Bobby Miller shows signs of an October surprise

Hard thrower's Major League maturation on display against D-backs

August 29th, 2023

LOS ANGELES -- The newfound stoic nature, the blazing fastballs, the determined demeanor all were on display for right-hander during the Dodgers’ 7-4 victory over the D-backs on Monday night.

There were also the moments that have dogged the rookie this season. But even when Miller began to stagger in the series opener at Dodger Stadium, he found a way to become unpredictable in order to get back on his game again.

That ability to move forward and lock into the next hitter is what the Dodgers are looking for as they point Miller toward a postseason role.

While Clayton Kershaw, Julio Urías and Lance Lynn have the experience to stand out as the club’s top three starters heading toward October, Miller and his 100 mph fastball are not far behind.

Miller gave up four runs on seven hits and two walks over six innings but kept the Dodgers in the game long enough for the red-hot offense to rally against D-backs ace Zac Gallen. Miller gave up his runs over the first four innings then set down the last eight batters he faced while winning for the second time in his last six starts.

Most impressive of all is that Miller said his slider and fastball were far from their best and he managed to rely on his changeup late in the outing.

“That’s probably the worst my stuff has been all year but I was glad to fight through it and get a couple of zeros after that fourth [inning],” Miller said. “Like I always say, I want to keep [the relievers] fresh. I want to get through at least six every time to get them some rest.”

Miller's ability to bear down as the outing progressed was best visible in how he dealt with Arizona’s red-hot Gabriel Moreno. In the second inning, Moreno ripped an RBI double to left field on a slider. In the fourth, Moreno hit a two-run home run on a 98 mph fastball to give the D-backs a 4-3 lead.

In the sixth inning, Miller’s tailing 98 mph fastball on the inside part of the plate forced Moreno into a groundout.

Shortly after Miller made amends on Moreno, the Dodgers’ offense provided its reward when Jason Heyward and James Outman hit back-to-back home runs in the latter half of the sixth inning for a 6-4 lead. Freddie Freeman and Max Muncy hit home runs in the first inning.

“I think he learned pretty quickly that you only have so much adrenaline when you’re trying to navigate a Major League lineup,” manager Dave Roberts said. “You can’t expend it on things that are unforeseen or happen out of your control. He’s managing the highs and lows of an outing and when you can do that, it allows you to go deeper into a game.”

Back-to-back outings where Miller allowed four runs are not what the Dodgers are looking for. But what does strike the club’s fancy is how dominant Miller was last week in the early innings against the Guardians and how he managed to finish off his day Monday.

Another positive sign is getting the win in Miller’s first try at facing a Major League club twice. His first 15 big league starts managed to come against a different team each time. He finally faced a team for the second time Monday after he went six scoreless innings at Arizona on Aug. 9.

“We were actually talking about it -- that he said it was his first time facing a team twice,” Heyward said. “That was the game I was accustomed to, coming in and facing a starter sometimes three, four times a year. But for him to battle, keep it close and go out there and trust his stuff enough, while still being aggressive in the zone, you have to respect that.

“Any time you get a chance to win, especially against an ace … huge.”

In the end, Miller found a way to find joy even as he heads toward a week of trying to get his fastball and slider back on track. He is sure to play back a fourth inning when five consecutive D-backs batters reached base.

“I just kind of kicked into a second gear,” Miller said. “... Some days, I’m not going to have my best stuff. I’m not going to feel my best. But I got to find a way to get through it.”