LOS ANGELES -- A few weeks ago, it was unclear if the Dodgers were going to rely on Bobby Miller at all in the postseason. Even with his power stuff, the rookie right-hander was going to have to earn his spot in the October rotation.
Over the last month or so, not only has Miller shown signs that he’ll be ready to contribute in October but that he’ll be one of the club’s prominent starters, given the state of the Dodgers’ rotation.
The Dodgers’ confidence in Miller continues to grow after every start, especially after he allowed just two runs and struck out seven over six innings in a 4-2 loss to the Tigers on Wednesday at Dodger Stadium.
- Games remaining (11): vs. SF (4), at COL (4), at SF (3)
- Standings update: The Dodgers (93-58) clinched the NL West title on Saturday. They trail the Braves (97-55) by 3 1/2 games for the No. 1 seed in the National League. They lead the Brewers (86-66) by 7 1/2 games for a bye in the NL Wild Card round.
- Magic number: 3 for a bye in the NL Wild Card round
“I feel ready,” Miller said when asked about his likely postseason role. “I’ve learned a lot since I’ve been here, and I feel very ready. I've got the guys here that have had a lot of experience there. So I’ve been asking those guys some questions here and there, how they go about it. I feel really ready.”
Miller got off to a hot start on Wednesday, striking out the side in the first. In that frame, he showed exactly why the Dodgers believe he could be successful in a postseason setting.
He obviously has an electric heater, consistently touching 98-100 mph. But he also flashed a changeup, curveball and slider that has helped him perform so far at the Major League level. Miller earned four whiffs on his four-seamer, two on his curveball, three on the changeup and one on the slider.
“Strikeouts were there in the first inning, yeah, but still a little bit too many pitches,” said Miller, who finished his night with 98 pitches, 63 of them strikes. “First two batters, fell behind 2-0, 3-1 to one of them. Came out well after the first. Results were there. But I fell behind in a lot of counts today, and it caused the pitch count to get up.”
Another positive sign for the Dodgers came in the third inning. Earlier this season, there were times Miller lost command of certain situations, allowing a few innings to spiral out of control. That’s an area he has said he’d been working on, and his hard work was on display against Detroit.
After getting into trouble, loading the bases with nobody out, Miller escaped the jam -- aided by a ridiculous full-extension grab by James Outman in center field that plated a run but prevented Spencer Torkelson from driving in more. Miller limited the damage in the frame to just that one run.
“There was a little something with [Zach] McKinstry there," said manager Dave Roberts regarding a hit-by-pitch Miller served to the former Dodgers infielder in the third. "But to kind of settle back in and make a pitch when he needed to, he just shows continued growth. … Like I said his last turn, with every start it just seems like there’s something that he’s getting better at, learning from, and that’s all we can ask for.”
Miller then finished his night with authority, retiring the final 12 batters he faced. All told, it was his eighth quality start of the season.
Given that the Dodgers will lean on Miller and Clayton Kershaw in Games 1 and 2 in the playoffs, the club will rely on the rookie right-hander more than originally expected.
They'll be hoping that Miller is, indeed, ready for the challenge.