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Miller's struggles continue in loss to Yankees

ST. LOUIS -- Having teetered on the edge of trouble in almost every one of his starts this season, Shelby Miller finally endured the tumble on Wednesday night.

The Yankees spoiled the Cardinals' bid at a fifth consecutive series win with an aggressive approach for which Miller had no answer. It added up to the worst start, statistically, of the young right-hander's career and a 7-4 loss for the Cardinals in front of 45,267 at Busch Stadium.

It also spoiled a night in which the Cardinals actually outhit the Yankees, 13 to 12, and scored in four frames. But by the time their run production started, the Cardinals were already staring at a seven-run hole.

"That was a rough start for Shelby," manager Mike Matheny said. "The third inning hit, and they were just on everything. You didn't see a lot of bad swings. Everything he threw up there, it looked like their timing was right on. That went on for a couple of innings, and then the damage was done."

This season has afforded Miller more opportunity than desired to throw out of the stretch, as he has pitched only 14 clean innings among the 61 2/3 he's thrown through 11 starts. He had just one on Wednesday, and it didn't come until the fifth, after the Yankees had scored four in the third and three in the fourth.

Miller, in his first 42 career starts, had never allowed more than five runs in an outing.

"Sometimes a guy's going to locate, and sometimes they're not," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "If you take advantage when they don't, usually you're going to score some runs. I thought that's what we did tonight."

Going into this game, Miller had done well to mask his deficiencies with a win total (six) and ERA (3.18) that hardly told the whole story. But laborious innings and crowded basepaths have marked the beginning of his season. His ERA may have been respectable, but his Fielding Independent Pitching mark of 5.22, the fifth worst among all Major League starters with at least 50 innings pitched, indicated that his escape act could not be sustained.

Miller's ability to limit damage had been due, in large part, to his ability to limit opponents to four hits in 40 at-bats with a runner in scoring position. The Yankees matched that RISP total within a two-inning span.

"If you go back and look at some of the pitches, they were all in the strike zone," Miller said, adding that this time, out-of-whack mechanics were not to blame. "They were just getting hit. I'm not mad about my command. I'm mad that I was leaving balls over the middle."

After working around singles in the first and second, Miller allowed five straight batters to reach safely with one out in the third. A walk started the trouble, and after two singles, including an RBI hit by Jacoby Ellsbury, another walk added to the traffic.

It was Miller's 32nd walk of the season, but also a semi-intentional one. He wanted to forgo pitching to cleanup hitter Brian McCann and instead take his chances against backup catcher John Ryan Murphy.

Murphy, swinging at a first-pitch curveball, pushed across two runs with a single to center. A fourth scored as the Cardinals recorded the second out of the inning.

"We were trying to throw a breaking ball and have him hit a ground ball somewhere," Miller said. "That pitch … could have been a good ground-ball pitch. It was down and away. He just got under it and made a good swing on it."

New York added three runs -- Ellsbury and McCann combined to drive in all of them -- in the fourth, an inning in which Miller threw 15 pitches to seven hitters. That's because the Yankees were quick to swing -- two of the four hits in the inning came on Miller's first offering. Again, one was on the curve.

The seven runs allowed matched Miller's total through his first 24 2/3 home innings of the season.

"It'll be hard to swallow, but then he's got to get back to work and figure out, 'How do I get back to where I was?'" Matheny said. "He worked hard to get to a good spot and was getting positive results, as far as wins go, without having his good stuff. Right now is not the time to go to the drawing board and completely forget what he has been able to do."

The Cardinals pecked away at the deficit but also squandered opportunities to capitalize with a needed big inning against Yankees starter Hiroki Kuroda. Daniel Descalso's strikeout to end the second left runners on the corner. Yadier Molina popped out with the bases full to close the third.

Descalso's single in the fourth, Allen Craig's groundout in the fifth and Matt Carpenter's double in the sixth each pushed home single runs. But the Cardinals also combined to strand four more runners in those three frames before Kolten Wong added an RBI single in the eighth.

The Cardinals had three chances to tie the score in the ninth after the first two batters reached, but Yankees closer David Robertson ended that threat with strikeouts of Jon Jay, pinch-hitter Matt Adams and Descalso. The Cardinals finished 3-for-15 with runners in scoring position.

"That's really the story I want to leave this room with -- these guys kept fighting," Matheny said. "We had an opportunity there. I really admire the fact that these guys kept playing the game, kept taking good at-bats."

The loss closes the Cardinals' first Interleague series of the season, though they'll continue with a stretch of games against American League clubs following the Giants' visit for a four-game weekend stay. The Yankees have now won two of three regular-season series against the Cardinals.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB.
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