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Cabrera's first homer gives Marlins dramatic win

6/21/2003

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.

Cabrera, playing in his first major league game, hit a two-run
homer in the bottom of the 11th inning to lift the Florida Marlins
over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays 3-1 Friday night.

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 RBI 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.

But Redman got out of the jam, striking out pinch-hitter Ben
Grieve and getting Julio Lugo to fly out. Redman threw 138 pitches
and has averaged 124.7 pitches in his last three starts.

"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's two major league clubs. The Marlins lead the series,
18-11.

Game notes
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. ... Florida starters have
allowed only three walks in their last 45 1/3 innings.