(BaseballStL) — Saturday, Shelby Miller looked a whole lot more like the guy who finished third in Rookie of the Year voting in 2013. He had strong command, control of the zone, and was perfect through three innings.
All of this despite throwing to a guy he had never met before.
A.J. Pierzynski flew into Chicago less than 24 hours before game time, and was starting behind the plate for Miller’s return. From the look of the scorebook, he did just fine.
“AJ did well, he helped me a lot today. Coming into the dugout, if I shook one time, he let me know why he went with that pitch. I didn’t shake much,” Miller said. “He’s a big target back there, very easy to throw to.”
Both men certainly seemed to agree on Miller’s best pitch. Of the 87 the big righty threw, 74 were fastballs. He threw just 12 curveballs and a solitary change up.
“It wasn’t necessarily the plan the entire time. It was more just reading the swings when they were taking at bats against us” he said. “A.J. just read some guys and called pitches and did great.”
While some young pitchers would have difficulty adjusting to a brand new backstop, Mike Matheny said after the game his club has benefited from having such a strong presence there in the past.
“We also have to realize the style of game calling most our guys are accustomed to. They’re used to putting their faith in the guy behind the plate,” he said, referring to Yadier Molina, Tony Cruz and now Pierzynski. “They realize he’s had parts of 17 years in the big leagues. He’s got a pretty good idea of what he’s doing back there.”
Those 17 years weren’t lost on Miller, who talked through one of the few times he shook off Pierzynski and wished he hadn’t.
In an at-bat against Chris Coghlan, the newest Cardinal called a pitch outside, which Miller disagreed with. They ended up going in, and Coghlan got ahold of it, nearly picking up extra bases.
“He was wanting to go away right there so that was a mistake on my part,” Miller said. “He told me [Coghlan] was opening up looking for a pitch inside and I didn’t see that. That’s where his veteran experience comes in.”
The two established an understanding early, working smoothly through 5.2 innings and only three hits. Pierzynski’s only other experience with Miller was from inside the batter’s box, something the young starter still remembers.
“He hit a homer off me last year,” he said flatly with a smile. He looked over in Pierzynski’s direction and playfully added, “He knows my stuff a little bit I guess.”
The Cards took game two from the Cubs 6-3, and will go for the series win Sunday at 1.