As a 22-year-old, Shelby Miller had one of the better rookie seasons for a starting pitcher. The Cardinals' right-hander won 15 games, posted an ERA a shade over 3.00 and didn't get much consideration whatsoever for NL Rookie of the Year, at least in the media.
With Cuban sensations Jose Fernandez and Yasiel Puig finishing 1-2 in the race, Miller's great rookie campaign might not have received the attention it garnered.
Fernandez and Puig were great, but Miller's end to what ended up being a fantastic year probably had something to do with it too. His ERA gradually crept up from the start of June to the end of the season and, despite never letting the wheels fall off, Miller couldn't find his way into the St. Louis playoff picture. He pitched just one inning for a team that went all the way to a sixth game in the World Series.
But while a weak finish couldn't gain his manager's confidence in 2013, September dominance just might put Miller in contention to pitch immediately after Adam Wainwright in the Red Birds' October rotation this time around. And he seems determined to do just that.
Miller threw his second consecutive start of 7 innings, 3 hits and 0 runs against a divisional opponent. This time, he completely shut down the Cincinnati Reds. Miller added four strikeouts and didn't walk a batter. The start comes five days after putting up nearly the exact same numbers in a game his team eventually won against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Cardinals are surging and Miller has been just as hot. The Texas star has lost just once since the second week in July and has thrown seven innings in three consecutive starts now. Miller's record sits at just 9-9, but his ERA has tumbled below 4.00 for the first time since June (with an exception of one instance in August when it went to 3.99).
With Wainwright at the top, Michael Wacha coming back and looking strong after an injury and the experience between John Lackey and Lance Lynn, Miller will still need to earn every bit of a playoff start. But if he continues producing outings like he has in the last few weeks, it might just be too tough for Mike Matheny to do anything but.
Work to do
At the very worst, Miller will have the opportunity to play a major role out of the bullpen in the games that mean the most. And after last season, that's not a role he'll poo-poo.
Miller's next start is scheduled to come against Colorado. The Rockies will be at Busch Stadium over the weekend and Miller has been slated to throw Saturday night.