Miller left to ponder one pitch in no-no attempt
Chance at history fades with two outs in ninth
MIAMI -- As Braves pitcher Shelby Miller and A.J. Pierzynski met in front of the mound at the conclusion of Sunday afternoon's 6-0 win over the Marlins, the half-hearted smiles they displayed elicited both frustration and satisfaction.
For the second time this month, they had worked together to fashion a shutout. But the long-lasting memories of this gem will focus on the fact that Miller was one out shy of recording his first no-hitter before Miami first baseman Justin Bour laced a first-pitch 95-mph fastball up the middle for a two-out single in the ninth.
"I haven't looked at the video, but I'm assuming [the fastball] ran right back over the middle," Miller said. "He put a good swing on it and hit it right back up the middle. I wish it would have finished differently, but at the same time, you've got to accept a ballgame like that."
Once Bour dulled the excitement surrounding the historic bid, Dee Gordon recorded an infield single before Miller concluded his 94-pitch masterpiece by getting Martin Prado to pop out to second baseman Jace Peterson in short right field. The two-hit shutout left the Atlanta right-hander with a Major League-best 1.33 ERA.
"He was pretty locked in," Pierzynski said. "He pretty much just made one mistake -- it was to the guy who got the hit. He tried to go in and wanted to throw it off the plate, but he threw it right down the middle. Those things happen, and it stinks, but Shelby pitched a great game."
This sentiment echoed many of those Pierzynski has recently expressed about Miller, who has surrendered just eight hits in the 25 innings he has completed through this month's first three starts. The 24-year-old pitcher has proven to be even better than the Braves could have expected when they targeted him as the primary return in the November trade that sent Jason Heyward to the Cardinals.
Miller had totaled just 89 pitches and faced the minimum before Bour recorded his single. He threw first-pitch strikes to 24 of the 30 batters he faced and encountered just two three-ball counts, including the one that led to Marcell Ozuna's leadoff walk in the second inning.
"It's good when you can be disappointed about a complete-game shutout," Braves left fielder Todd Cunningham said. "Obviously, everybody was behind him."
Fortunately, Cunningham was behind Miller to secure Giancarlo Stanton's drive to the left-center-field wall in the seventh inning. Miller had displayed his aggressive bravado three innings earlier when he used three 97-mph fastballs to record a three-pitch strikeout of Stanton.
"You've got one of the best hitters in MLB up there, so your adrenaline is rushing no matter what," said Miller, whose fastball touched 95 mph twice in the ninth inning.
Dating back to the three-hit shutout he produced against the Phillies on May 5, Miller has surrendered hits in just six of the 25 innings he has pitched this month. Over the next few days, just one of these such innings will stir in his mind.
This marked the third time Pierzynski has been involved in a no-hitter that was erased in the ninth. The veteran catcher was behind the plate on April 2, 2013, when Rangers right-hander Yu Darvish lost his perfect game against the Astros with two outs in the ninth. He was also the White Sox catcher on May 6, 2008, when Gavin Floyd lost a no-hit bid with one out in the ninth.
"It never gets less frustrating," Pierzynski said. "Every time, it stinks. You want a guy to throw one just to have an opportunity to throw one, because it's special and it's one of those things you don't see coming."