Brad Miller and Ben Zobrist turn rare home run trick
They say one of the great things about baseball is that in any given game you can see something you’ve never seen before. For most fans, that was true of the Mariners’ 5-4 victory over the Rays in St. Petersburg on Tuesday night. For just the second time in major league history, both teams’ leadoff hitters, in this case Seattle rookie shortstop Brad Miller and Tampa Bay All-Star Ben Zobrist, led off the game with home runs, then went deep a second time later in the game.
The only other time that had happened was on June 5, 1994 when the Twins Chuck Knoblauch and the Tigers’ Tony Phillips did it at Tiger Stadium in a 5-3 Detroit win. Knoblauch and Phillips both finished their career with 30 or more leadoff home runs, but heading into that game, Knoblauch, the Twins’ fourth-year second baseman, had hit just six major league home runs in three and a half seasons.
What made Tuesday night’s iteration of that feat even more surprising is that neither Miller nor Zobrist had ever led off a major league game with a home run prior to Tuesday night. Zobrist, whose leadoff homer was the 100th of his career, had hit seven home runs from the top spot in the batting order prior to Tuesday night, and 24 times led off an inning with a home run, but had never done either in the first inning.
Miller, who was called up and installed at shortstop by the Mariners at the end of June, had just two major league home runs to his name prior to doubling that total Tuesday in the Orlando native’s first major league game in his home state. He now has four homers, but two multi-homer games. The first came on July 19 in Seattle’s 10-7 win over the Astros in which fellow rookie Brandon Barnes hit for the cycle.
The active leader in leadoff home runs is Alfonso Soriano, whose 54 rank second all-time to Rickey Henderson’s 81. Next on the active list are Jimmy Rollins with 45 and Ichiro Suzuki with 37. Soriano, however, hasn’t led off a game since 2009 and may never do so again.
Earlier this year, we saw another home run trick turned for just the second time in major league history. On April 23, the Braves’ B.J. and Justin Upton joined Lloyd and Paul Waner as the only pair of brothers ever to homer in consecutive at-bats. The Uptons have hit back-to-back in Atlanta’s order just four times since and have yet to repeat the feat.