Philadelphia – Bobby Miller was so impressive during his first three career starts that he didn’t need to worry too much about working his way out of big league crunches.
Miller danced around some early trouble Saturday afternoon before settling down to continue his historically dominant run to start his career. The 24-year-old right-hander threw six scoreless innings to bring his ERA down to 0.78 — and lead the Dodgers to a 9-0 victory over the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.
In doing so, Miller is the only pitcher in AL/NL history to go 3-0 with a sub-1.00 ERA while compiling at least 23 strikeouts and allowing fewer than 15 hits in his first four games. Sure, this is a bit of a mouthful, but in a simpler way: No pitcher really started his career quite like Miller.
“It’s definitely kind of a confidence-building bit,” said Miller. “This is a really good lineup, so I really had to focus and focus on all my pitches today.”
After allowing only three baserunners in his six innings pitched once against another good Yankees lineup his last outing, Miller found himself in a bases-laden jam in the second inning against the Phils. He escaped unscathed by pushing Edmundo Sosa into second, but the half was definitely a grind.
Miller threw 34 pitches in that frame and faced three batters with multiple runners on base—which he did only three times in his first three innings combined. However, after needing 49 pitches to navigate the first two innings, Miller threw only 55 pitches over the next four. 11 of the last 13 players he faced have retired.
Through four starts, Miller holds opposing batters to just 1-for-13 (. 077) with five strikeouts with runners in scoring position.
“When you start to get a little nervous – do you have the ability to slow the game down?” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts has said what he is looking for in a small pitcher. “[Throwing] Harder isn’t always better, and I think with younger players, they just want to try harder to make the moment stop by beating players. But Bobby has shown the ability to smooth that out a bit.”
Overall, Miller worked about three hits and three walks while striking out seven times over six clean innings pitched. He improved to 3-0 with a 0.78 ERA, 23 strikeouts and only 12 hits allowed in 23 innings pitched.
Miller became the fourth pitcher in AL/NL history to hit at least five innings and allow no more than one run in each of his first four career starts. The last to do so was Kenta Maeda in 2016 (also with the Dodgers), while Cody Anderson also did in 2015 with Cleveland, as did Cliff Markle for the Yankees from 1915-16.
And while there may not be direct statisticians, Miller does remind Roberts of a particular person.
“What we’ve seen so far, is a lot of what Walker has seen [Buehler] Roberts said. “That competitive ability to put on a pitch when he needs to and then you just pivot things, it’s very much like Walker.”
Miller’s “stuff” may be the biggest surprise yet.
It’s no secret that he had a great fastball—he maxed out at 100.4mph on his four seams and averaged 98.5mph with his dunks on Saturday—but it was the other pitches that allowed Miller to thrive. Along with getting four blows and nine called strikeouts with his powerful dunk, Miller forced five swings and misses with his slider, four with a curve ball and two with his changeup.
His slider has come a long way; he’s made a few adjustments since he got here, and it’s been great,” said catcher Will Smith. “The changeup is also a great erasing pitch. And curveball, that’s how you slow players down. He kept men away from her, he could land her for strikes. He just mixes the four.”
Miller’s appearance came at a perfect time for a Dodgers team with only four healthy starters. But if he continues to pitch in this way, he could cement a long-term home in this rotation, no matter who is or isn’t available in LA.
“When you play for this club, we’re not talking about development – we have to win,” said Roberts. “It doesn’t matter what age and time of service—if you’re going out and performing, you’ll earn those opportunities.”
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