Unfortunately for the St. Louis Cardinals rookie pitcher, so do his struggles against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Slumping Garrett Jones hit his 100th career homer and drove in four runs and the Pirates beat St. Louis 5-0 on Friday night to move into a tie with the Cardinals for the NL Central lead.
“We have an offense that is electric and we’ve got good pitching,” Miller said. “I know this team is going to turn it on. It might not have looked like it tonight but it was a bad night.”
It tends to be whenever Miller (12-9) faces the Pirates. He fell to 0-4 against Pittsburgh after 4 1/3 erratic innings, giving up five runs on eight hits, striking out three and walking three.
“I made some mistakes with some pitches and they put good swings on them,” Miller said. “At the end of the day, they were better than us.”
While blaming himself for not keeping the Cardinals in the game, Miller received little help from an offense that has managed all of one run in Miller’s four starts versus the Pirates. St. Louis never even got a runner to third on a night they were no match for revitalized Francisco Liriano.
Two weeks after pitching a complete game in a 5-1 win over the Cardinals, Liriano (15-6) might have been even better. He allowed just two hits while walking two and striking out two.
“They’re waiting for him to make a mistake out of over the plate but he’s not making many mistakes then you don’t have too many options,” St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said. “We hit some balls hard but not enough of them in a row then we gave him the lead and that made it even tougher for us.”
A rejuvenated Jones certainly helped. The first baseman came in hitting just .119 in August but broke loose after Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle gave him some time off earlier this week to figure things out.
For a night, the tinkering worked.
Jones hit a two-run double in the first inning to give Pittsburgh the lead, added a moon shot to the seats in right field off Miller in the fourth and followed it up with an RBI single in the fifth.
That was plenty for Liriano. The left-hander is in the midst of a mid-career revival with the Pirates and he had little trouble improving to 4-0 against the Cardinals, bouncing back from a rough start in San Francisco last weekend to retire 18 of the last 19 batters he faced.
“Anybody with his experience and his determination, when you get a little setback you want to come back and get things right,” Hurdle said.
Behind Liriano and Jones, Pittsburgh righted itself following a bumpy three-game set against Milwaukee earlier in the week.
An early boost from Jones certainly helped. Jose Tabata led off with a single and Neil Walker doubled to put runners in scoring position two batters into the game. Miller hit Pedro Alvarez to load the bases and Jones ended a month’s worth of frustration by slashing a ball down the right-field line.
Jones kept it going in the fourth, golfing Miller’s fastball into the stands. Martin followed with a shot over the wall in center on the next pitch to give Pittsburgh a 4-0 lead.
Jones drove in newly acquired outfielder Marlon Byrd in the fifth, making his entire RBI total this month (four) with three swings of the bat.
Matheny replaced Miller one batter later after a particularly baffling night in which Miller twice walked Liriano – who came in hitting just .075 – on four pitches.
“He never had a real good feel for anything today,” Matheny said of Miller. “He threw some good secondary pitches because his fastball wasn’t working but they also fouled off a lot of tough pitches and he couldn’t command much in the zone.”
NOTES: The Cardinals bolstered their bullpen on Friday when they acquired reliever John Axford from Milwaukee. “There’s a lot of experience there, a lot of upside,” Matheny said. “It’s hard to forget that two years ago this guy was one of the top relievers in the game.” … Lance Lynn (13-8, 4.02 ERA) starts for the Cardinals on Saturday against A.J. Burnett (6-9, 3.18).