Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 9/11/13
Houston-astros-louis
What starter Shelby Miller was able to do with 6 2/3 scoreless innings Tuesday night against Milwaukee made sure the Cardinals’ first hit of the game was the only hit he needed. How he did it could be even more important. After a season searching for this kind of feel and efficiency the rookie righthander showed a more varied and nuanced assortment of pitches as he threw the Cardinals to a 4-2 victory against the Brewers at Busch Stadium. Miller had a new look for his fourth start against Milwaukee but the same success as he matched Brewers starter Wily Peralta zero for zero through five innings. Matt Holliday’s two-run home run with two outs in the sixth inning snapped Peralta’s no-hit bid and catapulted Miller to the victory. “He’s been a guy who has been groomed to be a big-game pitcher in my opinion” manager Mike Matheny said. “He’s had a lot of pressure on him from the day he signed and before that. He needed to be a front-line guy. He came out and continued to improve … and (showed) he’s willing to change and adapt and do what he needed to do.” While Holliday’s home run put the Cardinals ahead and a run and RBI from slugger Matt Adams later in the game gave the Cardinals’ needed cushion the power behind their four-game winning streak is pitching. Starters rule. Again. The first-place Cardinals’ fourth consecutive victory came with the team’s fourth consecutive quality start. This is not a coincidence. This is a proof. Since Friday Cardinals starters have allowed one run in their past 26 2/3 innings and their revival has come at the same time as the Cardinals return to the lead in the National League Central. Miller (13-9) was the third consecutive starter to go at least six innings without allowing a run at all and he plunged his home ERA to 1.76. “Our success and our struggles have been tied to the starting pitching we’re getting” Matheny explained over the weekend. “We understand that. We’re working out the kinks.” Miller 22 had glitches to correct as he posted a 4.55 ERA in August and became increasingly reliant and exposed by his fastball. Unable to put innings or batters away his pitch count bloated and only once in six August starts did he get an out in the seventh inning. The splits aligned for success Tuesday. At Busch Miller had a 1.92 ERA in the previous 13 and a 7-3 record. In three previous starts against the Brewers this season Miller was 2-0 with a 1.47 ERA and 21 strikeouts in 18 1/3 innings. Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke lauded Miller’s fastball in April saying it hits ”92 mph and the way we’re swinging at it looks like 100.” Fastball-happy at times Miller showed a more well-rounded assortment Tuesday to throw the Brewers off the scent of his heater. Miller adjusted his grip slightly on his changeup opening up his index finger and shifting it over. The result was an off-speed pitch that had more run and more reliability to it. He also mixed in his new toy a cut fastball and a breaking ball that he’s spent this season tying to fine-tune in the bullpen. “I felt like the breaking ball was better” Miller said. “The cutter — even though I missed with some of them it still ended up finding a way to miss the bats. My breaking ball hasn’t been as sharp as we want it to be. It was better this game.” During a 10-pitch at-bat against Miller in the seventh inning Brewers outfielder Caleb Gindl saw five breaking balls. He struck out on one in the dirt. Brewers leadoff hitter Norichika Aoki one of the toughest batters in the majors to strike out was five-for-nine in his career against Miller. He made it a point going into the game to change his approach with the lefthanded-hitting Aoki and that meant he and Yadier Molina changed his pitch usage. In the fifth inning Miller struck Aoki out for the second time in the game with a sequence that included two 88-mph cutters including one Aoki whiffed on. In the third inning Aoki took Miller’s new-grip changeup for a called strike three. “It was a little different approach” Matheny said. “He wasn’t blowing stuff past guys. He was doing more of what we talked about he needed to do to be more efficient. … It comes down to execution. It’s not that he hasn’t been trying to use those pitches. They just haven’t felt good coming out of his hand. If you don’t have much confidence in them … your defense mechanism is to go straight to what’s working. He did a nice job of finding a feel for it.”
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