ST. LOUIS -- Years later, we just might go back to the day Joe Kelly was shipped off to Boston – along with Allen Craig – and realize that’s when Shelby Miller finally became the pitcher the Cardinals hoped he’d be when they took him 19th overall back in 2009.
Miller was changed forever that day. He knew that could’ve easily been him. His tenure with the Cardinals could’ve been over.
But it wasn’t. He was spared. He was given another chance to prove he could be better.
From July 31 onto the end of the regular season, the once top prospect pitched like a top prospect should. He had a 2.94 ERA in 11 starts and, more impressive, held opponents to a .200 batting average. A starting assignment awaited him in the postseason, opposite Clayton Kershaw no less, with a chance to pitch the Redbirds into the NLCS.
And Miller answers the bell. 5.2 innings of, at times, flat out dominant pitching. Through 5 innings, Miller shut down the Dodgers before experiencing some turbulence in the 6th. It was just enough to give the Cardinals a chance and keep them in it so Matt Adams could put the Redbirds on top.
That’s all the Cards wanted. A chance. No one expected Miller to throw a no-hitter and take the team on his back. He just needed to give them a chance. And he did it.
"We knew what Kershaw was capable of. We were going out there and putting up zeros and he was doing the same thing," Miller said. "When I gave up those runs, for us to come back and put up a three spot like that, god, it’s amazing.
Matt Adams turned the game, and won the series, with a three-run homer in the seventh inning. Afterward, he had plenty of kind words for the starter.
"He was great. He was dominant. He had everything working, keeping their hitters off balance and he made pitches whenever he needed to," Adams said. "He was dominant. There’s no other words to describe it. He battled his butt off tonight."
“It was awesome,” Miller admitted. “We fought to the very end. You can’t ask for any more out of my teammates and the way we played defense and the way we scored runs. It was a heck of a game and a lot of fun. I know that.”
The 6’3” righty has now been in 3 postseasons even though he’s only been in the big leagues for 2 years (the Cards kept him on the playoff roster back in 2012 when he spent the whole season in AAA). That’s not a bad start to a career.
“Day in and day out (the veterans) tell us not to take it for granted,” Miller said. “The veteran guys who have been around know this doesn’t happen every single year and to be a part of it with these guys and these teammates never gets old. But at the same time we know to stay humble about it all.”
No doubt, Miller will get the ball again in the NLCS.