PHOENIX — With as high as Wade Miley had set the bar through his first three starts in July, it didn’t take much for the Diamondbacks left-hander to have his worst outing of the month. But to apply such a label to Miley’s performance against the Cubs on Saturday is misleading.
He had to battle a bit but Miley continued his red-hot month with an efficient night that earned him his third straight win as the D-backs beat the Cubs 9-3 at Chase Field.
"He settled down good," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "He’s been more consistent with his pitch command and count command. He’s able to throw all of his pitches in any count. And he’s just throwing the ball really well."
Miley allowed three runs on seven hits in seven innings Saturday and owns a 1.88 ERA this month. He had not won three straight games at any point previously this season, nor had the D-backs won three straight games in which he started.
Miley didn’t offer much explanation for what might be behind his stellar month. But reading between the lines, it seems he got back to the approach that has served him well in the past: pitching without thinking.
"I’m just going out trying to compete and give us a chance to win," Miley said. "That’s it. I’m trying to keep us in ball games, we’ve scored enough runs, and it’s worked out."
It also might have something to do with better command or that he’s managed to avoid the big innings that plagued him through the first half of the season.
Miley looked like he might be in trouble early Saturday with runners on first and second with one out in the first inning and a run already in. Miley escaped, though, thanks in part to Ender Inciarte’s highlight-reel catch of Wellington Castillo’s deep shot to center field.
"Unbelievable," Miley said. "I thought it was going to bang up above the yellow line when he hit it. For him to make that play just kind of boosts me a little more."
Miley threw 23 pitches in the first but managed to stay under 100 over seven. He faced another hiccup in the fourth, when Castillo hit a leadoff home run — Miley’s first allowed in five starts — and Junior Lake followed with a triple and scored on sacrifice fly.
Gibson said Miley has been better lately at managing his mental state, particularly after a bad batter or inning, and that was apparent Saturday as he bounced back nicely, retiring 10 straight batters after Lake’s triple.
"You’ve just got to kind of forget about it," Miley said. "That’s the key. I had a rough inning, gave up the homer, and you’ve just got to kind of put it behind you, move on and get the next guy because there’s nothing you can do about it."
Miley also had plenty of support Saturday, as the D-backs battered Cubs starter Travis Wood for four runs in the fifth and two more in the sixth.
Miley’s best stretch of the season comes at a time when contenders are looking for that extra piece to help them down the stretch. Miley would certainly seem an attractive addition for a number of teams likely bound for the postseason, but, barring an offer that can’t be refused, he’s in Arizona to stay for the time being.
Beyond being young, affordable and under team control through the 2017 season, Miley gives the D-backs a capable rotation piece to build with as they retool during and after this disappointing season. Along with Patrick Corbin, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery, and top prospect Archie Bradley, Miley seems locked in as part of team’s rotation going forward.
Though Miley, 27, remains amid his worst statistical season as a pro he has shown this month what kind of pitcher he can be. He’s also on pace this season to shatter his career best mark of 147 strikeouts in a season, with 125 already this year.
If the D-backs can get from Miley consistently what they have his last four outings, it’s easy to see why they’d like to keep him in a D-backs uniform for the foreseeable future.
Hitting cleanup for just the second time this season after coming off the disabled list last week, Mark Trumbo couldn’t seem to catch a break. He hit three balls hard in his first three at-bats, but all three found a defender’s glove. But in his fourth at-bat, Trumbo bounced a ball in the infield off the end of his bat for a single and an RBI.
7 — games this season in which Paul Goldschmidt has homered and doubled. Goldschmidt’s 37 doubles lead the NL, and his 18 homers are tied for fifth.
— Goldschmidt collected three RBI Saturday, including two on his 18th home run of the season, to reach 65 on the season. That leaves him tied for the NL lead with Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton entering Sunday. Goldschmidt’s home run total is five short of Stanton’s 23 and behind three others.
— D-backs right fielder Cody Ross came out of Saturday’s game after the second inning with apparent tightness in his left calf. D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said after the game he believed it may have just been a cramping situation. Ross, through a team spokesman, said he did not feel the muscle grab.
— The D-backs have shut down shortstop Chris Owings for three days following a consultation with a team doctor Friday, Gibson said. Owings’ strained left shoulder has been sore as he goes through rehab, so it was recommended he take three days of rest before continuing.
With Trumbo back from the disabled list, the D-backs face a predicament in center field: Play Ender Inciarte, a master defender but a light hitter, or David Peralta, who has swung a hot bat since he was called up but is better as a corner outfielder. They went with Inciarte on Saturday, and he made his presence felt with a run-saving catch in the first inning but also struck out three times.