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M's Miller homers twice in homecoming

The SportsXchange

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Brad Miller says he was in Tropicana Field the night Ben Zobrist hit his first career home run for the Tampa Bay Rays, Aug. 6, 2006.

Zobrist was a left-handed-hitting shortstop looking to break onto a team that would play in the World Series two years later. Miller was a left-handed-hitting shortstop for Olympia High in Orlando, Fla.

"I was like, 'Hey, I'll remember that guy,'" Miller recalled.

It was Miller, now a Mariners rookie, providing the memories Tuesday, leading off the game with one of his two homers as Seattle beat Tampa Bay 5-4 in the opener of a three-game series.

Dustin Ackley's sixth-inning triple provided the eventual winning margin, but Miller's performance before family, friends and "every coach I've ever had" provided the storyline.

"It's just so cool having my family and everybody there just supporting me," Miller said. "I wanted to go out there and have fun and keep playing like they've always seen me play."

The Rays (66-51) fell despite two homers from Zobrist, losing their sixth consecutive game in a slide that has dropped them from the American League East lead into a battle for the second wild-card spot. The superlative pitching that put Tampa Bay in first was again missing, as Chris Archer (6-5) allowed five runs in five-plus innings.

Tampa Bay has a 6.93 ERA and a .204 batting average during the current slide.

"I'm staying within myself," Archer said, "but I'm making good pitches, and sometimes good isn't enough. The oldest, most wise things in nature need a little weather to continue to grow, and that's a tree."

Seattle (55-63) lost four of its previous six games before Tuesday.

Mariners starter Erasmo Ramirez (4-0) struck out seven and allowed four runs on seven hits in 5 1/3 innings.

"He settled in a little bit," acting manager Robby Thompson said. "His balls were elevated. He got some balls up in the zone. He got hurt with those."

Danny Farquhar pitched a scoreless ninth inning for his fifth save.

Tampa Bay went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position. The Mariners were 1-for-10, but the key hit, Ackley's triple, didn't figure into that equation.

Seattle chased Archer in the top of the sixth after taking a 5-4 lead. Justin Smoak (2-for-4, two RBIs) led off the inning with a single and scored on Ackley's triple off the left field wall. Rays reliever Wesley Wright entered to retire the next three batters and strand Ackley (3-for-4).

The Mariners went in front 3-2 in the fourth on RBI hits by Smoak (through a defensive shift) and Ackley. Rays shortstop Yunel Escobar crossed in front of second baseman Zobrist and could not stop the Smoak bouncer.

"The ball was kind of hit right in between me and Yunel," Zobrist said, "and he made the right play. You've got to be aggressive and go after it. I could have made the play, but I told him afterwards he's got to go after that."

The Mariners increased the lead to 4-2 in the fifth on Miller's second homer of the game and fourth of the season. It was the first multi-homer game of his career.

Zobrist countered a Miller homer for the second time in the game when in the bottom of the inning when he whacked a Ramirez pitch into the right field stands for a 4-4 tie. Kelly Johnson doubled preceding Zobrist's ninth homer of the season.

For only the third instance in major league history -- dating to the beginning of reliable record-keeping in 1915 -- that both leadoff batters hit two home runs in the same game. It happened in 1965 and 1994. The 1994 contest in which Chuck Knoblauch (Minnesota) and Tony Phillips (Detroit) led off with homers was the only other instance in which both players went deep in the first inning.

NOTES: The Rays' six-game losing streak is their longest since 2011. ... Miller's leadoff home run was the first of his career and extended Seattle's club record to eight this season. ... The Mariners have scored 47.5 percent of their runs off homers, the highest rate in the majors. ... Zobrist's 100th career homer was also the first leadoff home run of his career. It was the first time both teams led off with a homer in an American League game since Aug. 17, 2006. ... The Rays claimed Wright off waivers from the Houston Astros on Tuesday and optioned RHP Josh Lueke to Triple-A Durham. Wright, 28, was 0-4 with a 3.92 ERA for Houston, and he led all AL left-handers with 54 appearances. ... Smoak has at least one hit in 11 of his past 12 games. ... Rays RHP Alex Cobb, who was struck in the head with a line drive on June 15, expects to return to the rotation Thursday.
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