CHICAGO — It was a rough May for Diamondbacks starting pitcher Wade Miley. And that’s probably putting it nicely.
The left-hander lost his fourth straight start and fifth of May on Friday, a 7-2 defeat against the Cubs, and despite a strong finish, the outing was enough for manager Kirk Gibson to put Miley on notice.
“I’m not going to let him go out and keep doing that,” Gibson said. “It’s a tough go when you’re down six or seven to nothing.”
Gibson had been asked if Miley might be able to carry some momentum from four scoreless innings into his next outing. The response: “He better.”
After giving up a two-run home run to Alfonso Soriano in the first inning, a grand slam to Scott Hairston in the third inning and a solo home run to Cody Ransom two batters later, Miley had his third seven-runs-allowed performance in his last three starts.
In six May starts, Miley is 1-5 with a 7.34 ERA and more home runs allowed (seven) than in any month last season. After giving up seven runs on seven hits in seven innings Friday, Miley is 3-5 with a 5.01 ERA overall this year.
“I’m pretty frustrated, but you’ve got to take those last four innings,” Miley said. “I feel like that’s more me. I’ve got to move on from there and put all that other stuff behind me. I’ve got to quit thinking, get the mental stuff out of my head and go out there and compete.”
The last four innings were undoubtedly impressive. After Ransom’s home run, Miley retired 13 of 14 batters, only allowing a single. Perhaps more importantly, he spared a tired bullpen extra work after a taxing game Thursday.
“I knew the bullpen was going to be short with the game yesterday,” Miley said. “I had a rough one in the third inning, let it escalate and just tried to log innings at that point and keep the score where it was at.”
A visibly frustrated Gibson, however, was not interested in any silver lining to Miley’s performance.
“We’re not here to save our bullpen; we’re here to win a game,” Gibson said. “He didn’t throw the ball very good.”
Gibson didn’t slam Miley or specifically threaten his job in the starting rotation, but he made it clear that he’s not willing to wait out a prolonged slump from the pitcher who won 16 games last season.
If Miley can’t figure it out soon, his job may be in danger, particularly with Daniel Hudson a few weeks away from returning from Tommy John surgery and top prospect Tyler Skaggs having made an impressive spot start last week.
The problem is figuring out what’s wrong. Asked what happened in the first three innings Friday, Miley had no answers.
“I don’t know,” Miley said, shaking his head. “It’s a good question. I don’t know.”
He did offer a few moments later, however, that it could be a confidence issue.
“I made the same pitches as in the first three innings, but I just had confidence the last four,” Miley said. “I think that’s what I boils down to.”
It’s understandable that Miley’s confidence might be shaken after the way things have gone so far. He has performed well below expectations and has not had the command that carried him last year in a surprisingly successful rookie season.
Miley also admitted to letting his recent poor performances bleed over into his next outing, causing him to think too much on the mound. Now more than ever, Miley must find the care-free mentality that served him so well a year ago.
“I’ve been carrying with me what had kind of happened previously, and it’s time to move forward,” Miley said.
Before Friday’s game, Gibson called Miley’s performance this year “erratic” and “inconsistent” but still expressed confidence in his young lefty. While Gibson, fiercely loyal to his players, still believes in Miley’s ability, his patience appears to be wearing thin.