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D-backs’ Shelby Miller shows progress in loss to Cardinals

Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Shelby Miller (26) adjust his cap during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals, Tuesday, April 26, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

You might not think so by looking at the stat line, but Arizona Diamondbacks’ right-hander Shelby Miller took a step forward Tuesday night at Chase Field.

Yes, he gave up five runs in five innings — all of the damage coming in the fifth inning. But Miller was able to last five innings in the 8-2 loss, and displayed better mechanics in the process.

“It’s definitely a step forward from what we’ve been dealing with,” manager Chip Hale said following the game. “The ball was coming out of his hand free and easy today. His cutter was good. The changeup to (Brandon) Moss was not a good pitch, but before that, he had the fly ball to center where (Chris Owings) slid and just kind of got out of position and it hit off his body.

“If we make that catch, it’s a different inning.”

Miller was up 1-2 in the count on St. Louis right fielder Stephen Piscotty with runners on first and second and one out in the fifth inning. Piscotty looped a fly ball to shallow center and Owings slid, trying to make the play. The ball caromed off his knee and into right field allowing Aledmys Diaz to score, breaking a scoreless tie.

“I felt like I got a really good jump on it,” Owings said. “I went back and watched the replay and I probably could have got to it standing up, maybe. I felt like when I tried to slide for it, my hip popped up a little bit and that’s what made me move my glove just a tad.”

So instead of two outs with runners at first and second, the Cardinals got on the scoreboard and had runners at second and third with one out. Miller intentionally walked Matt Carpenter to load the bases and set up a double play possibility. Instead, Randal Grichuk lifted a sacrifice fly to right field that scored Jeremy Hazelbaker to make it 2-0. The next batter, Brandon Moss, tattooed a changeup into the right field seats to increase the Cardinals’ edge to 5-0.

“Honestly, I felt like I made one bad pitch — the home run,” Miller said. “Other than that, I don’t really have anything I felt I made a mistake on. I could have maybe thrown something a little different there, but you know, it was a changeup down the middle.”

Miller didn’t get much support from the D-backs’ offense, which had been red-hot coming into the game. When Miller left the game, Arizona had managed just one base-hit — a one-out single by David Peralta in the fourth inning. The 25-year-old was plagued by scarce run support last year as a member of the Atlanta Braves.

In his previous two starts, Miller had mechanical issues. More to the point, his right hand was scraping on the mound during his follow through. He said he felt much better Tuesday.

“I feel like we’re headed in the right direction, sure.”

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