Miley’s shaky finish belies strong first half

PHOENIX — After moving from the bullpen to the rotation early in the season, Diamondbacks starting pitcher Wade Miley compiled a 9-3 record with a 2.19 ERA over 12 starts, leading NL rookies in both categories. That was enough to make him the first rookie in team history to earn a trip to the All-Star Game.

Had his next two starts come any earlier, the left-hander might not be headed to Kansas City next week. In his last two outings, Miley is 0-2 with a 10.45 ERA over 10 2/3 innings, raising his season ERA to a still-impressive 3.04.

However, the shaky finish to Miley’s first half does not accurately portray that he has undoubtedly been the D-backs most effective starter through 81 games, even if he’d never admit it.

“I started off well, had some good games put together, but it’s how you finish, you know,” Miley said Thursday. “We’ll go into this All-Star break, regroup and get back after it.”

Miley made his last start before the All-Star break Thursday night against the Dodgers and gave up four runs on eight hits in 6 2/3 innings of a 4-1 loss that was the D-backs’ sixth straight defeat. That came after his worst start of the season last week, an effort that saw him tagged for eight runs in 3 2/3 innings against the Brewers.

Thursday’s start brought early trouble for Miley, as he allowed two runs on four hits in the first inning. He managed to escape the inning without further damage, stranding two runners.

“He struggled,” D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. “He wasn’t able to hit his locations. He actually did a really good job of getting out of (the first inning) with two runs. The ball was just elevated.”

Miley echoed that sentiment, noting that he got away with a few mistakes but paid for others, including solo home runs by outfielders Scott Van Slyke and Elian Herrera. Herrera’s was the first of his career and came in the seventh inning, just before Miley was pulled.

“I probably left him out there one guy too much,” Gibson said. “I thought he did a heck of a job to get that far. His pitch count was run up. I left him out there — I was trying to get him a win.”

Added catcher Miguel Montero: “I thought he threw the ball good. He gave up a couple solo shots, but I don’t think solo shots are going to kill anyone. I don’t think you’re going to lose a game on solos. We just couldn’t score any runs.”

Gibson noted that Miley’s velocity was down Thursday night, perhaps a sign that the rigors of his first significant stretch in the majors have taken their toll a bit. Miley made seven starts late last season, but this is the first time he’s been asked to take the ball every fifth turn, and the 25-year-old may be a bit fatigued.

Miley made good on his opportunity early in the season, going 3-0 with a 1.29 ERA in April to earn NL Rookie of the Month honors. That was after making the roster as a long reliever only after veteran reliever Takashi Saito was hurt the second-to-last day of spring training.

“It was impressive,” Montero said of Miley’s first half. “But this game is not about how you start; it’s about how you end. Hopefully he ends up the way he started. I’m looking forward to helping him do that.”

As for that finish, Montero believes Miley has progressed well through the first half and positioned himself for an equally strong or better second half.

“He’s been in his learning process and he’s been picking it up pretty good,” Montero said. “He’s a smart kid. He just goes out there and takes care of business, doesn’t fool around. He just goes and does his thing.”

His next thing is an All-Star appearance. As a rookie, Miley might be fairly low on the pecking order of pitchers who will get in Tuesday’s game, but with the first half he had for the D-backs, there’s no question the rookie has earned a chance to pitch among the league’s best.