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Bobby Miller continues to struggle as Dodgers are routed by Phillies

Bobby Miller reacts after giving up a home run to Bryson Stott in the fourth inning.
(Matt Slocum / Associated Press)
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The 顿辞诲驳别谤蝉’ starting rotation is in major midseason flux.

A big part of the problem: Bobby Miller is looking like a pitcher lost in the middle.

As a disastrous four-inning, nine-run start in the 顿辞诲驳别谤蝉’ 10-1 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies on Tuesday showed, Miller is struggling to find any balance in his game.

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He’s stuck between pitches, lacking any reliable secondary weapon to couple with a fastball that remains a tick or two down from its normal near-triple-digit velocity.

His execution has wavered, looking too intense at some points (leading to overthrows and misses of the strike zone) and too fine at others (dialing back too much in search of better command).

And, in what started as a promising second season for last year’s rookie star, his results have suffered mightily, with Miller now sporting an 8.07 earned-run average in seven starts — not to mention the two-plus months he missed because of a shoulder injury.

“I’m a little shell-shocked right now,” manager Dave Roberts said. “Given what he’s done, [we were] expecting him to continue to take steps forward and to see where we’re at. He’s working his tail off. It’s not about the [will to] compete, which I really appreciate. But when you’re trying to get major league hitters out … you gotta make pitches. And that’s the bottom line.”

Miller’s struggles were under the microscope Tuesday.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said Tyler Glasnow, who is out because of back tightness, could be back after the upcoming All-Star break that ends July 19.

July 9, 2024

Before the game, the Dodgers (55-37) placed staff ace Tyler Glasnow on the injured list — making Miller, just 29 starts into his career, the second-most experienced pitcher in a rotation that includes three rookies.

Then, in the kind of test that could indicate his October readiness, or lack of it, Miller labored against a potential postseason foe in the Phillies (59-32), enduring a couple of long innings against the majors’ winningest team at Citizens Bank Park.

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After retiring five of his first six batters, Miller issued a two-out, second-inning walk to Brandon Marsh, then allowed him to steal second base. Three consecutive singles and a wild pitch later, three runs were on the board.

“You face a team like that and you make unexecuted pitches,” a dejected Miller said after the game, “they put good swings on it every time.”

It was the fourth time in seven starts Miller has yielded at least three runs in an inning. It would not be the last.

The Phillies — who activated star hitters Bryce Harper and Kyle Schwarber off the injured list Tuesday afternoon — delivered a knockout blow in the fourth.

After a leadoff single from Marsh, Rafael Marchán doubled to left, Johan Rojas looped an RBI single over the third baseman’s head, and Schwarber walked to load the bases.

That brought former Dodgers shortstop Trea Turner to the plate. On a hanging, first-pitch slider, he clobbered a grand slam to left field.

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That made the score 8-0. A Bryson Stott solo homer later in the frame pushed the lead to nine.

“It’s the worst start of my career,” Miller said. “But I’m just glad that’s over with. I’ll bounce back.”

The 顿辞诲驳别谤蝉’ offense had plenty of troubles against Phillies ace Zack Wheeler, managing just three hits off the All-Star right-hander and no runs until a Cavan Biggio homer in the fifth (Wheeler left because of back tightness at the start of the sixth).

But, given the state of the 顿辞诲驳别谤蝉’ banged-up pitching staff, it was Miller’s performance that mattered most to their postseason hopes.

And, on a day their pitching depth got even thinner, his continued struggles were perhaps the biggest cause for alarm.

“I’m trying everything I can,” Miller said. “It’s really tough.”

One theory that both Miller and Roberts shot down: that the pitcher is battling any ailments related to his earlier shoulder inflammation.

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Miller averaged less than 97 mph with his fastball Tuesday for a second consecutive start, something he’d never done. He also bemoaned a lack of crispness in his breaking pitches, after striking out just two of 24 batters.

However, Miller insisted his shoulder felt strong, while Roberts noted that the training staff has identified no issues since Miller returned last month.

“It might be more on the delivery side of it, where we can tap into more velocity and commanding of the baseball,” Roberts said.

The Dodgers know what they have in Dave Roberts, who now has a nine-season track record of nearly unprecedented success. So why haven’t they approached him about a new contract?

July 8, 2024

Whatever the cause, the Dodgers need Miller to find answers fast.

Entering the year, Roberts highlighted Miller as a “big piece of the puzzle.” Given their wave of pitching injuries, his importance has only grown.

However, so have the frustrations surrounding his struggles.

“It’s certainly a step backward, and it’s a work in progress,” Roberts said. “The psyche part, the confidence, all that stuff has got to be rectified and cleaned up.”

Short hops

Clayton Kershaw will resume his minor-league rehab assignment Saturday with triple-A Oklahoma City. That outing will be Kershaw’s first since suffering soreness in his surgically shoulder repaired following a start with class-A Rancho Cucamonga last month. Kershaw will make at least two minor-league starts in the coming weeks, Roberts said, before the team decides whether he is ready to rejoin the rotation.

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