LOS ANGELES — It’s too much to say the Dodgers’ hopes rest on Bobby Miller’s shoulders, because the bats need to come alive as well. And perhaps shoulder is the wrong word to use since we’ve seen how devastating that joint can be when not fully cooperative.
But Miller has been groomed the last few months as the next Dodgers ace, and his performance thus far has justified the faith.
The rookie had a 3.76 ERA and 3.45 xERA in his 22 starts this season, and despite not making his major league debut until May 23, finished second on the team in starts and innings (124⅓). He throws 99 mph and uses five pitches with regularity. His repertoire is vast.
In September, Miller had a 3.19 ERA with 40 strikeouts and a 28.4-percent strikeout rate, the latter his best month of the year.
“He’s taken massive steps from the first start he made this year to what he looks like now,” first baseman Freddie Freeman said of Miller on Friday.
Monday will be Miller’s first major league postseason appearance, as one of five rookies on the Dodgers NLDS roster.
“I expect him to have some nerves. I think that’s a good thing. That’s normal,” manager Dave Roberts said Sunday. “But once you get out there, you make your first pitch, I would assume that things kind of slow down, and that’s kind of my expectation.”
“I’m just really excited for Monday, and just treating it like another game,” Miller said Saturday. “I want to win every time I’m out there anyway.”
Because of the new MLB schedule beginning this year, in which every team plays the other 29 teams every single season, one quirk was that Miller faced 15 different opponents in his first 15 major league starts. He faced 18 different foes in his 22 starts.
The first team he faced a second time was the Diamondbacks. On August 9 at Chase Field, Miller pitched into the seventh inning for the first time in his career, ending with six scoreless innings in a no-decision. Miller pitched into the seventh inning five times in a nine starts down the stretch before a shortened final tuneup on the final day of the regular season. He completed seven innings three times.
The second time Miller faced Arizona was August 28 at Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers gave him an early lead, but Arizona struck back with four runs of their own, including an RBI double and two-run home run by Gabriel Moreno.
The Dodgers offense homered four times off Zac Gallen that night, regaining the lead in the sixth inning. That formula would suit the Dodgers’ needs in Game 2, considering the pitching matchup is the same.
Miller lasted through six innings that August night, something he did in 12 of his 22 starts, including eight times in nine-start stretch in August and September.
“I have a lot of confidence out there going against these guys, I faced them twice already,” Miller said Saturday. “They got to me a little more the second time against them. But I’ll do my best not to let it happen a third time.”