CHICAGO -- Against the backdrop of intense media attention surrounding the signing of A.J. Pierzynski, Cardinals pitcher Shelby Miller quietly prepared for today’s crucial ballgame against the Chicago Cubs.
The Redbirds will try to rebound from Friday’s crushing 7-6 loss to the last place Cubs and halt a four-game losing streak, their longest in a year.
Miller says his period of rest has him back to normal.
“My back feels good. I had a little fatigue and that can make the mechanics off, stuff like that,” he said. “But right now I feel really strong. I feel like my body is where it needs to be.”
Skipper Mike Matheny said he wanted to give Miller a break, pulling him from the rotation a week ago to take advantage of several off days in the Cards’ schedule.
“There were some things we were seeing that were looking more the direction of not necessarily having an injury as much as just being tired and worn down,” he said.
Miller’s outings have been shorter than he’d like this season, going seven innings or more only three times. After a complete game effort in Toronto, he went 6.2 innings twice, then did not make it into the seventh inning again.
“I’d be strong through four or five innings and go back out for the sixth and kind of get tired, I guess,” Miller said. “The biggest thing for that is getting that consistency and going deep into games.”
During his time off, he complimented rest with workouts designed to lessen the strain on his lower back. That area had been troublesome and didn’t seem to be right while he was throwing.
“Guys don’t realize that just little aches - we’ve got a whole group of guys that have some aches right now - how that, whether it’s consciously or subconsciously, affects their mechanics,” Matheny said. “You start to mess with mechanics and you start to mess with consistency and with results.”
Miller’s mechanics were an issue at times, as his command of the strike zone is down over previous seasons. In 2013 he struck out nearly three (2.96) hitters for every walk he issued. This season that number has dropped to 1.3.
“The poor mechanics were probably do a little to the lower back too,” Miller said. “Not saying that’s why I had poor mechanics, but just because my mechanics were so bad, it could have stressed out my lower back too a little bit. You’re putting all that load on it falling off the left side of the mound.”
Miller will make his 20th start of the season but his first since July 10. He is 1-0 against the Cubs, pitching five shutout innings in June of 2013 in a 5-2 Cards win.
His 12 home runs surrendered and 55 walks lead the Cardinals as does his winning streak of 6 straight wins from mid-April through mid-May. He has one complete game, that coming on June 7 when the Redbirds defeated the Toronto Blue Jays.