Rookie Brad Miller’s two homers led a 12-hit attack and Seattle had just enough pitching to defeat Tampa Bay 5-4 Tuesday night at Tropicana Field, a good start to nine-game road trip. The Mariners (55-63) won their second in a row and handed the AL East’s second-place Rays their sixth consecutive defeat.
Miller, a Florida native, delighted a throng of family and friends with his second multi-homer game of the season. Justin Smoak continued his hot streak with two RBIs. Dustin Ackley had three hits, including a run-scoring triple, to back Erasmo Ramirez’s (4-0) fourth consecutive victory.
“It was just a great ball game by Brad,” acting manager Robby Thompson said. “I thought he was going to hit another one in his last at-bat. But he swung the bat very well. It was definitely a big win for us. We put a few good hits together and kept the pressure on them.”
Ramirez made two mistakes and Tampa leadoff hitter Ben Zobrist deposited both into the Tropicana seats, but otherwise had an effective outing with seven strikeouts and one walk. Ramirez departed after working 5.1 innings and Oliver Perez, Yoervis Medina and Danny Farquhar combined for 3.2 innings of scoreless relief.
Farquhar was impressive in recording his fifth save in as many opportunities. Facing the top of the Tampa order in the ninth, Farquhar fanned Zobrist with a 95 mph fastball on the inside corner, whiffed Matt Joyce looking with a curveball, and retired Evan Longoria on a fly to Ackley in center.
Farquhar has not allowed a run in his last 14.2 innings. He has retired 28 of the last 30 batters to face him. In his last nine appearances, his ERA is 0.00.
“Danny has been huge for us,” said Thompson. “We went to him (as the closer) because he had the hot arm. We’ll continue to go to him.”
Miller’s leadoff homer on a 1-and-1 count staked the Mariners to a 1-0 lead. Miller’s was the eighth leadoff long ball for Seattle this season, the first since Jason Bay at Texas July 3. But Seattle’s advantage didn’t last as Zobrist homered off Ramirez to open Tampa’s half of the inning. James Loney followed with an RBI single, giving Tampa a 2-1 lead.
Smoak’s two-run single in the fourth, following a single by Raul Ibanez and a double by Michael Morse, sent Seattle ahead. Smoak’s hit was his 11th in 12 games.
Miller’s second homer leading off the fifth extended the lead and marked the 13th multi-homer game by a Mariner this season. Miller also went deep twice July 19 at Houston.
Miller hardly finished his high-fives when Zobrist hit his second homer, a two-run shot off Ramirez, following a single by No. 9 hitter Kelly Johnson, that tied the score.
After Smoak produced his second hit in the sixth, Ackley tripled for what proved to be the game-winner.
“Ackley has been a lot more aggressive early in the count,” said Thompson. “He’s not leaving the third strike to the umpire.”
The statistical oddity of the night: With leadoff hitters Miller and Zobrist hitting a pair of home runs, it marked only the third time since 1916 that both leadoff hitters had multi-homer games. The others were June 5, 1994 (Minnesota’s Chuck Knoblauch and Tony Phillips of Detroit) and July 8, 1965 (Houston’s Joe Morgan and Felipe Alou of the Milwaukee Braves).
The series continues Wednesday with RHP Aaron Harang (5-10, 5.79) against American League Cy Young winner David Price (6-5, 3.17), who has never pitched against Seattle. Following the Tampa Bay series, the Mariners play three at Texas and three at Oakland before returning to Safeco Field Aug. 23 to face the L.A. Angels.
NOTES: Dustin Ackley received the start in center Tuesday ahead of Michael Saunders. Acting manager Robby Thompson said Ackley will continue to get an extended look in center. Thompson said the club hopes to use the season’s final seven weeks to solidify Ackley’s situation . . . Tampa will give right-hander Alex Cobb the start in Thursday’s series finale. It will be Cobb’s first start since Eric Hosmer ripped a line drive off the side of Cobb’s head June 15 against Kansas City . . . When the Mariners defeated Milwaukee 2-0 Sunday after losing 10-0 Saturday, it marked the first time since April 13 (0-4) and April 14 (4-0), 2012, that the Mariners followed a shutout loss with a shutout win.