Bryce Miller shines again with a sublime outing versus the Astros, as the Mariners take the rubber match for a much-needed series win.
Following a stunning Major League debut by Bryce Miller in Oakland, people wondered how he would fare against a stronger team. His response couldn’t have been much better, on Sunday afternoon versus the Astros.
Miller was, quite simply, outstanding against the Mariners’ biggest divisional rivals. His performance helped propel the team to a 3-1 victory, and a much-needed series win which finally got them back to .500.
The 24-year-old was unfazed, despite facing the reigning World Series champions, who also happened to be his boyhood team. He allowed just two hits and one walk in six shutout innings, to notch his first Major League win.
A dream home debut for Bryce Miller
Thriving off a crowd of 42,277 fans, Miller only needed 85 pitches to get through his start. Mostly relying on his fastball, he recorded five strikeouts on the day.
As a result, Miller becomes the first pitcher in Mariners history to throw at least six innings and allow one or fewer runs in his first two career Major League starts. He has also held opponents to a .103 batting average through his first two outings.
The 2021 fourth round draft pick’s two starts also had historical significance for the Majors as a whole. He is just the second pitcher since at least 1901 to go six+ innings and allow two or fewer hits in his first two MLB appearances.
Mariners manager Scott Servais liked what he saw from Miller. He said:
“Bryce Miller, pretty awesome. He continues to do his thing. It’s very impressive. … What (he) has done and added to our rotation has just been awesome. Very aggressive, ton of confidence. He’s not backing off.”
Miller spoke to the media about the surreal experience of facing his childhood team. He said:
“I was excited and a little bit nervous. … I had a couple of moments before the game started, where I was able to kind of look around and take in the scene. But once I got out there and was on the mound, it was just another game.”
Miller also talked about his fastball, which accounted for 60 of his 85 pitches. He said:
“I’ll have the offspeed whenever I need it, but right now, it’s just kind of prove that they can hit it before I stray away from it.”
Teammate Julio Rodriguez was certainly impressed with what he saw from Miller. He said:
“That fastball definitely has something to it and you can see it. They were worried about his fastball and they were defensive about it. They couldn’t catch up to it. It’s pretty impressive to see a guy coming up from the Minors and just start throwing fastballs by people like it’s nothing.”
Julio Rodriguez comes out of his slump
On the subject of impressive, Rodriguez had his own standout moment on Sunday afternoon. He put the Mariners on their way to victory, with a solo home run in the bottom of the third.
The 22-year-old’s blast went 454 feet, making it the longest home run of his Major League career. It was also his first since April 26, a stretch which saw him go just 4-for-30.
Rodriguez acknowledged that the hit was much-needed. He said:
“It’s been overdue kind of, so (there was) a buildup to it. And being able to hit that one for the team against a great team, too, it’s always going to bring a lot of emotions out of me.”
The 2022 AL Rookie of the Year also gave some insight into his mindset during his struggles. He said:
“I just keep grinding because if I start crying and complaining about it, what am I going to do with that? … I feel like it’s putting in the work, putting in the effort, showing up every day and just keep grinding. Keep figuring it out yourself, keep adjusting. That’s what this game is about.”
Kelenic continues to produce
The Mariners weren’t done in the third inning, as Eugenio Suarez hit a key double with two outs. He was subsequently brought home thanks to a fielding error on Cal Raleigh’s at-bat, to make it 2-0.
Seattle added another run in the bottom of the fifth, with Jarred Kelenic playing a vital part. He hit a double and eventually scored after the Astros’ Matt Gage was charged with a balk.
At this point, Kelenic’s offensive productivity can no longer be called flash in the pan. He is tied for the team lead in home runs and is first in batting average, slugging percentage and OPS.
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Despite the three runs being enough on the day, as you would almost expect, the offense didn’t take full advantage of their opportunities. They were just 2-for-14 on the day with runners in scoring position.
There was some minor angst, when the Astros finally got on the board in the top of the seventh to make it 3-1. It was the first run Gabe Speier had allowed in 16 appearances this year.
As a whole though, the bullpen continued their fine form on the year. As of Monday morning, they rank second in the Majors in ERA and are tied for eighth in opposing batting average.
A vital series win for Mariners
The victory was important for several reasons, including finally getting back to .500 and drawing level with the Astros in the AL West. Winning the series was also a big step, versus an opponent who they went just 7-15 against last year, including 0-3 in their postseason matchup.
Servais appreciated how much the series win meant. He said:
“If you want to win the division, it has to go through Houston. … We can certainly play with these guys, but you’ve got to beat them. And that’s what we were able to do in this series. … We play the Astros so much and teams go through different things at different times of the year. They’re a little banged up and we’ve got a few guys out too. But I thought we played really good baseball all weekend. Outside of the late home home run in game one, we’re right there.”
As impressive as the series win was, the encouraging thing for Mariners fans is the team is still capable of so much more. As Rodriguez said:
“We’re still not playing our best baseball, and I feel like all those guys in the clubhouse know that. And I feel like as the season keeps going by, we’re going to start seeing what the Mariners are really capable of.”
Next up is an equally important three-game home series versus the Texas Rangers, who currently lead the division with a 20-13 record. Logan Gilbert will take the mound on Monday night, as the Mariners aim to build on their recent success of six wins in seven games.
Is Bryce Miller the real deal, or do you still need to see more from him? More generally, is the series victory over the Astros enough to get the Mariners winning more consistently moving forward? Let us know in the comments section below.