Saturday, May 18, 2024

Dodgers ride another scoreless start from Bobby Miller to win over Phillies

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PHILADELPHIA – That the Dodgers have come to rely on Bobby Miller for performances like this is either a measure of his talent and precocious arrival – or their desperate need for quality starting pitching.

Probably both.

Miller came through again Saturday afternoon with six scoreless innings against the Philadelphia Phillies. The Dodgers broke it open after he left and routed the Phillies 9-0.

In four starts as a big-leaguer, Miller has allowed a total of two runs – one each in his first two starts against the Braves and Nationals – in 23 innings, none in his past 16 against the Nationals, Yankees and Phillies.

Miller is just the ninth pitcher since 1901 to allow two runs or fewer over his first four career starts (with a minimum of 20 innings pitched). Two other Dodgers are on the list — Fernando Valenzuela (one run in his first four starts in 1981) and Kenta Maeda (two runs over his first four in 2016).

He arrives at a time when the Dodgers have as many starting pitchers on the Injured List (Dustin May, Julio Urias, Ryan Pepiot and Noah Syndergaard) as in their rotation (Clayton Kershaw, Tony Gonsolin, Michael Grove and Miller).

Since May and Urias last pitched, the Dodgers have had six games where their starting pitcher completed six innings. Miller has three of them.

“He’s become very important for us,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “When you can pencil in a starter and feel like he can get through six innings and you’re not putting him in harm’s way and he can give you a chance to win, wants to be that guy in that moment … and after a tough loss last night, you can feel a little bit of that, ‘I want to be the guy to be the stopper’ as well.”

Miller tied a career-high with seven strikeouts Saturday while getting 15 swings-and-misses – again with an assortment of pitches. He flashed his four-seam fastball just nine times in six innings but got five swings-and-misses on his slider, four each on his curveball and two-seam fastball.

Miller allowed just three hits and big-leaguers are batting just .150 (12 for 80) against the 24-year-old right-hander.

“If I’m just executing all my stuff – I mean, there’s a couple barrels out there that got caught — but other than that, not really if I’m executing all my stuff,” Miller said when asked if anything about his first four starts was surprising to him.

Miller’s 0.78 ERA after four starts does stand in contrast to the 3.79 mark Miller had in parts of three minor-league seasons where his skills made him an elite prospect but he didn’t routinely dominate hitters.

“We are — I don’t know if Bobby is surprised,” Roberts said. “We certainly bet on the talent. But he’s performed better than he did the minor leagues. It kind of doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. But I think there’s something to the honed focus, the pitch mixing and knowing that these games really matter. It’s not about development anymore. And I think that he’s embraced that.”

The Phillies mounted only one threat against Miller. Trea Turner led off the second inning with a single and went to third on Bryson Stott’s one-out double. After Miller struck out Brandon Marsh with a slider, he walked Kody Clemens to load the bases with two outs.

Edmundo Sosa grounded out to end that threat and the Phillies didn’t get another runner past first base with Miller on the mound.

“For me, it’s when things start to speed up, how as a player you can slow it down,” Roberts said. “But as it gets hot, as it starts to get stressed a little bit, do you have the ability to slow the game down? … Harder is not always better. And I think that with young players, they want to just throw harder to kind of make the moment stop and try to overpower guys. But Bobby has shown the ability to kind of temper that a little bit.”

But it took 34 pitches for Miller to pitch his way into and out of that bases-loaded situation. He got through the next four innings on 55 pitches, finishing with a career-high 104 through his six innings.

“He just attacks hitters. He goes right at them,” Smith said. “More times than not, he’s getting ahead, getting to 0-1. Obviously it’s really good stuff. He’s throwing 100 mph. He’s really making pitches. He’s executing pitches. That’s why he’s consistently getting outs.”

If Miller’s quality starts are fast becoming a staple in the Dodgers’ rotation, the offense backed him with one of its key ingredients – two-out runs.

Phillies starter Aaron Nola retired the first eight Dodgers in order before James Outman lined a two-out double off the top of the wall in center field in the third inning. Mookie Betts followed with an RBI single, moved to second on the throw home and scored on another two-out hit, an RBI single by Freddie Freeman.

David Peralta drilled a solo home run with two outs in the fourth inning. It stayed 3-0 until the Dodgers broke the game open with a six-run seventh inning that featured a three-run home run by J.D. Martinez — with two outs.

Those were the Dodgers’ 150th two-out RBIs this season – the most in the majors (pending the outcome of the Texas Rangers’ game Saturday).

Since returning from the Injured List with a lower back, Martinez has hit .295 (31 for 105) with eight doubles, 12 home runs and 32 RBI in 26 games (the most in the majors over that time). He ranks second in the majors in extra-base hits (35) behind Freeman (37).

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