe, who turned and threw Cameron Maybin out at the plate. “That gives you a push,'' Ramirez said.

Afterward, the Braves kept sitting down. Ramirez retired 16 straight batters at one point, and when the Rays pulled Ramirez in the eighth inning, he had thrown only 70 pitches.

“Sure, you want to stay in,'' Ramirez said. “When you're in that kind of rhythm, that kind of feeling, you always want to stay. I'm not thinking that this is the fourth time a hitter has faced me, and that a mistake could let them tie the game. It was the right move.''

The Rays got the only runs they would need in the bottom of the seventh inning when centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier hit his first home run in more than two months, snapping a drought of 194 at bats. He hadn't hit a homer with a man on base since the Rays' second game of the season.

Not bad for a guy the Rays weren't even sure would be able to play a day earlier because of soreness in his thumb. But Kiermaier put a little extra padding in and toughed it out.

“I told the guys after the game 'I don't always hit home runs, but when I do, I make them count,'' Kiermaier said. “It felt really good to make a contribution to the offense, because I haven't been doing enough as much as I want. That situation was big for me and the team, and I felt like I was on cloud nine running the bases.''

This season, Kiermaier has largely been a defensive outfielder, but he says he longs to show he can make an impact as an offensive player, too. The home run lifted his average to .244 on the season.

Like usual, the Rays relied on their bullpen to close out the game. This time, however, it was Brandon Gomes and Xavier Cedeno, who got his first save of the season.

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