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Miller shows improvement in third time out, but D-backs fall to Padres

Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Shelby Miller (26) is removed from the game by manager Torey Lovullo (17) during the sixth inning against the San Diego Padres on Thursday, July 5, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

PHOENIX — Shelby Miller made his third start on Thursday since coming back from Tommy John surgery. He accomplished a few things in that start that he hadn’t in the previous two.

Miller pitched into the sixth inning, gave up three earned runs and struck out seven hitters as the D-backs fell 6-3 to the San Diego Padres. Those were all personal bests this year — albeit in a small sample size — for the right-hander, who went 5.1 IP, allowing five runs (three earned) on five hits and two walks while fanning seven, five of them swinging.

The pitching line was, at the very least, a statistical improvement upon what Miller did in starts Nos. 1 and 2. He entered Thursday with a 11.42 ERA.

D-backs (48-40) manager Torey Lovullo said before Miller’s outing that he would like to see improvement upon what his starter did his last two times out, against the Marlins and Giants, respectively.

“I thought Shelby threw the ball really well, it was his best outing so far,” Lovullo said. “He continues to improve. The fastball-curveball combination with the occasional cutter was well-planned-out, well-thought and well-executed. At the times where he didn’t execute pitches, I thought he got hurt.

“That’s just part of his progression. He needs to keep improving and lock down those misses. But overall I thought it was a very nice day for him.”

Miller was effective often in Arizona’s 6-3 loss to the Padres, but got bit a few times by extra-base hits and, in his last inning of work, an error that resulted in two unearned runs.

Miller allowed two triples, a home run and a double. He threw 94 pitches, 60 for strikes.

“I felt good. I think today the command was a little bit better,” Miller said. “I would like to go out there, finish the sixth and put up a zero there and get out of the game and have us in a little bit better situation, 2-1 [Padres] instead of 5-1 leaving that inning. But we kind of beat ourselves that inning a little bit and kind of fell into a little bit of a hole we couldn’t get out of.”

On the offensive side, Arizona had runners in scoring position in four of the first six innings but plated just one run in that span. At one point, Miller was picked off at first base but might have scored had he stayed on, as Jon Jay followed with a hit-by-pitch and Nick Ahmed singled to advance Jay to third.

The first run for the D-backs was Ketel Marte, who hit a double to lead off the second and crossed the plate on a single by Jake Lamb. Marte later hit a home run in the eighth inning, a no-doubter to left field that also scored A.J. Pollock. That made it 6-3 Padres.

Miller was relieved by Andrew Chafin, Fernando Salas, Silvino Bracho and T.J. McFarland, who combined for 3.2 IP, one run, three hits, a walk and three strikeouts. Salas gave up the lone run.

With the loss, Arizona no longer has sole possession of first place in the NL West. Instead, they fall to a tie for first with the Los Angeles Dodgers, who did not play Thursday.

STAT OF THE GAME

6: The number of pitches Miller threw in the second inning. Miller gave up a first-pitch lead-off double to Corey Spangenberg, who was thrown out trying to advance to third on a first-pitch ground ball from Freddy Galvis. Galvis (who reached on a fielder’s choice) and Hedges were outs two and three in an inning-ending double play.

HE SAID IT

Lovullo on allowing Miller room to improve while the team is in a playoff race:

“He threw the ball well today, I’ll focus on that. As with every single player, pitcher that doesn’t perform, we’re constantly evaluating. We know that we’re in a pennant race — if you want to call it that right now, we’re not even at the halfway point of the season. But I think we enjoy that part of the game. We know that this is going to be a dogfight for the rest of the year and we’re going to put our best foot forward every single day to win baseball games. Right now, Shelby’s in the equation and he’s continuing to improve, so that’s what I’m going to focus on.”

Miller on his outing:

“I made a couple mistakes. That home run to [Austin] Hedges wasn’t a very good pitch. I mean it was 2-0, I was just trying to get back in the strike zone, he was probably just on the heater there and got a good pitch to hit. Curveball was good, though. I got a lot of swings and misses on it, was a pitch we were talking about going for that I would need to kind of get command of and control a little bit more, and tonight I thought we did a better job of that.”

NOTED

The D-backs made several roster moves on Thursday, including the activation of outfielder Steven Souza Jr. off the disabled list. Souza went 0-for-3 with a walk and a strikeout.

Arizona also placed outfielder Jarrod Dyson on the 10-day disabled list, optioned right-hander Joey Krehbiel to Triple-A Reno and recalled the right-hander Bracho.

Right-handed pitcher Randall Delgado has completed his rehab assignment and is expected to be activated from the disabled list on Friday.

UP NEXT

The D-backs will play the rest of this four-game series against the Padres to complete their current 10-game homestand. Then, they’ll go on a six-game road trip to Colorado and Atlanta before the All-Star break.

Friday’s matchup is expected to see Zack Godley on the mound for the Diamondbacks and Joey Lucchesi for the Padres. You can listen to the action live on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

Godley owns a 9-6 record with a 5.07 ERA in 2018. Last time out, the right-hander allowed seven runs over four innings with nine hits and five walks. Prior to that, his ERA was 4.58.


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