HOUSTON — It’s automatic. Any time a person talks about Franklin Gutierrez and his talents on the baseball field, they invariably mention his inability to stay healthy.
On Thursday night after Gutierrez went 3-for-4, including the deciding two-run home run in the Mariners’ 3-2 win over the Houston Astros that snapped a six-game losing streak, manager Eric Wedge couldn’t help but lament the possibilities.
“It’s hard not to imagine how much better we’d be as a ball club if we had him all year or for the last three years, for that matter,” Wedge said.
This will be the third straight season Gutierrez has failed to play in more than 100 big-league games. Thursday’s win was just the 21st game he’s played with the Mariners this season. In those 21 games, he’s hit seven home runs and driven in 14 home runs.
His homer allowed Mariners starter Erasmo Ramirez to pick up the win and improve to 5-1 on the season. Ramirez worked 52/3 innings, giving up two runs on five hits with seven strikeouts and two walks.
“He came out there from inning one and really commanded the ballgame,” Wedge said. “He was really aggressive with stuff and brought it right out of the bullpen.”
Ramirez isn’t trying to do anything fancy or mess with his mechanics. It’s more mindset.
“Everything is about confidence — confidence and being aggressive,” he said. “That was really what I’ve done the last three starts, just go out there and not be thinking too much, just be aggressive as I can with all my pitches.”
Ramirez came out of the game with two outs in the sixth and the Mariners leading 3-2. The Seattle bullpen kept it that way. Charlie Furbush and Yoervis Medina combined to work the seventh and eighth inning, while Danny Farquhar notched his 10th save of the season.
Nick Franklin gave the Mariners the 1-0 lead in the first inning, blasting a deep home run to left field off of Astros starter Jordan Lyles.
After going 0-for-16 with eight strikeouts on the recent Mariners’ home stand, starting the game off with a homer was a nice change.
“Things have been going a little rough, lately I’ve just been trying to think about trying to put the ball in play and making contact,” Franklin said.
Gutierrez doubled in the second inning on a deep shot that landed on the hill in center field at Minute Maid Park. With the Mariners leading 1-0 in the fourth inning and Raul Ibanez on first base, Gutierrez scorched a line drive over the wall in left field off of Lyles to give Seattle a 3-1 lead.
“I’m just happy to be here you know,” Gutierrez said. “I just came to try to help my team. I’ve been missing a lot of games due to injuries. It feels good to come back, see the ball better, swing and help my team today.”