(BaseballStL) -- The Cardinals haven’t exactly helped Shelby Miller when it comes to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
In his first three starts against Pittsburgh -- all losses -- the Cardinals have scored one run combined. The only run came in the ninth inning of a 5-1 flub on August 14. The opposing starter of that game was Francisco Liriano, who went the distance in the game and happened to be Friday’s starter as well.
Unlike Miller, Liriano won all three contests in his career against St. Louis prior to the start of this weekend’s three-game series. Friday would not only present another challenge for St. Louis, but one of redemption for Miller.
The Cardinals rookie found trouble right away in the first inning and was presented with a mighty challenge: runners on second and third with Andrew McCutchen at the dish.
An amped-up Miller beat McCutchen with a 97-mph fastball for strike three and the first out of the inning. Miller then beamed Cardinal-killer Pedro Alvarez on the next pitch, a 96-mph fastball, to load the bases. Newly-acquired Marlon Byrd ran the count to 3-1, but struck out on the seventh pitch of the at-bat for the second out.
The sixth batter of the inning, Garrett Jones, would finally get the better of Miller with a two-run double. It’d be the only damage inflicted on the scoreboard in the first inning after Russell Martin popped out on a hanging curveball to end it.
A couple of health scares were shushed away by Miller in the second inning. Miller appeared to have back problems after walking opposing starter Francisco Liriano on four consecutive pitches. After the at-bat, Miller was seen stretching out his upper body. He remained in the game after a visit from Mike Matheny and a trainer.
He came close to another scare when Neil Walker smacked a sharp ground ball back to the mound. The ball clipped Miller’s foot before dribbling to Matt Carpenter for the force out at second base to end the inning. Once again Miller remained in the game and led off the next inning.
Miller recorded his first perfect inning of the night in the 12-pitch third. Facing the Pirates’ 3-4-5 hitters, McCutchen flew out to left field, Alvarez grounded out to first base after seven pitches and Byrd grounded out back to Miller.
Back-to-back solo home runs by Jones and Martin gave the Pirates a 4-0 lead in the fourth. Miller walked Liriano for the second time in as many plate appearances, and advanced to third base on a double by Jose Tabata. No additional damage would be done.
Jones continued his monster night in the fifth inning. He would score Byrd, who doubled in the previous at-bat, with a single for a 5-0 lead, which would also be the final. A one-out walk to Martin would end the night for Miller after throwing 99 pitches, 58 for strikes.
His chance for redemption gone. Another loss, his fourth this season, to the Pirates.
And the offense still hasn’t bailed Miller out either. They haven’t score a run in 22 innings pitched by Miller against Pittsburgh.
For the first time since his first start of the season, Miller finished a game with an ERA above 3.00. After allowing five runs in 4.1 innings pitched, his ERA went from 2.90 to 3.13.