Bobby Miller continues to provide Dodgers with hope amid rotation problems

Dodgers pitcher Bobby Miller delivers during the first inning of a 6-1 win over the Washington Nationals.
Dodgers pitcher Bobby Miller delivers during a 6-1 win over the Washington Nationals at Dodger Stadium on Monday night. Miller gave up one run in six innings and is 2-0 in two big league starts.
(Ronald Martinez / Getty Images)

The Dodgers returned from a grueling 10-game trip with their rotation in tatters, the injuries to Dustin May and Julio Urías and the struggles of Noah Syndergaard, Clayton Kershaw and Gavin Stone stressing organizational pitching depth and an overworked bullpen.

In rookie right-hander Bobby Miller, the Dodgers found some relief … and a reason for hope.

The strapping 6-foot-5, 220-pounder with a triple-digit fastball and knee-buckling curve was dominant in his second big league start Monday night, holding the Washington Nationals to one run and four hits in six efficient innings of a 6-1 victory before a Memorial Day crowd of 47,067 at Dodger Stadium.


Miller, a 2020 first-round pick out of Louisville, struck out four, walked one and needed only 87 pitches — 54 of them strikes — to complete six innings against a Nationals lineup that entered Monday with a major league-leading .285 batting average and a second-best .344 on-base percentage.

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Four of Miller’s 12 first-inning pitches were clocked at 100 mph. He averaged 98.3 mph on the 27 sinkers he threw, 97.7 mph on his 18 four-seam fastballs, and one of his best pitches of the night was his last, a 79-mph curve that struck out cleanup man Joey Meneses swinging to end the sixth.

“When Bobby gets on top of that mound, he’s a bulldog, a force to be reckoned with,” said first baseman Freddie Freeman, who broke a tie game with a two-run double in a six-run fifth inning. “You can tell he has command of himself, he knows what he’s doing. He’s got a great game plan, and obviously he has the arm.”

Miller (2-0), who held the Atlanta Braves to one run and four hits in five innings of an 8-1 win in his big league debut last Tuesday, also appears to have the composure to match his stuff, which wasn’t always the case.

“I’ve gotten a lot better [at harnessing my emotions],” Miller said. “A few years ago, I don’t think I was that great at it. That was probably my biggest problem, and it was not going to let me go far in my career if I kept acting like that. So I was just trying to stay calm out there, focus on my breathing, and everything will be OK.”

The Nationals nicked Miller for a run in the second inning on Meneses’ single, Corey Dickerson’s one-out double and C.J. Abrams’ two-out RBI single, but Dodgers right fielder Jason Heyward prevented Washington from taking a 2-0 lead with a perfect one-hop throw to the plate to nail Dickerson to end the inning.


“Yeah, that was awesome,” Miller said. “Great play.”

Dodgers starting pitcher Bobby Miller warms up in the bullpen.
Dodgers starting pitcher Bobby Miller warms up in the bullpen before pitching against the Nationals on Monday.
(Kyusung Gong / Associated Press)

A Dodgers offense that averaged 6.2 runs a game on the trip exploded for six unearned runs in the fifth to turn a 1-0 deficit into a 6-1 lead, with the team’s two hottest hitters, Freeman and J.D. Martinez, providing the big blows.

Heyward’s leadoff walk and Abrams’ fielding error on Miguel Vargas’ potential double-play grounder up the middle put runners on first and third. James Outman, who ended an 0-for-20 skid with a third-inning single, lofted a sacrifice fly to left field for a 1-1 tie.

Chris Taylor hustled down the line to beat out a fielder’s-choice grounder that kept the inning alive. Mookie Betts lined a single to left, and Freeman ripped a two-run double to right field to extend his hitting streak to 18 games and give the Dodgers a 3-1 lead.

Will Smith walked, and Martinez, who struck out in his first two at-bats against Washington right-hander Trevor Williams (2-3), drove an 88-mph fastball on the outer half over the right-center-field wall for a three-run homer and a 6-1 lead.

Martinez is batting .309 (21 for 68) with seven homers, four doubles and 21 RBIs in 16 games since returning from a back injury, raising his batting average from .250 with an .840 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in late April to a .276 average and .910 OPS through Monday night.


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Freeman is batting .431 (31 for 72) with four homers, 12 doubles and 20 RBIs during his hitting streak, raising his average from .286 with an .822 OPS on May 9 to .333 with an .980 OPS through Monday night. His double was his 17th in May, setting a franchise record for doubles in a month.

His streak was not triggered by any adjustments at the plate. The veteran is so consistent in his approach and with his swing mechanics that manager Dave Roberts said he couldn’t even tell Freeman was on a tear.

“When he’s kind of struggling or not getting hits, it’s the same to me,” Roberts said. “The at-bat quality, the quality of contact, is pretty similar. You’re saying he’s on a hot streak, so I guess he’s on a hot streak, but he just seems like Freddie. … He never deviates [in his approach]. It’s remarkable. It’s fascinating.”