PAWTUCKET – A lack of control continues to haunt Andrew Miller.
Throwing strikes was a major flaw for the lanky left-hander Sunday afternoon as Pawtucket dropped a 4-3 decision to Toledo before 3,512 at McCoy Stadium. Miller lasted just three-plus innings and was yanked by PawSox manager Arnie Beyeler after loaded the bases on two walks and a single in the fourth. The former sixth overall pick of the 2006 draft was the definition of off-target, throwing just 41 of his 84 pitches for strikes.
He walked five Toledo batters, giving him a stunning 17 walks in 22 1/3 innings. Miller went to three-ball counts to each of the first seven hitters he faced. He went to a full count on six of them. He also required 29 pitches to get out of the first inning, just 12 for strikes.
Falling behind repeatedly and throwing not nearly enough strikes represent the biggest reasons why he hasn't pitched more than six innings in any of his five starts.
Now comes the part as to why the Red Sox were willing to take a flyer on Miller. Throwing regularly in the mid-90s, Miller is perceived a lethal and imposing option from the left side – if the 6-foot-7, 210-pounder can ever harness his command. His ERA now stands at 2.42 after getting tagged for three runs on four hits. Going into play his ERA was 1.40.
Afterwards Miller pinpointed as to why his pitches were generally high in the zone and the adjustment that needs to happen.
“I just got a little too fast. As I delivered the pitch I just think I was kind of rushed a bit. Everything was up. I missed in the same spot and didn’t do a good job in making the adjustment,” he explained. “I’m not staying back as much as I should. The net result of that is that the ball is going to be up all day. We’ll work on that over the next couple of days and hopefully make it a permanent fix.”
Naturally Miller wanted to turn the page as soon as possible.
“He’s just got to keep working and get the feel back,” Beyeler said of Miller. “That’s why these guys throw on flat ground and do their throwing (between starts). The tough part for them is that it’s not like hitters who can go down there and swing all day. They can’t go out and throw all day. They’ve got to keep doing quality work and keep taking it out onto the field until it gets comfortable.”
Miller was removed with Pawtucket ahead, 2-0, but with the bases loaded for Toledo. The Mud Hens, now winners of seven straight, got a sacrifice fly, single by Andy Dirks and then a two-run triple by Scott Sizemore off Scott Atchison. The triple was a bloop shot down the line in right. Yamaico Navarro, making his first in right field for Pawtucket, tried to make a shoe-string catch, but came up empty and the ball rolled up the line allowing both Toledo runners to score.
“From that standpoint (Navarro) is a work in progress,” said Beyeler after Pawtucket dropped its third straight game. “He needs to get out there and have some balls hit to him. He has to get comfortable and realize his range within game situations.”
Miller’s early departure took its toll on Pawtucket’s bullpen as Beyeler was forced to call upon four relievers. Atchison was replaced in the fifth by Michael Bowden, who ended up giving the PawSox some much-needed length.
Bowden, the team leader in saves with three, pitched three scoreless frames with six strikeouts. Rich Hill and Clevelan Santeliz each came through with a scoreless frame as Pawtucket’s bullpen combined for one on four hits in six innings.
“Somebody was going to have to be stretched out and Michael was our most rested guy,” said Beyeler about Bowden, who last worked last Thursday in Lehigh Valley.
Pawtucket’s offense consisted of three solo home runs. Michael McKenry and J.C. Linares went back-to-back in the second inning, McKenry’s homer landing halfway up the warehouse in dead center. Linares followed with a towering shot that landed somewhere in the parking lot beyond left field.
McKenry finished with two home runs and a double, a day that had to make the catcher feel good, especially in wake of Luis Exposito receiving the majority of the reps behind the plate in recent weeks.
“He’s in a tough spot. Exposito is playing a little bit more now, but Michael is making the most of his playing time,” Beyeler said.
Pawtucket’s defense was a bright spot as Linares, stationed in left, threw out a runner in the first inning with an on-the-mark throw. Toledo’s Andy Dirks helped out by not sliding. The same inning also saw shortstop Jose Iglesias show off his wide receiver skills with an over-the-shoulder grab in short center. The play took away a hit from Sizemore, the International League’s leading hitter (.408).