Miller flashes potential in series finale: 'It was growth'

July 17th, 2023

NEW YORK -- The Dodgers’ need before the Aug. 1 Trade Deadline is as obvious as it gets. With the team dealing with injuries and inconsistencies, they’ll be aggressive in trying to add starting pitching that can help them make a run in October. 

One question the Dodgers will be asking themselves is which of the three current rookie starters can help fix some of those issues? , the organization’s top pitching prospect coming into the season, will get every opportunity these next couple of weeks. 

In his first post All-Star break start, Miller showed some flashes, allowing just one run and striking out five in the Dodgers’ 2-1 loss to the Mets in 10 innings on Sunday at Citi Field.

“For me, it was growth. It was a step in the right direction,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “He made pitches when he needed to. … For Bobby, great job tonight.”

While the Dodgers saw it as a positive start, Miller’s start was a great illustration of something the Dodgers will have to consider down the stretch.

Over the next few months, with Miller, Michael Grove and Emmet Sheehan in the current version of the starting rotation, the Dodgers will face plenty of instances in which they’ll have to weigh the development of young pitchers, workload, and just figuring out what gives them the best chance at winning a game.

It’s a decision every team in the league has to make when implementing a new wave of young talent to the roster, but especially for a club that has World Series aspirations. Miller’s case is probably the one the Dodgers will wrestle over the most because of his impressive talent and also the limited workload he had in the Minors this season before joining the team.

Miller cruised through four innings, striking out four and allowing just two hits. Outside of a long fly ball from Brandon Nimmo in the third, the Mets’ lineup didn’t have many answers for Miller. 

In the fifth, however, Miller’s command started to diminish. He hit Mark Canha with a fastball and walked Omar Narváez to load the bases with one out. In previous outings, Miller has usually allowed those innings to spiral out of control.

Over his first eight starts in the Majors, opposing hitters have a .294 average off the right-hander third time through the order. That’s significantly higher than the .224 average first time through the order and the .200 clip the second time around. In the fifth inning, Miller’s ERA is 11.57. It doesn’t get much better in the sixth inning with a 7.20 clip. 

But on Sunday, Miller was hoping to get the opportunity to get out of a jam. He got Nimmo to ground out weakly to the mound, but Miller wasn’t able to field it cleanly, allowing a run to score on the play. After the play, Miller was checked on by Dodgers trainers and he revealed he’s been dealing with right knee soreness but is “all good” for his next few starts. 

The potential injury, however, didn’t play a role in the decision to go with Brusdar Graterol instead of Miller to face Francisco Lindor. This time, the Dodgers chose to go with their best option instead of letting Miller work out of the jam. 

“There wasn't any damage the third time through,” Miller said. “The last hit was kind of just unfortunate. I thought it was a really good pitch. Other than that, just have to command the ball better in those late innings and I’m going to make it longer into the game.”

Making it deeper into games is something Dodgers starters not named Clayton Kershaw have struggled to do this season. Every game, of course, is not built the same, as Tony Gonsolin was pulled after five innings and 54 pitches because of ineffectiveness and not matchups on Saturday. But regardless of the reasons, the Dodgers know they need their starters to go more than just 14 2/3 innings during a three-game series. 

“I still feel good with where we’re at, but yeah, overall, we’re gonna need more length,” Roberts said. “But with Tony, who gave us five, I felt it was the right decision. And yeah, I still stand by today with [Bobby]. [Max] Scherzer, you gotta give him credit. And the bullpen, we couldn’t get to those guys. But we had a chance to win the game.”