D-backs' Miley credits Pennington for turnaround
PHOENIX -- Wade Miley bruised Thursday, but he did not break.
Miley treated the hard liner off his right knee in the second inning like a mosquito bite, shrugging off the Cubs the same way in a 3-1 victory at Chase Field fueled by Aaron Hill's home run, double and two RBIs.
Miley won for the third time in his past four starts while continuing a strong run that can be traced directly to his previous start again the Cubs, a gosh-awful appearance at Wrigley Field in which he gave up seven runs (and three home runs) in the first three innings of a 7-2 loss May 31.
When Miley entered the D-backs' dugout after giving up home runs No. 2 and 3 in the third inning of that game, his season changed. He credits a tough-love pep talk from Cliff Pennington, one country boy to another.
"He kind of got on me a little bit," Miley said. "He wasn't yelling at me or anything. He just sat down and talked to me. He just kinda got my head back right about staying positive. I needed that at that point in time. It kind of pumped me up a little bit. Ever since then, just tried to get after guys."
Ever since then, Miley has been the pitcher who with a more observant voter base would have been the 2012 NL Rookie of the Year.
It may have sneaked up on all but the most attentive, but after going 3-5 with a 5.01 ERA in his first 11 starts, Miley has gone 4-3 with a 2.69 ERA in his last 10, starting with a victory in St. Louis on June 5. He hasn't given up more than three earned runs in those 10 games, and seven have been quality starts. He has a 1.89 ERA in his last five appearances.
Pennington, who had two hits and an RBI double in the fourth inning Thursday, said all he was trying to do was to remind Miley, who redlines emotion, to keep his focus on the future, even in the face of the unexpected bounce or the fluke hit that sometimes befalls a pitcher.
"I don't think it was any groundbreaking conversation," Pennington said.
"You don't want to take away one of his best attributes, and that's his ability to compete. So you can't turn him into a puppet out there and act like nothing is wrong. The guy has to stay fired up or he's not effective. But at the same time, you have to be able to harness it and move on from something that maybe didn't go your way."
Miley showed plenty of restraint in the pivotal seventh inning, when Nate Schierholtz led off with a double and Cole Gillespie walked. Miley got Darwin Barney to ground into a double play started by third baseman Martin Prado before Castillo doubled in a run to cut the D-backs' lead to 3-1. Miley then got the last out on a fly ball, and the Cubs' biggest threat was defused.
"It was a chance for something to kind of go haywire, for things to go out of control, and he kept everything under control," Pennington said. "That is kind of the inning at times that can be a tough one for everybody, but instead of it snowballing the wrong way, he stopped it, and it was a great outing. He has been throwing the ball well, and let's keep that going.
Added Miley: "I feel better. Throwing strikes, trying to get ahead of guys. Just making pitches when it matters, rather than when it matters making that mistake. I was kind of doing that in the past. I'd get a guy where I want him and then make a mistake and not (be) able to put him away. I feel I'm doing a better job at that."
Welington Castillo's one-hopper off the back of the knee was not going to slow that down, although it did leave a mark. Miley limped toward the third-base line after being struck, then got back on the mound for a few warmup pitches before remaining in the game.
He kept the joint loose by moving around in the dugout when the D-backs were hitting, and the rest of the night, it was hard to tell anything had happened.
"It was hurting, but I wasn't going to come out," Miley said. "If you sit down, it might tighten up, and I was trying to avoid that. It felt good, and I just kept going. You got adrenaline. You don't really feel it too much out there."
Hill, who did his damage after getting two starts off, heard a crack when the ball struck Miley.
"He got it good. When he wakes up today, he will realize how hard it him," Hill said.
"A tough country boy."
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