Andrew Miller has gone two starts and 15 consecutive innings without giving up a walk.
“I don’t think I had one game last year where I didn’t walk a guy,” Miller said. “I’ve always tried to throw the ball over the plate – it’s not like I’ve been trying to walk guys.”
(Photo courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)
The 26-year-old lefty wasn’t exaggerating. In 30 appearances (28 starts) last year in the Marlins organization between Single-A Jupiter, Double-A Jacksonville, and Florida, Miller did not have a single game where he did not give up a walk.
But after pitching 6 innings with no walks in his previous start at Durham, Miller worked 7 walk-free innings on Wednesday night at Norfolk. In his last 3 outings, Andrew has only walked 2 batters in 20 innings.
“It’s the command of the fastball that’s so important,” said PawSox pitching coach Rich Sauveur. “He’s been able to establish the fastball in his last three outings. I think if you look back a week-and-a-half ago, he was leading the league in walks and now he’s gone two starts without walking anyone. When you add his secondary pitches with that fastball command, this kid is a major league pitcher.”
In his previous start, Miller was able to throw his breaking ball for strikes and it helped him whiff a season-high 9 batters. He was not able to throw his slider for consistent strikes on Wednesday, so he relied on fastballs (93-96 MPH) and change-ups to hold the Tides to 1 ER in 7 IP. Norfolk added 2 runs in the 8th inning off of Blake Maxwell and beat the PawSox 3-0.
“It’s going to be like that sometimes,” Miller said. “I had to rely on the fastball more and it’s not always going to be as easy and as comfortable as the last game. We made it work, but unfortunately came out on the losing end tonight.”
“He didn’t have his slider, but he kept throwing it so it was always in the back of the hitter’s heads,” Sauveur said. “That enhances the other pitches. He threw 13 changeups tonight and 9 were strikes. Even though he didn’t have a good breaking ball, the hitters couldn’t eliminate it because he kept throwing it.”
Miller’s outstanding three-game stretch comes after he altered his pre-game routine and began throwing a simulated inning in the bullpen before taking the mound in the game (read more about it here).
Is his dramatic improvement really that simple?
“I think it has a lot to do with it,” Miller said. “If it’s not that, I don’t know what it could be, but it’s certainly working right now.”
“You tell me?” Sauveur said. “That’s three starts and two bullpen sessions where we’ve done the exact same thing now. I can’t tell you exactly what it is, but whatever it is, it’s working and it’s fantastic. He’s so much more upbeat and so much more positive. He got a loss tonight, but he knows he pitched well. He pitched 7 strong innings in 94 degree weather. He’s going to continue to do this – I can see it.”
“I think it was definitely a continuation of what I’ve been doing and it was nice to go out there and carry it over,” Miller said. ” The idea is to do it again in five days.”
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While Miller was terrific on Wednesday, Norfolk’s Brad Bergesen was even better, tossing a 4-hit shutout as the Tides beat the PawSox 3-0.
The two teams play at 12:15 on Thursday afternoon. I hope you’ll join us for radio coverage beginning with the pre-game show at 12:00 on the PawSox radio network and pawsox.com.
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