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Miller works around homer in latest sharp start

PHILADELPHIA -- When the Braves acquired Shelby Miller in exchange for Jason Heyward in November, they described him as a potential top-of-the-rotation starter. Based on what has been provided through this season's first three weeks, they could justifiably remove "potential" from that description.

Miller delivered his most impressive effort of this young season as he completed six strong innings during Saturday night's 5-2 win over the Phillies. The only two runs he surrendered came courtesy of Ryan Howard's latest home run against a Braves pitcher.

"It was just the one I left kind of middle away to Howard, and obviously he's a strong guy and he put a good swing on that ball," Miller said. "It was a mistake pitch, but guys like that are more than likely going to hit a home run or get a knock."

Howard's two-run homer in the fourth inning only briefly halted the dominance Miller displayed against the Phillies' lineup. The 24-year-old hurler seemed primed to pitch into the latter innings. But after proving efficient with 71 pitches through six, he was removed because his spot in the batting order came up with two out and two outs during Atlanta's three-run seventh inning.

The Braves had already gained a 3-2 lead before Miller's spot came due. But manager Fredi Gonzalez decided it was better to attempt to add on a few more runs rather than send his starting pitcher back to the mound.

"I felt strong," Miller said. "You always want to go as deep as possible, but at the same time, we're trying to get runs and I completely understand that. There's no doubt that we're trying to get more runs right there. Do I want to go longer? Of course, every pitcher would say that. But at the same time, we're trying to win a game here."

Miller has produced a 2.02 ERA during an 11-start stretch that dates back to Aug. 23, when he was with the Cardinals. He has allowed two earned runs or fewer through each of his first four starts this season.

"His last couple outings have been solid outings," Gonzalez said. "He gives us a chance to win every time he goes out there."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for
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