Marlins 3, Devil Rays 1, 11 innings
MIAMI (AP)—Miguel Cabrera walked slowly to the dugout after failing to drive home the winning run in the ninth. He couldn’t get there fast enough after coming through two innings later.
The 20-year-old Venezuelan, who learned Thursday night that he was being called up from Double-A Carolina, sent the first pitch he saw from Tampa Bay reliever Al Levine over the center-field wall, an estimated 419-foot shot.
“I feel great,” Cabrera said, remnants of a celebratory shaving-cream pie still showing in his hair and ears. “I feel excited. My first day in the big leagues, my first hit’s a home run, it’s good.”
Cabrera became just the third player since 1900 to hit a game-ending home run in his major league debut, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Josh Bard did it for Cleveland last season and Billy Parker connected for California in 1971.
Cabrera, the most highly touted prospect in the Marlins’ organization, played primarily at third base in the minor leagues, but started in left field Friday. He was hitting .365 with 10 homers and 59 RBIs in 68 games at Carolina when he was promoted.
Cabrera was 0-for-4 before homering. He grounded out to end the ninth, stranding two runners and sending a large portion of the announced crowd of 12,515 heading for the exits.
Those who remained cheered him loudly and longly after his homer.
“It’s so gratifying to see this kid come in here and do that,” Marlins manager Jack McKeon said. “This kid wasn’t fazed at all. He had good poise all night long.”
Alex Gonzalez doubled with one out in the 11th, bringing up Cabrera.
Cabrera’s new locker is located next to the one occupied by Marlins rookie pitcher Dontrelle Willis, a 21-year-old who also jumped from Double-A to the majors. Willis takes a 6-1 record into his start Saturday against the Devil Rays.
“This kid is maybe going to pick us up offensively,” McKeon said. “Dontrelle’s been doing it on the hill. This is what we’ve been looking for, a little spark on the offensive side. This guy’s a threat now.”
Armando Almanza (4-4) pitched a scoreless 11th for the win. Levine (2-5) took the loss for the Devil Rays, who managed only two hits in the final nine innings.
“The hitting is cold,” Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella said. “We’re going to cut down on our hitting before the game, take a different approach. Less is better.”
Both starters pitched impressively, allowing only one run apiece, but neither figured in the decision.
Florida left-hander Mark Redman retired 21 of the final 22 batters he faced, allowing five hits and striking out eight in eight innings.
Rob Bell, making his second start for the Devil Rays, yielded only one hit in six innings, walking three and striking out four.
Redman allowed hits to four of the first six Tampa Bay batters, then retired 19 straight before Carl Crawford’s one-out triple in the eighth.
“I was definitely concerned at the start,” Redman said. “I figured I was either leaving my pitches up or that I had to change my gameplan around. So I started establishing the fastball and that worked.”
Tampa Bay opened the scoring in the first when Aubrey Huff’s sacrifice fly brought home Damian Rolls. Florida tied it in the fourth, after Juan Pierre led off with a standup triple and scored on Andy Fox’s groundout.
Piniella, bench coach John McLaren and Huff all were ejected in the middle of the ninth.
Huff struck out looking against Florida’s Braden Looper to end the inning. Home plate umpire Chris Guccione thought Huff was arguing the call and threw him out.
Huff said he was just angry at himself and threw his helmet because he knew he had just looked at the third strike.
“I asked him why he was throwing me out and he didn’t answer,” Huff said. “I don’t think he even knew.”
Piniella and McLaren both joined in the argument and also were dismissed.
“The umpire used bad judgment,” Piniella said.
It was the 29th all-time interleague meeting between the state of Florida’stwo major league clubs. The Marlins lead the series, 18-11.
Cabrera, at 20 years, 63 days, is the second-youngest player to debut with the Marlins. Felix Heredia was 11 days younger when he made his first Marlins appearance in 1996. Cabrera will remain in the lineup for the foreseeable future, McKeon said. … Todd Hollandsworth, who had been Florida’s regular left fielder, had a pinch-hit single in the eighth. … Floridastarters have allowed only three walks in their last 45 1-3 innings.