It's not a surprise the Tampa Bay Rays' starting rotation ranks second in the AL in ERA. What is unexpected is just how much Erasmo Ramirez has contributed to that.
Ramirez looks to continue his impressive run of pitching and help the Rays win their fifth straight at home Saturday night against the reeling Baltimore Orioles.
Tampa Bay's rotation has been decimated by injuries, with Alex Cobb and Drew Smyly currently on the disabled list while Jake Odorizzi and Matt Moore have also missed time. Despite those absences, the Rays' starters have a 3.37 ERA thanks largely to ace Chris Archer, rookie Nathan Karns and Ramirez.
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Acquired from Seattle just before the season, Ramirez allowed 16 runs over 5 1-3 innings in his first two appearances - both in relief. He's been a revelation since moving into the rotation for good on May 14, however, going 8-2 with a 2.09 ERA, tied for the most wins in the majors during that span.
Ramirez (8-2, 3.54 ERA) has allowed two runs or fewer in nine consecutive starts, tying him with Smyly for the second-longest streak in franchise history behind Cobb's 12.
"It's been the best season of my career so far," Ramirez told MLB's official website. "To get to this point, I feel like I don't have to stop. I just have to continue doing what I've been doing, no matter what happens."
He is 6-1 in those nine outings with a 1.29 ERA, which would be the best in the AL with enough innings to qualify. Ramirez, though, has pitched past the sixth inning only once in those nine games - a 3-0 victory May 30 at Baltimore. He limited the Orioles to three hits over seven innings and matched a season high with seven strikeouts.
The right-hander is 2-0 with a 2.57 ERA in three career starts against Baltimore.
Ramirez has shut down Chris Davis, Matt Wieters, Adam Jones and J.J. Hardy, holding them to 2 for 24.
Those hitters haven't done much of anything lately, much like the rest of Baltimore's lineup. The Orioles (46-49) have scored nine runs during a four-game losing streak and have hit .135 with runners in scoring position while losing 15 of 20.
Baltimore scored in the fourth inning Friday before Tampa Bay (49-49) pushed across three in the eighth en route to a 3-1 victory.
''One run doesn't do it very often,'' Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. ''It's very easy to sit in an ivory tower and critique (the pitching), but the bottom line is we need to score runs.''
Tampa Bay's Tim Beckham snapped an eighth-inning tie with a two-out, bases-loaded single off Darren O'Day.
''We pieced together (a rally) to get a win off an extremely good reliever, arguably one of the better ones in the American League,'' manager Kevin Cash said after the Rays won for just the ninth time in 28 games. ''That's a credit to the guys. They've been scuffling.''
Miguel Gonzalez (8-6, 4.21) will try to help prevent Baltimore from matching its longest skid of the season as he faces the Rays for the fourth time in 2015.
He's had little trouble with them so far, going 1-1 with a 0.84 ERA while receiving only five runs of support. The right-hander is 4-2 with a 2.05 ERA in seven starts at Tropicana Field and pitched four-hit ball over 7 2-3 innings in a 4-0 victory there May 2.
Gonzalez won his third straight road start Sunday at Detroit, allowing two runs and six hits over five innings in a 9-3 victory.
Evan Longoria (7 for 30), James Loney (4 for 23) and Kevin Kiermaier (2 for 11) have all struggled in this matchup.