After 24 winless starts, Miller victorious
Braves righty blanks Cards for eight innings to end season on positive note
ATLANTA -- Somewhere down the line, Shelby Miller will likely appreciate some of the mental fortitude he was forced to develop as he spent most of the past four months enduring long bouts of frustration and misfortune. But for now, the Braves right-hander can simply take solace in the fact that he will not enter the offseason carrying the burden of a winless streak that contradicted how impressive he truly was this year.
Given one last opportunity on the regular season's final day to end a winless streak of more than four months, Miller took the mound at Turner Field on Sunday afternoon and produced a stellar performance against his former Cardinals teammates. His eight scoreless innings guided the Braves to a 6-0 win in the first game of a doubleheader and more importantly earned him his first victory since May 17.
"I was just trying to finish the season strong and finish with something to take into Spring Training with a better idea of where we're trying to go," said Miller, who entered Sunday 0-16 with a 3.83 ERA during an Atlanta-record 24-start winless streak.
As Miller scattered three hits over this final outing, he produced a fitting finish to a season that verified how useless the win stat is when evaluating a pitcher's performance. The Braves right-hander was credited with just six wins while producing a 3.02 ERA, a mark that was at 2.56 before a couple of rough starts in September.
"He's pitched some of the best baseball I've ever seen pitched and not get [credited with a win]," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. " We got the' W' today and he doesn't have to worry about answering all those questions in Spring Training and all of that kind of stuff."
Along with his first career All-Star selection, Miller produced one of the most unique seasons in Major League history. He joins Fred Glade (1905 St. Louis Browns) and Joey Hamilton (1995 Padres) as the only pitchers to notch six wins or fewer while producing a sub-3.10 ERA over at least 30 starts.
While Miller struggled down the stretch (posting a 7.11 ERA in five September starts), his winless streak was also a product of meager run support. Atlanta's two-run first inning Sunday provided him his first lead since Aug. 26 and also more support than he had received in 20 of his previous 32 starts.
The Braves provided one or no runs of support in 20 of the 33 starts made by Miller, who finished with a 2.36 run support average, the 10th-lowest mark ever received by a Major Leaguer over at least 30 starts.
"Obviously, I had some ups and downs," Miller said. "I had some good games and some bad ones. I'm a guy who is trying to take all of the positives from the season and take those into the offseason. I'll realize what didn't go so right in some games and what wasn't really going my way to try to get those things out of the way. I just want to continue to get better, not only as a player, but as a person and a teammate."
The accountability Miller showed all season was appreciated by both his teammates and Atlanta's coaching staff.
"This guy came in every single day after tough losses and tough no-decisions and he was the same guy every day with the same work ethic," Gonzalez said. "I really have gained some respect for him because I was frustrated for him."