Miley in control, continues reign over Rays
Ross' three-run HR, Chavez's two RBI doubles power D-backs
PHOENIX -- There was a time this season when serving up a solo homer while ahead in the count or allowing a two-out single by the opposing pitcher would've rattled Wade Miley into a tailspin. The frustration seemed to boil over and drag down the left-hander, who expects so much of himself every time he takes the mound.
On Tuesday night, Miley had both of those aggravating incidents occur, testing the 26-year-old's ability to stay poised under pressure.
The end result was yet another step in the right direction as he continues his resurgent and flat-out dominant second half of the season.
In a repeat performance from less than a week ago, Miley shut down one of the hottest teams in baseball Tuesday, baffling the Rays over seven stellar innings while Cody Ross provided the offensive firepower as the D-backs opened up an eight-game homestand with a 6-1 victory at Chase Field.
"Earlier I was getting upset with myself over one or two minor mistakes and it caused things to escalate," Miley said. "There would be times when I got to 3-0 in a count and rather than stepping off and getting back in my rhythm, I'd just throw it. Now I'm doing a better job of staying under control and recognizing when I need to regroup."
That has certainly been the case over the last month, and more specifically his last two starts, both against the red-hot Rays, who were 25-6 over their last 31 games entering Tuesday.
Miley, who worked 6 1/3 shutout innings in Tampa Bay last Wednesday, surrendered just one run on five hits this time around, striking out five. Following a rough May and June in which he went 2-7, Miley now owns a 1.54 ERA over 46 2/3 innings since, going 5-1 over that stretch.
"He has really simplified things," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "He got in a spot earlier where he was overthinking and he couldn't control the ball. Now he's just throwing the ball where he wants to more."
The only run Miley gave up came via Evan Longoria's solo shot to left field in the fourth. Then, an inning later, Rays starter Jeremy Hellickson singled with two outs in the fifth, giving the top of the Tampa Bay order another shot at the southpaw. Trying not to let one miscue snowball, Miley settled down after that, retiring seven of the final nine batters he faced before handing the ball over to Heath Bell and Brad Ziegler, who sealed the victory.
"He got himself under control," Gibson said. "When he gets mad, he overthrows, but he was pretty much in command."
Coupled with a Dodgers loss in St. Louis, the D-backs' win Tuesday trimmed their deficit in the division to five games and kept them 4 1/2 games behind the Reds for the second National League Wild Card spot.
After combining for just a pair of runs over their past two games, the D-backs shelled Rays starter Jeremy Hellickson, who, like Miley, was facing the same team in consecutive starts. Eric Chavez turned in a two-RBI night while Ross continued his recent hot streak by delivering a three-run homer in the fourth with the game tied.
"He's barreling the ball a lot better, you can see him coming on," Gibson said. "He's much calmer at the plate, he's staying back on the ball and the power is coming."
Over his past eight games, Ross is batting .451 with three long balls and eight RBIs. The outfielder credits a lot of the success to a more even-keeled approach at the plate.
"My main thing that I concentrate on is being calm and not having too much movement," Ross said. "A lot of stuff can go wrong in your swing, so I stand in there as relaxed as I possibly can and try to spot a pitch that I can handle. That's just getting back to the basics."
Down by a run following Longoria's long ball, Chavez's RBI double in the bottom of the fourth snapped Arizona's 14-inning scoreless drought and tied the game at 1. Ross then delivered the big hit of the night two batters later, depositing a 91-mph Hellickson fastball deep into the left-field bleachers for his three-run shot.
"He locates the ball well and his changeup is as good as anybody's in the game. Luckily for me, he left a fastball over the middle," Ross said. "It probably wasn't a good pitch for him, and I was able to get some good wood on it."
An inning later, the D-backs chased Hellickson from the game with two outs in the fifth before Chavez smacked his second RBI double of the night to tack on an insurance run. Martin Prado added an RBI double in the seventh to give the club its six-spot.