Braves trying to extend a streak, Miller (still) trying to end one

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Sheby Miller gets a hug from Braves catcher A.J. Pierzynski after tossing a three-hit shutout against the Phillies in May. Miller hasn't won a game in his past 22 starts, a period of more than four months. (AP photo)

 

 NEW YORK – Shelby Miller tries once again to end his nearly unfathomable 22-start winless streak tonight when he faces the Mets in a series opener at Citi Field. And of course in this buzzard’s-luck season for Miller, he faces the first-place Mets in Flushing instead of getting a start during the Braves’ just-completed sweep of the worst-record-in-baseball Phillies.

Sheby Miller gets a hug from Braves catcher A.J. Pierzynski after tossing a three-hit shutout against the Phillies in May. Miller hasn't won a game in his past 22 starts, a period of more than four months. (AP photo)

Sheby Miller gets a hug from Braves catcher A.J. Pierzynski after tossing a three-hit shutout against the Phillies in May. Entering Monday’s series opener against the Mets, Miller hasn’t won a game in his past 22 starts, a period of more than four months. (AP photo)

So there are two ways of looking at this: Miller, faces the returning-to-earth Mets, who perhaps showed some emerging vulnerability while losing their past two series and getting beat Saturday and Sunday at home by the crosstown rival Yankees.

Or, Miller must face the (ticked)-off Mets, who are eager to assert their superiority vs. the Braves and bounce back after being outscored 16-2 in consecutive losses to the Yankees and losing two of three against both the Marlins and the Yankees since leaving Atlanta after last week’s four-game sweep in Atlanta.

Take your pick.

Either way, Miller is running out of chances of ending this single-season franchise record winless drought, which has now lasted – are you ready for this? – more than four months. Repeat, more than four months. The man hasn’t won a game since beating the Marlins on May 17, the day he came within one out of throwing a no-hitter in Miami.

There’s been nary a win since. He’s 0-14 with a 3.68 ERA in that span, the ERA having crept up a bit in recent starts after remaining below 2.50 for most of the season.

In tonight’s series opener, Miller (5-15, 3.00 ERA) faces left-hander Jonathon Niese (8-10, 4.31), who seemingly is required to face the Braves in every series between the teams.

Not only has Miller not won a decision in more than four months, the Braves have lost in 19 of his past 21 starts, after winning eight of his first nine.

He has far and away the worst run support for any major league starter, and during the 22-start drought that support has shrunk to a ridiculous 1.5 runs scored by the Braves per nine innings pitched by Miller, including one or no runs while he was in the game in 16 of 22 starts since his last win.

The lack of support and repeated frustrating losses or no decisions appeared to have finally caught up with Miller in recent weeks, as he’s started to show some cracks in his on-field performance and begun to shorten his responses in postgame interviews (as for the latter situation, as I said last week, he’s handled this season with complete professionalism, and I can’t even imagine keeping it together for all those questions after all those brutal outcomes for weeks and months).

In his past six starts, Miller is 0-6 with a 5.56 ERA and .304 opponents’ average. He lasted just 3 2/3 innings in his most recent start Wednesday against the Blue Jays, and worked 4 1/3 innings on Sept. 5 when he was charged with seven runs (six earned) against the Nationals.

In his past four starts, the Braves scored no runs while he was in three game and one run while he was in the other.

Now he gets another crack at the Mets. Miller is 0-2 with a 3.46 ERA in five games (four starts) against the Mets, including three games with the Cardinals in his first two seasons (2012-2013). He’s 0-1 with a 4.38 ERA in two starts against them this season, and the Braves scored zero and one run while he was in those two games. That includes a Sept. 10 loss in Atlanta when he gave up seven hits and three runs in six innings.

The Mets are 10-6 against the Braves this season, and in the past 14 games between the teams, the Braves have lost 10 times been outscored 71-48 and out-homered 14-6. The teams have traded sweeps in their past two series, the Braves taking three games June 19-21 and then losing four to the Mets Sept. 10-13.

Despite allowing five or more earned runs in each of four home losses – two apiece vs. the Marlins and Yankees – in their past five games, the Mets still are 43-24 in their past 67 games, and still have a six-game lead over the second-place Nationals in the NL East.

