Move over starters, and make way for Wade Miley.
Through his last two starts for the Diamondbacks, Miley appears to have earned a spot along side Ian Kennedy, Joe Saunders, Daniel Hudson and Josh Collmenter in the rotation. Miley stepped in a week and one half ago, and apparently did not miss a beat.
One of the last cuts in spring training, Miley went to the minors for his apprenticeship and now shows the reasons how the Diamondbacks virtually stole the 24 year-old lefthander. Miley was signed by the D-backs as a supplemental selection in the 2008 First year Player Draft out of Southeastern Louisiana University.
Now, dividends are evident.
After departing the Salt River campus, Miley headed for AA Mobile. There, he complied a 4-2 season with the Bay Bears, and promoted to AAA Reno in early July. The left-hander responded with a 4-1, 3.64 ERA in eight starts. When D-backs starter Jason Marquis went down with a broken right leg in mid-August, Miley’s combined effort at AA and AAA earned a promotion to the major leagues,
Since, Miley has simply produced.
In his latest effort, Miley went a respectable six innings, allowed nine hits but only two runs in gaining a 9-4 over the Colorado Rockies before 20,231 at Chase Field. The victory was the D-backs eighth straight, but remains short of the franchise mark of 12 straight from June 18-30, 2003.
The eight game winning streak is the longest for Arizona since April 4-12, 2008, and win was also their 11 straight at home. That’s second in the majors this season behind the Indians’ 14 in a row at Progressive Field from April 3 to May 10. The D-backs last loss at home was a 9-1 defeat to Houston Aug. 8.
In making the win sweeter, the Giants lost to the Cubs at home, and the D-backs lead in NL West is now six games through Aug. 30.
Miley rebounded from a marginal first inning, and showed manager Kirk Gibson why he deserves to stay in the rotation.
In a less than productive opening frame, Miley surrendered a pair of hits, a walk, a run and threw 29 pitches. In the subsequent frames, the Diamondbacks bailed out Miley with three in the third and a three run bomb from catcher Miguel Montero pushed the lead to a comfortable level.
“It’s all about throwing quality pitches,” Miley said. “From the first game to the last two, I’ve made better pitches. My problem is going too fast, and the goal now is to slow down.”
In turning in his second quality start in three starts, Miley indicated he needs to rethink his approach and monitor his timing. With a tendency to get things done in a hurry, the goal now is create a rhythm and pace.
“He’s rushed the ball early in his starts, and then settles down,” Gibson said of Miley’s method. “He’s young, he’ll learn but we can’t dwell on mistakes. We all make them, and we told him to forget the past and get on to the next inning.”
The offense scored when needed and Montero’s three run dinger, to create a 6-2 lead, in the fifth off starter Aaron Cook gave Miley a sustainable comfort level.
Later, Montero’s blast was complemented by Justin Upton’s 26th home run of the season high off the center field fence in the eighth.
Elsewhere, Gerardo Parra contributed with a 4-for-5 night and Aaron Hill added a 3-for-4 effort. Collin Cowgill chipped with a 2-for-4 night, and Parra, with a sliding catch on the left field warning track in the first inning, and Upton leaping into the stands to grab a foul ball off the bat of Troy Tulowitzki in the fifth, turned in defensive gems.
“We keep winning, and that’s all that counts,” said Cowgill. “Me? I’m seeing the ball better, and have taken pressure off. I try and relax, and (batting coach Don) Baylor told me not to pull as much. Use the middle and stick with your strength.”
In his last two games, Cowgill’s batting average rose from .137 to .217, exactly 80 points, and that was after games of Aug. 30.
The nine runs scored were the most since the D-backs beat Houston 11-9 on Aug. 9. Their 14 hits were short of their season best of 19 against the Marlins on May 30.
WATCHING YOUR BACK
The frequency in which Justin Upton is getting hit by pitches balls is alarming.
What is equally alarming in the response, or lack of response to this uncommon turn of events. While the media brings this to Gibson’s attention during his daily briefings, the response seems fleeting.
Both sides of the arguments weighted in on the debate. Clearly, Upton’s teammates are upset, but their course of future action remains uncertain.
First, pitchers have come to the defense of the All-Star right fielder, and indicated the frequency of hitting Upton needs to stop. Conversely, there may not be much of a physical response because fines and suspensions could result. Those consequences are clearly not an option for Gibson in the middle of a pennant race.
When Colorado starter Alex White drilled Upton the back during the sixth inning Aug. 30, that represented the 15th time this season Upton was hit. Coming into games of Aug. 30, that’s one behind Danny Espinosa of Washington.
For now, Upton recognizes the unfolding scenario, adding, “it’s part of the game, but I know the guys have my back.”
Still, the team, collectively, may be at a loss to respond.
“I can’t do anything about it,” Gibson said during his pre-game media briefing Aug. 30. “Fines are not good, suspensions are not good. Sure, Justin doesn’t like it, but I can’t do anything.”
Who can do something and influence the course of events may be the pitching staff.
During a series of hit batters and ejections in early June at Chase Field with Washington, the Diamondbacks and Nationals exchanged hit batters and players were tossed. With Arizona now in the middle of a pennant race, Gibson said he does not want a repeat.
Opposing pitches like to pitch Upton inside, but his teammates issued this warming.
“If they are going to throw inside, they better hit their spots,” said Hudson. “What’s happen to Justin definitely has our attention.”
Despite obvious pain and discomfort, Upton stayed in the Aug. 30 game and finished the contest. He was back in the lineup, hitting his usual third, the next game and smashed his career-tying 26th home run in the eighth inning with one on.
RESPCT FROM THE OPPOSITION
As the season enters the final month, the unfolding scenario has the Giants and Diamondbacks batting for the NL West Division.
For the rest of the division, it’s the old Brooklyn cry of “wait ‘till next year” for the Rockies, Dodgers and Padres.
The fact the D-backs are contending is not a surprise to one of the main participants.
“They are not just hanging in there, they are there,” said Jim Tracy, the Rockies manager. “They have something special going on over there.”
Tracy then went through naming a litany of players, from pitchers Kennedy, Collmenter and Hudson to infielder Ryan Roberts, and indicated, “there’s a lot going on for themselves.”