SEATTLE -- There's just something about Safeco Field that brings out the best in Horacio Ramirez. In his first start back from the disabled list after a bout with left shoulder tendinitis, Ramirez pitched seven strong innings to improve to 5-0 at home this season, and the Mariners beat the Orioles, 4-2, on Monday night in front of 23,128 fans at Safeco Field. Ramirez is just one of two pitchers to go undefeated at Safeco Field with at least four wins. Oakland's Rich Harden is 5-0 in Seattle.
In addition to his perfect record, Ramirez has posted a 2.27 ERA at home. On the road this season he is 0-2 with an astonishingly high 13.21 ERA. Ramirez stifled the Orioles for seven innings, allowing just two runs on five hits while lowering his ERA from 6.47 to 5.89. The only real hitch came in the fourth, when he allowed a leadoff triple followed by two straight singles. But as fast as he got into trouble, he got out of it, starting a double play before inducing a fly out to left field, ending the inning after allowing just one run. Ramirez never allowed another hit after that, retiring the next nine batters in order. "He was fabulous," said Mariners manager John McLaren. "That's the best I've seen him." J.J. Putz worked a perfect ninth to earn his 27th save in as many opportunities, and extended his club-leading consecutive-saves streak to 29. Ichiro Suzuki was in the lineup as the designated hitter one day after being hit in the right thigh with a pitch, which forced him to leave Sunday's game. He put to rest any questions about his legs early, recording a leadoff double before stealing third base after Jose Lopez botched a bunt attempt. Ichiro said he stole third because he appreciated Lopez's attempt to advance him, considering he was never given a sign to bunt. Ichiro wasn't trying to prove anything, but took off for third because he was impressed with Lopez's dedication to the team. "A player that does not have much experience tried to do something, and he showed he understood how important today's game was," Ichiro said through a translator. "I thought it was a very good influence, so what I wanted to do, was, although the bunt did not go well, I wanted to do something that showed feelings of appreciation toward that play." He later scored on Raul Ibanez's groundout to second, and said there was no leftover pain from being hit by Justin Verlander's fastball the day before. "If I said that my leg hurt today, that would be very rude to the opposing team," he said. Yuniesky Betancourt broke open a 2-2 game in the sixth inning, driving a two-out, two-run double off of the very top of the wall in left-center field. The ball bounced off the yellow paint stripped across the top, but never left the yard. Although many mistake that type of play to be a home run, McLaren knew better. As a coach on former manager Lou Piniella's staff, he said he often had to remind Piniella that the ball had to clear the fence in order to be a home run. Betancourt's two-run double was plenty for Ramirez, who reached 94 mph on the radar gun on more than one occasion. "I think that was a car that was passing by in the background or something," Ramirez joked. "That doesn't happen too often." It did on Monday, though, and it wasn't just his velocity that worked well. He continuously got ahead in the count, pitching aggressively while maintaining a solid tempo. Ramirez said he felt even better than he did before he was placed on the disabled list this season, and his velocity is back to the level it was at when he threw in the low-to-mid 90s. It was a very noticeable change for Ramirez, who appeared comfortable on the mound from start to finish. "Instead of getting a single to left on the fastball, if it's down the middle, it's a foul ball, or they're missing it," Ramirez said. "That's a big difference." The Mariners have their entire starting rotation healthy for the first time since April 18, when Felix Hernandez left Seattle's game against Minnesota with a strained right forearm. Jeff Weaver and Ramirez had their stints on the DL. "It's been a long time," McLaren said. "It's a good feeling, I can tell you." With things getting tight in the standings -- the Mariners are just 2 1/2 games behind the Angels in the American League West and one game behind Cleveland in the Wild Card race -- the Mariners could sure use some more performances like this from Ramirez. If only he could pitch more games at Safeco. "It's a great ballpark, great fans," Ramirez said. "I just need to find a way to carry that onto the road."
Patrick Brown is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.