With another swing of the bat in the sixth, Miller knocked another “first” off his to-do list — first major-league homer, a no-doubter off Bud Norris.
“He threw one in there and it felt pretty good; it felt really good,’’ Miller said. “It felt pure. And I kind of blacked out there for a little bit.”
He revived himself, and with another swing in the eighth, well, now Miller was just piling on to his breakout game. He launched a three-run homer that put a bow on the Mariners’ 10-7 victory over the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park.
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They’ve won four in a row, and have been putting up the sort of offensive prowess not seen from this ballclub in quite awhile. As much as the four home runs — Kyle Seager and Justin Smoak joined Miller — manager Eric Wedge was as pleased with the eight walks the Mariners drew, and the quality of their at-bats as they picked right up where they left off before the All-Star break.
“You look at the at-bats, the length of the at-bats, they’re real, they’re productive,’’ Wedge said. “Even if one guy doesn’t get it done, he’s putting up hard-fought at-bats, and that’s going to benefit the next guy. That’s what good hitting clubs do, and we’ve been doing it for a little while.”
That was exemplified by Mike Zunino, the only Mariners starter not to get a hit – but he walked three times.
“Everybody is just piecing good at-bats together, honestly, not trying to do too much,’’ Miller said. “I don’t know why but hitting is contagious. Guys have good at-bats, even if they don’t get a hit necessarily and they hit a ball hard or make a loud out, it just sets the tone. The next guy up there has a little more confidence.”
Seager’s homer in the fourth extended his hitting streak to 15 games, longest current streak in the majors. It also gave the Mariners homers in 23 consecutive games, just four off the major-league record of the Rangers in 2002.
But this was Brad Miller’s night, one that ended with him sopping wet from the traditional beer (and not-so-traditional Slurpee) shower.
“I’ll do that all day,’’ he grinned.
In addition to the three hits, and the five runs batted in, Miller also started a dazzling double play in the fourth inning. He ranged far to his left to grab a grounder by J.D. Martinez, flipped it from his glove to second baseman Nick Franklin, who made the turn to nip Martinez at first.
“I stretched out and I felt the only shot I had was to flip it,’’ Miller said. “Franky barehanded it and we were able to turn it. That was pretty sweet.”
And important, as Mariners starter Joe Saunders battled for his entire 51
3 innings and needed every out. The Astros followed with a single and triple to score a run, but the double play defused the rally.
“You don’t know where that inning goes if that ball goes through right there,’’ Wedge said.
Houston’s Brandon Barnes had the aforementioned triple, part of his cycle, the first for the Astros since Luke Scott in 2006. Barnes wrapped up the cycle with a hustle double in the eighth, then added an infield single in the ninth to cap a 5-for-5 night.
Miller’s second homer, off former Mariners first-round draft choice Josh Fields, gave the Mariners some breathing room. They needed it as the Astros rallied for three in the eighth to cut the lead to 9-6. Wedge called on Tom Wilhelmsen with two aboard, and he retired Chris Carter, the potential tying run, on a force out. Wilhelmsen completed his 20th save, after Smoak added a ninth-inning homer.
The second home run by Miller didn’t clear the right-field wall by nearly as much as the first.
“I didn’t see it originally off the bat. And then I saw (right fielder Justin) Maxwell turn,’’ Miller said. “And I was like, gosh he’s like 7 feet tall, he’s about to do something. He was sizing up the wall. And I was like just go, just push. And luckily it was just out of his reach.”