LOS ANGELES -- There has been little not to like about the start Shelby Miller has had in his first season as a member of the Cardinals' rotation. He's already a five-game winner and will enter his start on Sunday ranked fourth in the National League in ERA (1.74), opponent batting average (.188) and WHIP (0.93).
But he's also found a deficiency that he wants to fix.
Miller has not been pleased with his lack of efficiency in his last two starts. After needing 92 pitches to finish 5 2/3 innings on May 15, Miller threw 107 in a 5 2/3-inning start on Monday. Since then, Miller has identified a few tweaks that he believes will help him keep his pitch count lower, so that he can stay in the game longer.
Getting ahead more regularly will be key, but Miller said that pitching down in the strike zone could have the biggest effect in reducing the number of pitches he throws per inning.
Hitters have had a tough time making solid contact on Miller's high four-seam fastball, but a number of those pitches have been fouled off. If Miller can incorporate more fastballs lower in the strike zone, it will force hitters to stop sitting on those high pitches. In turn, that should help Miller get more swings and misses when he does elevate his fastball.
"I can't get carried away with trying to strike guys out when I need to just try to keep my pitch count down and throw down in the zone," Miller said. "That should get them to put the ball in play, instead of leaving it up and having them hit a lot of foul balls.
Said manager Mike Matheny: "His best game he had was that one-hitter [on May 10]. He was effective, but he always went through a couple innings there in the middle where he got quick innings and was down. I think there's value to that."