It’s been a brutal season for Braves pitcher Miller

It's been a very rough season for Shelby Miller, the most luckless pitcher in the major leagues. (Getty Images photo)
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It's been a very rough season for Shelby Miller, the most luckless pitcher in the major leagues. (Getty Images photo)

Shelby Miller has held up admirably and remarkably well, all things considered. Much better than most of us could have (myself, I’d have snapped two months ago). But seeing his first-inning performance and his short and almost dispirited answers in last night’s postgame interview, in contrast to his demeanor after most starts during his hardest-luck season, it’s fair to ask: has the absurdly bad support he’s gotten during this brutal season finally started to wear him out?

Because in past 6 starts, he’s posted a 5.56 ERA and .304 opponents’ average.  Very un-Shelby. He lasted fewer than seven innings in five of those six games, and went 4 1/3 innings and 3 2/3 in two of his past three starts. This after posting a 2.43 ERA and .221 opponents’ average in his first 24 starts.

It's been a very rough season for Shelby Miller, the most luckless pitcher in the major leagues. (Getty Images photo)

It’s been a very rough season for Shelby Miller, the most luckless pitcher in the major leagues. (Getty Images photo)

To recap why it would be entirely understandable if it’s finally wearing on him: The Braves have scored one or no runs while he’s been in the game in 19 of his 30 starts. He is 0-14 with a 3.68 ERA in his past 22 starts, and the Braves scored an average of 1.5 runs per nine innings that Miller pitched in that span, bringing his majors-worst run support to 2.37 — which is three-quarters of a run lower than the next-worst in the majors (Cardinals’ Lance Lynn, 3.12) and more than a full run lower than the AL’s worst run support (Cleveland’s Cory Kluber, 3.41).

Braves teammate Julio Teheran has the ninth-best run support among  NL starters at 5.09 runs per nine innings pitched, and has a 10-7 record with a 4.34 ERA and .256 opponents’ average.

Toronto’s Drew Hutchison’s majors-best 8.02 run support allowed  him to post a 13-4 record despite a sorry 5.33 ERA and .291 opponents’ average. Miller’s former Cardinals teammate Michael Wacha leads the NL with run support of 6.02 per nine innings pitched to go with a 2.96 ERA and .231 opponents’ average that are similar to Miller’s 3.00/.231.

Wacha has a 16-5 record to to Miller’s 5-15. (I know, I know: won-lost records are meaningless as a measure of a pitcher’s performance. Agreed. But as a pitcher, you want to get wins, and you certainly want your team to win, and if neither of those things happens in the vast majority of your starts, well, it’s very hard to feel good about how well you pitched, period.)

The Braves have lost 19 of Miller’s past 21 starts, after winning eight of his first nine.

Another sign that the frustration of no run support and pitching under so much pressure to be perfect could be getting to Miller: In the late innings of close games his opponents’ average has climbed to .396 (19-for-48) with a .463 OBP and .667 slugging percentage. My thinking being, he’s been in so few of those situations that when he finds  himself in one, he presses even more to finish the job and get a win.

He’ll likely get a few more starts and chances to end his franchise-record winless drought. Braves fans, and everyone else with a heart, has got to be pulling for Miller to get a win or two in that stretch and avoid taking this merciless streak into the offseason.

• Tonight’s pitching matchup: In the rubber game of the series, it’ll be Braves rookie Matt Wisler (5-7, 5.60 ERA) facing Blue Jays veteran right Marco Estrada, who’s having a career-best season at 12-8 with a 3.31 ERA.

Wisler is 3-2 with a 3.44 ERA and .259 opponents’ average in six home starts, compared to 2-5 with a 7.42 ERA and .352 opponents’ average in 10 road games (nine starts).

Estrada is 12-8 with a  3.31 ERA and .210 opponents’ average in 30 games, including 11-8 with a  3.49 ERA and .217 OA in 24 starts. He made six April relief appearances before moving into the rotation in early May, including an April 19 appearance against the Braves in which he allowed no hits and one walk with two strikeouts in 1 1/3 scoreless innings at Toronto.

Estrada is 5-2 with a 2.87 ERA and .177 opponents’ average in his past nine starts, but here’s an oddity: He’s allowed 10 home runs among the 25 hits he’s given up in his past six starts (34 2/3 innings), including multiple homers in four of those six games.

In 10 games (four starts) against the Braves, Estrada is 3-1 with a 3.69 ERA, but he’s faced them just twice in the past three seasons.

Only five Braves have at least four official at-bats against him: Andrelton Simmons (3-for-4), Cameron Maybin (2-for-4 with a homer), Michael Bourn (2-for-7), Freddie Freeman (1-for-6), A.J. Pierzynski (0-for-4).

• Braves brought woes home: The Braves are 1-13 with a 6.73 ERA in their past 14 home games, with a .239 batting average, six homers and 37 runs, twelve of which came in 20-6 and 10-7 losses to the two New York Teams. The Braves have scored 24 runs in the other 12 home games in that stretch, including one or no runs in six games. They’ve gone without a homer in seven of their past nine home games.

• Etc.

Before Andrelton Simmons grounded  into double plays in consecutive at-bats Tuesday, the shortstop had grounded into just one double play in his previous 59 games. Simmons grounded into 25 double plays in 2014, third-most in the majors. He’s grounded into 18 double plays this season, tied with two others for seventh-most in the National League.  A.J. Pierzysnki has grounded into 17 double plays, tied with four others (including Buster Posey, Adrian Gonzalez and Todd Frazier) for 10th in the NL….

Nick Markakis’ past 46 games: .321 (62-for-193) with 15 doubles, one homer, 17 RBIs, 17 walks, 21 strikeouts, .377 OBP, .415 slugging percentage….

A.J. Pierzynski’s past 47 games: .341 (59-for-173) with 10 doubles, two homers, 17 RBIs, nine walks, 13 strikeouts, 12 GIDPs, .380 OBP, .434 slugging percentage.

• Last week at Smith’s Olde Bar, Dale Watson and the Lone Stars put on one of the best shows I’ve seen in a long time. Here’s one of Dale’s great tunes, from their performance on Austin City Limits.

“I LIE WHEN I DRINK” by Dale Watson

Dale Watson

Dale Watson

Oh I lie when i drink, and I drink a lot,
Don’t belive me when I’ve had a few.
Oh I lie when I drink, and I drink a lot,
I only drink when I’m missin you.

I walk in the bartender rolls his eyes.
At the same time the waitress, she just smiles.
He’s heard the truth about you
She’s heard it too but slightly skewed
I had lied I broke your heart in two.

Oh I lie when i drink, and I drink a lot,
Don’t believe me when I’ve had a few.
Oh I lie when I drink, and I drink a lot,
I only drink when I’m missin you.

At closin’ time I’m the last one out the door.
I tip that waitress, that bartender I ignore.
I yell “I’m never comin’ back!” That always makes them laugh.
They know me, I won’t keep my word.

Cause’ I lie when I drink, and I drink a lot,
Don’t belive me when I’ve had a few.
Oh I lie when I drink, and I drink a lot,
I only drink when I’m missin you.
I only drink when I’m missin you.


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