MEMPHIS, Tenn. – At first glance, Memphis starter Shelby Miller’s 7-9 record and 5.24 ERA might look like a nice match-up for the Tacoma Rainiers.
But stats can be deceiving.
The 21-year-old Miller is one of the top pitching prospects in minor league baseball, and he showed why in Memphis’ 7-5 victory over the Rainiers on Saturday.
Miller struck out 10 batters and didn’t walk any, going 52/3 innings while allowing three runs. He earned his fourth victory in his last five decisions, improving to 8-9 on the year.
“He’s got good stuff, a good arm,” said Tacoma manager Daren Brown. “He struck out ten of us. He’s got a live fastball, and he was able to get his breaking stuff around the plate.”
After a very rocky first three months in Triple-A baseball, Miller has turned a corner. He’s 4-1 with a 3.12 ERA over his last six starts. After walking 46 batters in his first 82 innings, he’s now gone 30 straight innings without issuing a single free pass.
Miller registered 92-to-95 miles per hour with his fastball on the Rainiers’ radar gun. He also mixed in a curve and a changeup.
The few times the Rainiers were able to square-up Miller, they hit the ball hard.
First baseman Justin Smoak connected against Miller, ripping a pair of doubles that were the two hardest balls he’s hit since coming down from Seattle. Both doubles were hit from the left side of the plate: – a shot off the right field fence in the third inning, and a ringing 400-foot drive off the fence in straightaway center field in the sixth.
Luis Jimenez also had good at-bats against Miller. The designated hitter crushed a first-pitch fastball for a long home run to right-center field in the top of the second, briefly giving Tacoma a 2-0 lead.
Jimenez’s home run cleared the 373-foot marker, sailed over the Tacoma bullpen, and landed on a public sidewalk where cash-strapped fans can peer through a fence and watch the game for free.
Jimenez added two singles and a run-scoring groundout, finishing the game 3-for-4 with four runs batted in.
Tacoma starter D.J. Mitchell (0-2) had his first rough outing since being acquired in the Ichiro trade. With the score tied 2-2 going to the bottom of the fifth, Mitchell allowed four runs as six of the first seven Memphis batters in the inning had hits.
Rehabilitating Mariners reliever Charlie Furbush pitched a 1-2-3 sixth inning, striking out two of the three batters he faced. It was Furbush’s fourth appearance on the rehab assignment, and his first scoreless inning.
The Rainiers scored two runs in the eighth to make it 6-5, and had the tying run at second base with two outs. Memphis brought in reliever Mikel Cleto, and he popped up Vinnie Catricala to escape the jam. Cleto then struck out the side in the ninth, securing the save.
The Rainiers send Andrew Carraway (3-6, 4.52) to the mound on Sunday to start a 4:05 p.m. (PDT) game. Memphis is scheduled to start Brandon Dickson (5-9, 3.56).Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Rainiers.