ST. PETERSBURG -- Erasmo Ramirez got some payback against his old teammates with a quality start, and Nelson Cruz made his mark with two doubles and a tape-measure home run to lead the Mariners' 7-1 win over the Rays on Friday night at Tropicana Field.
Cruz tacked onto the Mariners' lead in the ninth inning with a 482-foot blast, the longest tracked by Statcast™ at Tropicana Field. Informed of his historic effort, Cruz fired a question back to reporters: "Do they give me a prize for that?"
With no trophy presented for magnificent home runs, Cruz and his Seattle teammates will instead take the victory.
The Mariners (62-61) have won three in a row to keep pace with the Royals and Twins for the second spot in the AL Wild Card race. Seattle is a half-game back for that spot. Meanwhile, the Rays (60-64) lost their third straight. Since winning three straight at Houston, the Rays have won just three times in their last 14 games and remain three games back of the Wild Card.
The Rays traded Ramirez to the Mariners for reliever Steve Cishek on July 28. Friday night the right-hander made his first appearance against the Rays since the trade, and he held the Rays scoreless for the first five innings before Kevin Kiermaier doubled in the sixth and scored on Lucas Duda's sacrifice fly to mint the Rays' first run.
"I thought he did a great job today," catcher Mike Zunino said. "Obviously he's had some time watching these guys as hitters from their side, and he came up with a pretty good game plan and executed. He threw all four pitches for strikes, was able to keep them off balance, and did a great job there getting out of a bases-loaded jam."
Ramirez loaded the bases on two walks and a single in the second inning, threatening to undo the 3-0 lead his teammates had spotted him. But a mound visit forced Ramirez to regroup, and he then induced two flyouts to come out of the inning unscathed.
"We knew the guy on the mound pretty well," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "... He's done it multiple times for us, and it stings probably a little more when you have it done to you, but he was sharp and was good."
Ramirez's final line showed one run on two hits and two walks with four strikeouts in six innings to earn his fifth win of the season.
The Mariners got busy early against Rays starter Austin Pruitt. Cruz doubled home one, and scored to highlight a three-run first. Zunino doubled home two more in the fourth, and Ben Gamel singled home another in the fifth to build a 6-0 lead. Cruz finished off the Mariners' scoring with his 30th home run of the season off Brad Boxberger in the ninth. The epic blast had a 116-mph exit velocity, according to Statcast™.
Pruitt took his fourth loss of the season after allowing six runs on 11 hits and two walks in seven innings.
"Giving up six runs was not very good, obviously," Pruitt said. "But after throwing 33 pitches in the first inning, it was good to get seven innings out of it."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED First blood: Pruitt walked Yonder Alonso with one out in the first and Robinson Cano followed with a single to left, bringing Cruz to the plate. The Mariners DH drove a ball to deep center field that Kiermaier appeared to lose in the lights, but he actually was deking the baserunners. By the time the Rays center fielder got the ball back to the infield, Cruz stood on second with an RBI double and the Mariners had a 1-0 lead.
"I was deking. I was trying to slow up [Cano]," Kiermaier said. "Just try and slow up some steps, because I knew I couldn't catch it. You never know if that's going to work or not. ... Sometimes it works, and it's a matter of a third-base coach holding a guy like that. But I saw it the whole time. I tried slowing him down so he wouldn't score from first."
"We're just missing pitches we should hit." -- Cash, on the team's struggling offense.
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Cruz's blast in the ninth tied for the third-longest home run this season, according to Statcast™, in addition to being the third longest by the Mariners since 2015 (Cruz hit all of them).
"You could have told me 500, I would have believed you," Zunino said.
ANDRIESE LEAVES REHAB START Matt Andriese, who was making a rehab start Friday for Class A Advanced Charlotte, had to leave the game after getting hit by a line drive on his left ankle.
The Rays challenged in the sixth when Steven Souza Jr. was called out at first after he grounded to third. After a delay of 1 minute 38 seconds, the call on the field stood.
WHAT'S NEXT Mariners:Ariel Miranda (7-6, 4.75) will try to put his recent struggles to bed as he opposes the Rays at 3:10 p.m. PT Saturday at Tropicana Field. Miranda has allowed 12 home runs over his last seven starts, with a 7.23 ERA over that span.
Rays:Jake Odorizzi (6-6, 4.30) gets the nod against the Mariners in the 6:10 p.m. ET contest. Over his last two starts against the Mariners, Odorizzi has allowed eight earned runs in eight innings. He is 3-4 with a 5.30 ERA over his last 11 starts.