Miley, who still leads Cincinnati’s starters with a 3.09 ERA, has been the club’s most consistent pitcher all season.
But against the Pirates, a series of softly hit and well-placed singles, plus a pair of ill-timed walks and some sloppy defense, cost Miley in two big innings as the Reds dipped to 9-2 against the Bucs this season. Cincinnati (75-70) fell a half-game back of the Cardinals (75-69), a 7-6 winner in 11 innings over the Mets, for the second National League Wild Card spot. The Padres (74-70) are a game back of St. Louis following a 6-1 loss to the Giants.
In the first, the Pirates used four singles, a walk and an error to jump out to a 3-0 lead. In the fifth, it was more of the same, with two singles, a double, an error and a walk leading to another three-run outburst and sending Miley to the showers after 4 1/3 innings.
“Wade pitching to contact is what he does well,” catcher Tucker Barnhart said. “He pitched to contact tonight, like he always does. It just found some holes. It’s just part of the way he pitches. Sometimes it’s going to happen.”
That’s a game plan that has served Miley well against the Pirates in the past. He had thrown 13 scoreless innings in a row against Pittsburgh before getting touched in the first in the series opener.
“I think tonight, our hitters went in with a really good approach,” Bucs manager Derek Shelton said. “We had a good game plan, and they executed it.”
Miley also couldn’t get out of the fifth inning on Sept. 1, when he gave up five runs on 12 hits in four innings. He has given up 10 or more hits just four times this season, with two of them coming in his last three starts.
That raises concerns about the veteran, who also had a tough September in his last full season as a starter in 2019. Miley had a 16.88 ERA in the final month of that season with the Astros.
But Miley took steps dating to the offseason to be in physical condition to prevent a repeat of that performance, manager David Bell said, and Bell believes Tuesday’s outing was a result of the Pirates slap-hitting their way to success instead of Miley running out of gas.
“When you prepare like that and take care of your body, and stay in great shape, this is the time of year it shows up,” Bell said. “I feel great about where he is physically. That is not what I saw tonight. I feel like he has a lot of innings, a lot of big games in him the rest of the way.”
Meanwhile, Cincinnati’s offense could do little against Pittsburgh starter Dillon Peters, waiting until the bullpen entered before pushing across four in the sixth -- capped by Kyle Farmer’s RBI single. Nick Castellanos finished the scoring with his 29th homer -- a solo shot in the ninth.
The Reds have been struggling to find consistent offense as of late, and even when they do find it, it’s come in games when the pitching hasn’t come through.
“You just have to weather these times.” Barnhart said. “These stretches happen throughout a full season, it’s just magnified right now in the spot that we are in.”
Despite the Reds’ lead in the second Wild Card race whittling away after losing 11 of their last 15, Bell is still supremely confident in his club’s ability to turn things around in the final weeks of the regular season.
“We absolutely know this is going to turn,” the skipper said. “I have no doubt, just because I know our players and I know our team. Not to say it’s easy. We have to turn this around. We know that. I’m completely confident. I feel it turning. It’s going to happen.”
The Reds will get plenty of chances to do so, and many of them will come against the last-place Pirates. Eight of Cincinnati’s final 17 regular-season games are against Pittsburgh.