Miller shows he's got the right stuff
Left-hander impresses in his Major League debut
DETROIT -- Andrew Miller didn't need luck during his six innings of work on Friday night at Comerica Park.
No luck was required with the stuff he had on display in the Tigers' 14-4 win over the Cardinals.
The luck came after he shut down the Cardinals, allowing four hits over six shutout innings for his first Major League win in his first start. Because there was a fireworks display after the game, most of the Tigers vacated the clubhouse quickly after the game in order to beat the traffic. That meant none of his teammates stuck around long enough to hit him with a congratulatory shaving cream pie in the face or razz him as he talked to a large gathering of media members.
"No, no one got me yet; I guess I lucked out with the fireworks display tonight," Miller said. "I don't know about [Saturday] yet, though. We'll see."
Any other night though, the Tigers assuredly would have mobbed the 21-year-old Miller for his performance against the defending World Series champions, who beat the Tigers in five games last season.
Miller said he was somewhat nervous, although his eight relief appearances last season helped ease the transition. But this was a start in front of a sellout crowd of 40,816 people. That's a bit more than he's used to seeing at the 8,000-seat Joker Marchant Stadium, where he began the season with the Class A Lakeland Flying Tigers.
Even manager Jim Leyland didn't know what to expect from Miller, especially after watching one spot starter struggle just five days ago (Virgil Vazquez gave up six runs in 2 2/3 innings against the Twins on Sunday), while another spot starter pitched well on Thursday (Zach Miner allowed just one earned run over 5 1/3 innings against the Red Sox).
"I really wasn't expecting that much or not that much," Leyland said. "I was just expecting to see the kid go out there and compete, and I think he did a good job."
What Leyland did see was a good fastball from Miller, who managed to work his way out of several jams despite throwing just one changeup the entire game.
"I threw one to Albert Pujols, and it wasn't very pretty, but at least it wasn't a strike," Miller said of his lone changeup in 94 pitches. "It's a good thing he didn't swing at it, to say the least."
Even without a working offspeed pitch, Miller managed to strand all seven of his baserunners, including a bases-loaded jam in the first, and a two-on, one-out situation in the third. Again, working out of those jams that had little to do with luck, and more to do with the solid pitching.
"Sometimes when you have good stuff, you have a tendency to get out of jams more than someone whose stuff is marginal," Leyland said.
Well, maybe there was a bit of luck. The Tigers gave Miller their highest-scoring game of the season, including a 2-0 lead after the first inning and a 14-0 lead after five innings.
"There were a lot of runners on base; I don't know if I mowed [the Cardinals] down necessarily," Miller said. "But it's easy when [we] put runs on the board like that, it makes it easier to throw the ball over the plate, and, I think, that's why I had success tonight."
Whatever the reason for Miller's success, he was anxious to talk to his family about it. His parents weren't able to make the trip from Florida because news that he was starting came on such short notice. Miller didn't even know if his dad was able to watch the game, as he was off the Florida coast taking part in a sailboat race.
"He's in the gulf somewhere," Miller said. "He said he didn't know what he was going to do. He was going to try and keep up as best he could, but I'll find out tonight if he was able to listen or watch or whatever."
Now Miller has to wonder if he will make his next start with the Tigers or back in Double-A Erie. If Jeremy Bonderman's blister on his finger has healed, Miller will move back down to the Minors.
"Am I ready to do this all the time? Probably not," Miller said. "There's plenty for me to learn, wherever I learn it. I just want to get back here as quick as I can and stay as long as I can."
Tim Kirby is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.