It’s been a season full of tests for Dodgers rookie Bobby Miller.
On Wednesday night, his latest one came from a familiar face.
With two on and no outs in the third inning at Dodger Stadium, Miller threw an up-and-in, 98.8-mph fastball that clipped the shoulder of Detroit‘s Zach McKinstry — the former Dodgers prospect traded away last year.
That loaded the bases for the Tigers, who already had a one-run lead in their eventual 4-2 defeat of the Dodgers.
The real challenge, however, came as McKinstry walked toward first base, trading words with Miller in the kind of emotional exchange that sometimes has gotten the best of the 24-year-old right-hander this season.
McKinstry, who also ducked an up-and-in fastball in his first at-bat, appeared to angrily reprimand Miller, telling him to “keep the ball down” and “that’s twice” he had a pitch thrown near his face.
Miller snapped back right back, seemingly telling McKinstry to “shut the f— up” and that the pitch “wasn’t on purpose.”
It wasn’t the first time Miller’s smoldering intensity had flared up on the mound. The first-round pick previously flashed frustration at himself for bad pitches, umpires for bad calls and sometimes no one in particular amid bouts of bad luck.
One of his biggest goals over the season has been to better control his emotions in such moments. And as McKinstry slowly took his base, Miller tried to quickly lock back in.
For the most part, he did.
He got a couple of assists in the next at-bat, when Tigers slugger Spencer Torkelson pulled a potential grand slam just foul, then hit a line drive in the gap that was snared by center fielder James Outman with a spectacular, diving catch.
After that sacrifice fly, Miller retired the next 11 in a row to complete a six-inning, two-run outing. He racked up seven strikeouts while giving up only three hits. He also dropped his ERA back under 4.00 (at 3.97) while going at least six innings for the 11th time in 20 starts, and the seventh time in his last eight.
It wasn’t enough for the Dodgers, not on a night their lineup mustered just one run on two hits against Detroit starter Reese Olson while two of their top bullpen weapons, Ryan Brasier and Evan Phillips, both faltered late.
In the bigger picture, though, Wednesday’s performance was another encouraging sign from Miller, who is likely to start one of the team’s first two playoff games next month, manager Dave Roberts reiterated before the game.
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