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Grand entry: Marlins' Hermida hits slam in first at-bat

MIAMI (AP) -- Only two players in baseball history had ever hit a
grand slam in their first major-league game. Only one other had
done it in his first at-bat. And no one had ever pulled it off as a
pinch hitter.

Yet with one swing, Jeremy Hermida -- called up by Florida from
the minors about three hours before the game -- found his own
special corner of baseball history. He had a pinch-hit grand slam
in the seventh inning off the St. Louis Cardinals' Al Reyes in the
Marlins' 10-5 loss Wednesday night.

"You couldn't even dream of something like this," Hermida
said, the ball safely tucked into the left heel of his sneaker as
his cell phone incessantly vibrated.

The only other player with a grand slam in first major-league
at-bat was pitcher William "Frosty Bill" Duggleby, who did it for
Philadelphia at home against the New York Giants in the second
inning on April 21, 1898, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. San
Francisco's Bobby Bonds also hit a slam in his first game, doing so
in his third plate appearance more than 37 years ago.

"You always dream of coming in and maybe not getting a home run
in your first at-bat, but just getting a hit," Hermida said. "To
do something like that, it's something I couldn't even describe."

Hermida, a 21-year-old outfielder whose contract was purchased
from Double-A Carolina, batted for pitcher Brian Moehler with
Florida trailing 10-0 and connected on the third pitch he saw in
the big leagues.

He swung at a fastball, took a ball low, then homered over the
right-field wall, a drive estimated at 373 feet.

"I pretty much already made up my mind I was going to swing at
the first pitch up there, just to get the jitters out," Hermida
said. "After that, I was like, 'All right, sit back and trust
yourself.' And he just happened to leave one over the middle a
little bit."

Said Reyes, when asked about being part of history: "It doesn't
feel too good ... but it's a part of the game."

Reyes said the history-making pitch was a changeup that got too
high -- and seconds later, too far.

"He took advantage of it," Reyes said. "He jumped on it right
away and he hit the ball good. I didn't know it was his first major-league at-bat."

Hermida moved briskly around the bases after the homer, yet
after returning to the dugout and slapping hands with several
delighted teammates, he did not acknowledge long, loud cheers from
the sparse crowd that remained -- missing the chance for his first
career curtain call.

"Honestly, I didn't even see it. I don't even think I looked at
it. I was just running," said Hermida, who received the ball after
the game. The Marlins' bullpen traded two signed baseballs in a
deal with the fan who caught the homer.

"As soon as I hit it, I had a pretty good idea it was going
out," Hermida said. "It didn't really hit me until I crossed home
plate."

Bonds, the father of seven-time MVP Barry Bonds, made his major
league debut for San Francisco on June 25, 1968, and homered
against Los Angeles, Elias said. Bonds grounded out in the third
inning at Candlestick Park, was hit by Claude Osteen's pitch in the
fifth, then homered off reliever John Purdin.

Only a few thousand people in the announced crowd of 20,656
remained to Hermida's hit. The Marlins' top pick in the 2002
amateur draft and the 11th pick overall, he remained in the game as
Florida's left fielder to start the eighth inning.

Most of the night's other offensive fireworks came from the
Cardinals. Albert Pujols had a season-high three extra-base hits,
scored twice and reached the 100-RBI mark for the fifth consecutive
season, and Hector Luna also had three extra-base hits.

Luna had a chance at his piece of history -- hitting for the
cycle -- but grounded out in the ninth. He tripled in the fourth,
homered in the fifth and doubled in the seventh.

"I would have like to hit for the cycle because it's a one-time
thing and I had a chance to have it," Luna said.

The loss put the Marlins (70-63) a game behind Philadelphia -- an
8-2 winner in New York over the Mets -- in the wild-card race.

David Eckstein had three hits, including his seventh home run.
Luna and Eckstein each finished with three RBIs. Jeff Suppan
(13-10) threw five scoreless innings, leaving after a 35-minute
rain delay in the bottom of the fifth.

Juan Pierre had two hits for Florida, which hadn't had a player
other than Miguel Cabrera or Carlos Delgado homer since Aug. 5 --
until Hermida etched his name into baseball history.

Pujols doubled off left fielder Cabrera's glove and scored in
the third, then drove in his 100th run of the year on a triple --
his second of the season and only the 11th in his career -- in the
Cardinals' four-run fifth against Jason Vargas (5-2). Pujols
doubled again in the sixth.

But afterward, virtually all the attention was directed toward
Hermida, who hadn't seen live pitching in a week because of a sore
wrist. His call-up was so sudden that his family didn't even have
time to attend the game, although a close friend of his father was
in the stands.

"At this rate," Marlins closer Todd Jones said, "he only
needs another 800 at-bats to be the greatest hitter of all time."

Game notes
Juan Encarnacion also homered for the Marlins. ... The
attendance didn't include 687 dogs in the latest edition of "Bark
at the Park" night at Dolphins Stadium. ... The loss kept Marlins
manager Jack McKeon two wins shy of 1,000 for his career. He's
998-924.