ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Mariners rookie Brad Miller figured the big memory of his homecoming night would be his pregame chance to reunite here with dozens of well-wishers from his hometown.
That would prove one huge miscalculation once the native of the Orlando, Fla., suburb of Windemere drilled the third pitch of Tuesday night’s baseball game over the wall in right-center field. His section of family and friends had barely calmed down after that when Miller hit another homer in the fifth inning of what became a 5-4 win over the Tampa Bay Rays.
Dustin Ackley brought home the tiebreaking run with a sixth-inning triple, providing the storybook conclusion for a night Miller could not have dreamed up any better.
“It was awesome,’’ he said. “Just before the game, getting to see every coach I’ve ever had since I was like, 5. My best friends and my parents. And then to go out there and get things going and finish it off with a win, that was perfect. It was a lot of fun.’’
Miller nearly clubbed a third homer before Wil Myers ran down his eighth-inning drive to the warning track in left-center. Danny Farquhar closed out the ninth inning for his fifth save, enabling Erasmo Ramirez to improve to 4-0 while handing the Rays a sixth straight defeat.
It took several additional minutes for Miller to leave the field postgame. He chatted with a remaining crowd of well-wishers he estimated at between 40 and 60 people.
Their noise was easily heard above the Tropicana Field crowd of 13,294 when Miller took Rays rookie starter Chris Archer deep to lead off the game. Some would succumb to the pressure of playing in front of such a crowd, but Miller said it never crossed his mind.
“I mean, it’s just so cool,’’ he said. “Having my family and everybody there just supporting me. I wanted to go out there and have fun and just keep playing the way they’ve seen me play.’’
And that he did. So did leadoff counterpart Ben Zobrist of the Rays, who matched Miller’s effort with two home runs off Ramirez to help set some baseball history.
It was only the third time – the others being in 1994 and 1965 – that two leadoff hitters had hit multiple homers in the same game. Their first-inning blasts also marked the first time since Aug. 17, 2006 that opposing hitters in an A.L. game had clubbed leadoff homers.
But Zobrist’s second homer off Ramirez tied the game 4-4. It took Ackley’s first triple of the season – part of a three-hit night – to bring home Justin Smoak from first base and restore Seattle’s advantage.
“I was kind of scared after I got around second,’’ Ackley joked of the slow-moving Smoak. “He kind of slowed up there a little bit and I was like, ‘Hopefully, he goes home, because I’m going to third no matter what.’ ’’
Danny Farquhar struck out his first two hitters in the ninth before a fly out ended the game.