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Erasmo Ramirez's big league debut

Twenty-two-year-old Erasmo Ramirez will make his first career start on Thursday when the Mariners and Padres meet in the series finale at Safeco Field. Ramirez made his first Opening Day roster for Seattle this year as a reliever, but was sent down to Triple-A Tacoma in early May to stretch into a starter.

The decision to transition him into the rotation came after the righty yielded just three runs in eleven innings in his seven appearances out of the 'pen. His success continued with Tacoma, as he went 3-2 with a 3.11 ERA in seven starts. But with 23-year-old Blake Beavan getting hit hard of late, Ramirez's most recent performance -- 7 2/3 no-hit innings against Salt Lake City on June 8 -- was impossible for the Mariners to ignore.

"We wanted to get him down there to start and get him back into that routine," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. "Get him back down, stretched out, having success, throwing the ball very well down there. With Blake needing to go down to Triple-A, it's a good time to get him up here."

Ramirez will be just the sixth pitcher to start a game for Seattle this year. The Mariners are one of just three teams (Reds and Marlins) to have used only five starters this season, as Beavan joined Felix Hernandez, Kevin Millwood, Hector Noesi and Jason Vargas in the rotation.

The Padres, by contrast, have used 11 starting pitchers this season, as four have landed on the disabled list, with Tim Stauffer making two stints. One of the few consistencies for the San Diego rotation has been Edinson Volquez, who will oppose Ramirez on Thursday.

Volquez is 2-6 with a 3.91 ERA this season, but allowed a season-high six runs in five innings to the Cardinals in his last outing. The story for Volquez this season has been strong outings with little run support. Six times he received zero runs from the Padres offense, and the 2.01 runs of support he averages is the lowest in the Majors. In an interesting bit of symmetry, Volquez's first Major League victory came against the Mariners while he was pitching for the Rangers in August 2006. Padres manager Bud Black is hoping for a similarly memorable outing from Volquez Thursday.

"Our starting pitching has been a little bit erratic, variable," Black said. "We haven't had that one really dominating outing, which you need to maybe gain some momentum."

Mariners: Gutierrez makes his return
Center fielder Franklin Gutierrez returned from Triple-A Tacoma on Wednesday after a three-month recovery from a partially-torn pectoral muscle and plantar fasciitis. Gutierrez was not in the Mariners' lineup Wednesday night but is expected to debut Thursday.

His replacement in center, Michael Saunders, has been excellent of late. He is hitting .444 (24-54) over his last 13 games with seven doubles, three homers, and three stolen bases. His .282 average on the season is by far the best on the team, so he'll stay in the lineup and shift to left field when Gutierrez returns.

Padres: A win streak, a series win and a shutout
With their 1-0 victory over the Mariners on Wednesday night, the Padres earned their first series win since taking two of three from the Angels May 18-20. The Padres, who have won just four series all season, have won four of their last five Interleague series, dating back to 2011.

The win also gives the Padres back-to-back wins for just the sixth time this season. They have yet to win three straight.

That Wednesday's victory came via a shutout is similarly rare, as it is just the third recorded by the Padres this season. The other two came against Milwaukee in back-to-back games on May 1-2.

• San Diego first baseman Yonder Alonso, whose solo home run provided the lone run Wednesday, leads all rookies with 16 doubles. He is in the top 10 among rookies in hits (56), runs scored (18), RBIs (16) and batting average (.259).

Worth noting
• The Mariners have the best ERA in Interleague history with a 3.56 mark since play began in 1997. The Yankees are a distant second at 3.86.

• With a hit in Wednesday's game, Ichiro Suzuki upped his career hit total to 2,497. At his current pace, he will be the fourth-fastest to 2,500 in Major League history, having accumulated his hits in 1,812 games.

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