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Leadoff hitter Ramirez gets two homers, four RBI for Marlins

CINCINNATI (AP) -- Only three pitches into the game, left-hander
Eric Milton hung a changeup.

That familiar mistake launched a career night for Marlins
leadoff hitter Hanley Ramirez, and another boo-filled outing for
the Cincinnati Reds' homer-prone pitcher.

Ramirez homered in his first two at-bats off Milton and drove in
four runs overall Tuesday night, sparking Florida to a 12-6
victory. The Marlins stopped a three-game losing streak with their
biggest offensive splurge of the season.

"You don't ever think you're going to score 12 runs," manager
Joe Girardi said. "That's a lot of runs, but guys kept hitting.
They got a lot of big hits."

The Marlins hit three homers off Milton (2-1) -- Dan Uggla also
had a solo shot -- and had seven doubles overall among their
season-high 18 hits. Seven Marlins had multihit games, including
left-handed starter Jason Vargas.

They had a lot of help.

Milton (2-1) gave up 40 homers last season, the most in the
majors, and hoped that an offseason conditioning program to
strengthen his legs would help him keep the ball down. He gave up
two homers while winning his first two starts, an encouraging sign.

Then, he went back to his old ways on Tuesday.

"Shoot, he's been throwing real well," manager Jerry Narron
said. "We haven't seen anything near like this all spring. He just
kept getting the ball up."

Milton gave up nine runs, eight hits and three walks in 4 1/3
innings, and didn't stick around to discuss it. Instead, the
Marlins had a lot of new experiences to talk about.

Ramirez had a solo homer, a two-run shot and an RBI single as
part of a 3-for-6 game. His third-pitch homer to open the game was
the first of his career.

"I wasn't looking for it," Ramirez said. "I was just trying
to hit it hard somewhere. It happens sometimes."

For a while, it looked like all of those Marlins runs might not
be enough.

Vargas matched his career high with five walks in four-plus
innings and gave up three homers as well, allowing the Reds to turn
a potential drubbing into a matchup of bullpens. Edwin
Encarnacion's three-run homer with none out in the fourth cut it to
10-6 and ended Vargas' outing.

Josh Johnson (1-1) stopped the Reds' comeback by pitching three
hitless innings, getting his first victory in his ninth big-league
appearance.

"This is something I've dreamed about for a long time," said
Johnson, 22, who was a fourth-round pick in 2002. "I'm really
excited."

It was only the fourth win this season for the Marlins, who have
the majors' youngest and least-expensive lineup. Florida opened the
season with 11 rookies and a $15 million payroll, by far the
smallest in the big leagues.

The Marlins came into the game with only 10 homers, third-fewest
in the NL. For one night, they held their own in a ballpark that
yielded the most in the majors last season. A total of 29 homers
have been hit in eight games at Great American Ball Park.

Ramirez, a 22-year-old shortstop obtained from Boston last
November, hit Milton's third pitch for his first career homer, a
drive that barely cleared the wall in center. He added a two-run
shot in the second that went 418 feet, and Uggla followed with his
second homer.

Ramirez hit only six homers in 122 games for Boston's Double-A
Portland team last season. The Red Sox called him up in September,
and he struck out in his two at-bats.

"I think I'm swinging the bat a little better than last year,"
Ramirez said. "This year I'm short and quick. Last year I was
horrible."

Milton kept his head down as he walked off the field following
the second inning, enduring loud boos and catcalls from the crowd
of 19,724. Jason LaRue was on deck to pinch-hit and Milton had
grabbed his jacket and headed for the clubhouse when David Ross
homered, giving Milton a second chance.

He didn't make much of it. Milton left with the bases loaded and
one out in the fifth, and Miguel Olivo doubled off reliever Matt
Belisle to start a four-run rally.

Game notes
Juan Pierre was the last Marlin to lead off a game with a
homer -- last July 7 against Milwaukee. Mark Kotsay was the last to
do it on the road, on May 2, 2000 at San Diego. ... Ramirez is
19-for-50 (.380) as a leadoff hitter. ... Vargas threw 110 pitches
in his four-plus innings. ... CF Reggie Abercrombie snapped an
0-for-22 slump with an RBI single in the fifth. ... LaRue was
activated off the 15-day DL before the game. He had surgery during
spring training for torn knee cartilage.