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Ramirez delivers for Mariners

Seattle left fielder Raul Ibanez tries to get to the second-inning home-run ball of Baltimore's Ramon Hernandez.Associated Press
 (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Seattle left fielder Raul Ibanez tries to get to the second-inning home-run ball of Baltimore's Ramon Hernandez.Associated Press (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Kirby Arnold Everett Herald

SEATTLE – A Seattle Mariners pitching staff that has been somewhere between patchwork and perfect this season got a big boost Monday night.

Left-hander Horacio Ramirez came off the disabled list and held the Baltimore Orioles to five hits and two runs over seven innings in the Mariners’ 4-2 victory at Safeco Field.

The Mariners can only hope that Ramirez is back for the duration.

Historically effective when he has been healthy, Ramirez’s biggest problem in his career has been injuries. His only completely injury-free season in the past three was 2005, when he went 11-9 with the Atlanta Braves.

That potential was enough for the Mariners to trade hard-throwing reliever Rafael Soriano to the Braves last off-season, and Ramirez started the season well, going 4-2 in his first eight starts.

Then he got hurt.

Tendinitis in his left shoulder put Ramirez on the disabled list on May 25, and his recovery was slow and trying, for both he and the Mariners.

While Ramirez rehabbed, the Mariners tried Cha Seung Baek and Ryan Feierabend in the rotation, neither with results impressive enough for the team to feel comfortable in a division that appears to be a race to the finish with the Angels.

Ramirez came off the DL Monday night and became everything the Mariners want out of their fifth starter – or their first, second, third and fourth starters as well.

He threw strikes early in the count, invited contact from an Orioles team that’s middle-of-the-pack in American League hitting, and minimized the effect of the five hits they got off him.

The Orioles scored only on Ramon Hernandez’s solo homer in the second inning and Nick Markakis’ infield single in the fourth after Chris Gomez led off with a triple.

“He was in control all the way,” manager John McLaren said. “He was aggressive, he had great tempo. This is the guy we traded for.”

Now, if the Mariners can get him to pitch like this on the road. Ramirez, 5-2 with a 5.89 earned run average, has recorded all five of his victories at Safeco Field.

“It’s a great ballpark, great fans,” he said. “I just need to find a way to carry that onto the road. I think it’s just coincidence. It doesn’t cross my mind at all.”

Ramirez had thrown just 60 pitches through five innings, 69 through six and finished with an economical 83 through seven before McLaren turned to his bullpen.

The Mariners’ offense, meanwhile, nipped at Orioles starter Brian Burres with a run in the first inning on Raul Ibanez’s RBI single after Ichiro Suzuki had doubled, one in the fourth when Jose Guillen doubled and Richie Sexson singled, and two in the sixth when Yuniesky Betancourt hit a two-run double off the top of the left-field wall.

Suzuki, taking the designated hitter spot as McLaren gave him a break after being hit by a pitch above his right knee on Sunday, proved early the leg is no problem.

He doubled in the first inning, stole third base and scored on Ibanez’s ground out. He also singled in the third. His 2-for-3 game was his best since the All-Star break, raising his average to .353.

“I think Ichiro answered our question about his knee,” McLaren said.

For the 27th time in a row this season, closer J.J. Putz provided the answer to end the game.

Putz followed the eighth-inning work of relievers Sean Green and George Sherrill, tearing through the Orioles in the ninth to record his 27th save in 27 opportunities this season and lower his ERA to 0.81.

It became an effective finish to a game that Ramirez began, and continued the progressive improvement by the pitching staff.

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