If Ramirez drops out of the rotation, Jorge Campillo or Ryan Feierabend would be the likely candidates to replace him. Campillo worked a career-high four innings Saturday, allowing seven hits and one run.
"I don't know," said Ramirez, when asked how secure he believes his spot is in the rotation. "All I can do is prepare and when I go out there I try to go out there with a positive attitude. I think I've done that. Some things haven't gone my way, but I'm going to keep preparing and going out there with a positive attitude."
The loss further damaged the Mariners' chances of catching the Yankees in the American League Wild Card race. New York, which lost to Boston, 10-1, on Saturday, maintained its 5 1/2-game edge. The Mariners have just 15 games remaining.
That burdens McLaren with even more urgency. He can't wait for his pitchers to figure things out.
"We try to give our guys the chance to work their way out of it, but we don't have that luxury anymore," McLaren said. "I hate to say it, we just don't have that luxury anymore. We're fighting an uphill battle here."
After the first two batters singled off Ramirez, McLaren called to the bullpen to have Campillo begin throwing.
"I was surprised with runners on first and second, and I turned around and saw someone warming up," Ramirez said.
Ramirez then walked Carlos Pena to load the bases, prompting a visit from pitching coach Rafael Chaves. B.J. Upton followed with an RBI single to left to end Ramirez's evening.
"He's the boss," Ramirez said of his exit. "The moves he makes are the moves he thinks are best for the team and gives us the best chance to win. He took me out. That's what happened."
Ramirez is the seventh Mariners starter in club history to exit without retiring a batter. Only Frank MacCormack faced fewer hitters (three) before his hook in a May 3, 1977 game, the Mariners' inaugural season. That was the final game of MacCormack's brief career. John Montague matched Ramirez, facing just four batters in a June 30, 1979 game.
The Rays would score four more in the first, two on Delmon Young's double off Campillo.
"We had to come back. This team comes from behind well," said Raul Ibanez, who hit a ninth-inning home run. "From a hitter's standpoint, we still have to go out there and have quality at-bats and try to do the same thing, whether it's 5-0 or 0-0 or you're up by six. The quality of the at-bat should be the same. It didn't work out for us tonight."
It didn't work out because they were facing a quality pitcher in lefty Scott Kazmir, who allowed one unearned run, three hits and struck out 11 in his six innings. He's now tied with Minnesota's Johan Santana for second in the league with 220 strikeouts, one behind Baltimore's Erik Bedard.
"He throws hard, he has good offspeed stuff, he throws strikes," Ibanez said. "He threw strike one a lot, got ahead."
Overall, the Mariners struck out 13 times, matching their season high.
The Mariners scored one run on a fifth-inning, right-side groundout by Adam Jones, scoring Jose Vidro from third. Ibanez later hit his 18th homer over the left-field wall. It was his 12th home run since Aug. 7.
Jonny Gomes and Carl Crawford each had four hits for the Rays, while Brendan Harris had a fifth-inning home run.
"You can't get behind 5-0 every day. You just can't do it," McLaren said. "We tried to come back, and just weren't able to do it."