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Arizona Diamondbacks 3, Chicago Cubs 1: Miller Madness

Yes, it’s spring training. Yes, it’s far too early. But, damn: Shelby Miller was impressive tonight.

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@Dbacks, via Twitter

Record: 3-4. Change on 2016: -1.5.

Admittedly, it was a split-squad Cubs line-up that Shelby Miller faced tonight at Salt River Field, so that would have made things easier. I’m also not sure quite how accurate the repeated 97 mph readings on Gameday were - not least because at least one of those pitches was labeled a change-up. But even allowing for these mitigating factors, here’s the bottom line. In his first two spring training outings, Miller has thrown five innings with a K:BB of 9:0. In his first two spring training outings last year, Miller threw five innings with a K:BB of 0:2.

I can’t help myself, but there are small, fragile green shoots of... Is that hope peeking through the permafrost which are my feelings for Shelby Miller? Oh, we still have some way to go. There’s another part of me that suspects this is all some kind of elaborate trolling operation by hitters on the other 29 teams. “Guyz, let’s all look totally feeble this spring against Shelby Miller. Then, soon as Opening Day comes, and D-backs fans are all optimistic, we’ll go back to smacking him around. It’ll be hilarious.” You’ll be able to pry that cynicism from my cold, dead fingers, only when I see them presenting Miller with the 2017 Cy Young award.

Tonight, it was three innings of one-hit ball, with no walks and six strikeouts, including a third inning where he fanned Taylor Davis, Munenori Kawasaki and Kyle Schwarber in 12 pitches. 44 pitches total, only 10 balls. Damn. After the game, he said, “I felt like the ball had some extra life on it. Off of some of the swings they took, that’s kind of how you judge it, I guess. And plus my arm feels good at this point right now... I feel good. My confidence is where it needs to be. I’ve still got some things I need to work on, stuff I need to stay true to and keep working, do all the things I need to do in between starts to make myself better. Mentally, physically and my confidence is good. I’m going to stay that way.”

The rest of the staff who followed Miller to the mound tonight were hardly less dominant. Randall Delgado and Enrique Burgos got the Diamondbacks to double-digit K’s by the second out of the fifth, and in complete contrast to the walkathon which was the White Sox game yesterday, the D-backs had a K:BB ratio for tonight of 14:0. [During the regular season, Arizona has had just six games with no walks and 14+ strikeouts in franchise history] Burgos allowed a run on two hits, and that was it. For no hits or walks were allowed by Delgado, Andrew Chafin, Silvino Bracho, Daniel Gibson or Jimmie Sherfy.

Probably a good thing, as the offense weren’t up to much. They managed only six hits and two walks: David Peralta got one of each. But they got the big blow that mattered, Jason Pridie (starting at 1B, Goldie having played in the afternoon game) delivering a three-run homer in the second inning, which scored Jeremy Hazelbaker and Chris Herrmann. The excellent pitching kept the Cubs at bay thereafter and sent at least some of the sell-out crowd at SRF home happy. Tomorrow, it’s the Dodgers, and the first televised game of the year involving the D-backs. It’ll also be Zack Greinke’s first start, so I’m keen to see how that works out.