• More on Niese: The veteran lefty is 1-1 with an 8.77 ERA and .362 opponents’ average in his past five starts, with almost as many walks (13) as strikeouts (14) in 25 2/3 innings during that span. Four of those starts were on the road.

At Citi Field, he’s 1-2 with a 6.00 ERA in his past five starts,  including three quality starts sandwiched between two games in which he allowed six earned runs apiece.

Against the Braves, Niese is 8-6 with a 3.23 ERA  in 21 starts, including 1-0 with a 2.04 ERA in three this season. He won against them eight days ago in Atlanta, allowing eight hits and three runs (two earned) in six innings. His other starts against the Braves were in April.

Against Niese, Andrelton Simmons is 10-for-26, Cameron Maybin is 8-for-32 with three homers, Freddie Freeman is 11-for-46 with two homers, Nick Swisher is 4-for-13 with a homer,  and Christian Bethancourt is 1-for-9.

• Etc.

The Braves are 6-7 with a 3.85 ERA and only 39 runs in their past 13 games, with their past four wins coming by scores of 3-2, 2-1, 2-1 and 2-1 again. All three 2-1 wins came against the Phillies Friday through  Sunday, and five of the Braves’ six wins in that 13-game stretch were against the Phillies….

A.J. Pierzynski since the Fourth of July: 51 games, .330 (60-for-182) with 10 doubles, two homers, 18 RBIs, .368 OBP, .418 slugging, nine walks, 14 strikeouts….

Andrelton Simmons has hit .458 (27-for-59) with five doubles, a triple and nine RBIs in 16 games against the Mets this season. In 56 career games against them, he has a .335 average with 17 extra-base hits (three homers), 26 RBIs,  a .375 OBP and .450 slugging percentage….

Kelly Johnson, a former Brave (twice), has hit .329 (23-for-70) in 18 career games against Atlanta, with nine extra-base hits (two triples, two homers), 11 RBIs, a .373 OBP and .543 slugging percentage….

 Mets slugger Yoenis Cespedes is 1-for-19 with one double, no RBIs, no walks and seven strikeouts in his past five games, after hitting .315 with 30 extra-base hits including 17 homers and 42 RBIs in his previous 39 games. He was 4-for-15 with two homers and five RBis in four games against the Braves Sept. 10-13.

The Braves are 4-27 with a 5.96 ERA in their past 31 road games, and two of the three wins came at Philadelphia in the last road series Sept. 7-9.

• Let’s close with the one and only Prince and a little tune he did about New York.

“ALL THE CRITICS LOVE YOU IN NEW YORK” by Prince

Prince

Prince

U can dance if U want 2 – All the critics love U in New York
U don’t have 2 keep the beat, they’ll still think it’s neat – in New York
U can wear what U want 2, it doesn’t matter – in New York
U could cut off all your hair, I don’t think they’d care – in New York

All the critics love U in New York

Why U can play what U want 2 – All the critics love U in New York
They won’t say that u’re naive if U play what U believe – in New York
Purple love-amour is all u’re headed 4 – but don’t show it
The reason that you’re cool
Is ‘cuz you’re from the old school, and they know it

All the critics love U in New York

U can dance if U want 2 – All the critics love U in New York
U can dance if U want 2 – All the critics love U in New York
All the critics love U, all the critics love U
All the critics love U in New York

It’s time 4 a new direction
It’s time 4 jazz 2 die
4th day of November
We need a purple high

Don’t give up – I’ll still love U

All the critics love U in New York
All the critics love U in New York
All the critics love U, all the critics love U
All the critics love U in New York

Body don’t wanna quit, gotta get another hit
Body don’t wanna quit, gotta get another hit
Body don’t wanna quit, gotta get another hit
Body don’t wanna quit, gotta get another hit

All the critics love U, all the critics love U
All the critics love U in New York

Whaddayou lookin’ at, punk?
Look out all U hippies, U ain’t as sharp as me
It ain’t about the trippin’, but the sexuality – turn it up

U can dance if U want 2

All the critics love U in New York

All the critics love U in New York

All the critics love U in New York
Take a bath, hippies!
All the critics love U in New York
All the critics love U in New York
All the critics love U in New York
All the critics love U in New York
New York
New York
New York
New York
New York

 


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