MIAMI (AP)—Only two players in baseball history had ever hit a grand slam in their first major league game. Only one other had done it in his first at-bat. And no one had ever pulled it off as a pinch hitter.
Yet with one swing, Jeremy Hermida—called up by Florida from the minors about three hours before the game—found his own special corner of baseball history. He had a pinch-hit grand slam in the seventh inning off the St. Louis Cardinals’ Al Reyes in the Marlins’ 10-5 loss Wednesday night.
“You couldn’t even dream of something like this,” Hermida said, the ball safely tucked into the left heel of his sneaker as his cell phone incessantly vibrated.
The only other player with a grand slam in first major league at-bat was pitcher William “Frosty Bill” Duggleby, who did it for Philadelphia at home against the New York Giants in the second inning on April 21, 1898, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. San Francisco’s Bobby Bonds also hit a slam in his first game, doing so in his third plate appearance more than 37 years ago.
“You always dream of coming in and maybe not getting a home run in your first at-bat, but just getting a hit,” Hermida said. “To do something like that, it’s something I couldn’t even describe.”
Hermida, a 21-year-old outfielder whose contract was purchased from Double-A Carolina, batted for pitcher Brian Moehler with Florida trailing 10-0 and connected on the third pitch he saw in the big leagues.
He swung at a fastball, took a ball low, then homered over the right-field wall, a drive estimated at 373 feet.
“I pretty much already made up my mind I was going to swing at the first pitch up there, just to get the jitters out,” Hermida said. “After that, I was like, ‘All right, sit back and trust yourself.’ And he just happened to leave one over the middle a little bit.”
Said Reyes, when asked about being part of history: “It doesn’t feel too good … but it’s a part of the game.”
Reyes said the history-making pitch was a changeup that got too high—and seconds later, too far.
“He took advantage of it,” Reyes said. “He jumped on it right away and he hit the ball good. I didn’t know it was his first major league at-bat.”
Hermida moved briskly around the bases after the homer, yet after returning to the dugout and slapping hands with several delighted teammates, he did not acknowledge long, loud cheers from the sparse crowd that remained—missing the chance for his first career curtain call.
“Honestly, I didn’t even see it. I don’t even think I looked at it. I was just running,” said Hermida, who received the ball after the game. The Marlins’ bullpen traded two signed baseballs in a deal with the fan who caught the homer.
“As soon as I hit it, I had a pretty good idea it was going out,” Hermida said. “It didn’t really hit me until I crossed home plate.”
Bonds, the father of seven-time MVP Barry Bonds, made his major league debut for San Francisco on June 25, 1968, and homered against Los Angeles, Elias said. Bonds grounded out in the third inning at Candlestick Park, was hit by Claude Osteen’s pitch in the fifth, then homered off reliever John Purdin.
Only a few thousand people in the announced crowd of 20,656 remained to Hermida’s hit. The Marlins’ top pick in the 2002 amateur draft and the 11th pick overall, he remained in the game as Florida’s left fielder to start the eighth inning.
Most of the night’s other offensive fireworks came from the Cardinals. Albert Pujols had a season-high three extra-base hits, scored twice and reached the 100-RBI mark for the fifth consecutive season, and Hector Luna also had three extra-base hits.
Luna had a chance at his piece of history—hitting for the cycle—but grounded out in the ninth. He tripled in the fourth, homered in the fifth and doubled in the seventh.
“I would have like to hit for the cycle because it’s a one-time thing and I had a chance to have it,” Luna said.
The loss put the Marlins (70-63) a game behind Philadelphia—an 8-2 winner in New York over the Mets—in the wild-card race.
David Eckstein had three hits, including his seventh home run. Luna and Eckstein each finished with three RBIs. Jeff Suppan (13-10) threw five scoreless innings, leaving after a 35-minute rain delay in the bottom of the fifth.
Pujols doubled off left fielder Cabrera’s glove and scored in the third, then drove in his 100th run of the year on a triple—his second of the season and only the 11th in his career—in the Cardinals’ four-run fifth against Jason Vargas (5-2). Pujols doubled again in the sixth.
But afterward, virtually all the attention was directed toward Hermida, who hadn’t seen live pitching in a week because of a sore wrist. His call-up was so sudden that his family didn’t even have time to attend the game, although a close friend of his father was in the stands.
“At this rate,” Marlins closer Todd Jones said, “he only needs another 800 at-bats to be the greatest hitter of all time.”
Juan Encarnacion also homered for the Marlins. … The attendance didn’t include 687 dogs in the latest edition of “Bark at the Park” night at Dolphins Stadium. … The loss kept Marlins manager Jack McKeon two wins shy of 1,000 for his career. He’s 998-924.