Dodgers win behind strong debut by Bobby Miller

ATLANTA — Bobby Miller announced his presence with authority.

The hard-throwing right-hander hit 100.1 mph with his first big-league pitch. More importantly for the Dodgers, Miller did something the more experienced members of the starting rotation have found difficult to do recently – he went five innings.

Miller allowed just one run on four hits and got the win in his major league debut as the Dodgers beat the Atlanta Braves, 8-1, Tuesday night.

In the post-game locker room, Miller got the traditional beer shower with his teammates adding ketchup, mustard, shampoo – anything pour-able they could get their hands on.

“It was awesome. I loved every second of it,” Miller said. “There was some nasty stuff poured on me but I loved it. You’ve got to appreciate times like that. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

With injuries depleting their starting rotation, the Dodgers resorted to an internship program this week, starting rookies Gavin Stone (two career starts) and Miller (one) in back-to-back games against the Braves – the team with the best record in the National League when this series started.

The Dodgers won both games and Miller was only their third starter in the past nine games to complete five innings.

“We’re excited. We really are,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “It’s not a soft landing. Ideally, you want to give young prospects a soft landing and this is anything but. If you look at Gavin, to start against the Phillies (in his debut) and then to start against the Braves, this is a tough league in itself. But for our guys to feel confident in these two young players, it’s pretty cool.”

The kids will stay in the picture for now. Roberts said Stone and Miller will each remain in the rotation for the time being.

“I think it’s one of those things where you can look and say we’ve got some runway now,” Roberts said. “To have two guys that are cutting their teeth … you never really know until you throw them out there into the fire. So they’re passing these tests so far.”

Miller said he was surprised and “honored” to get the call when Julio Urias went on the injured list. Nearly 30 friends and relatives made it from Illinois to Atlanta to watch his debut.

“A lot,” Miller said when asked how nervous he was taking the mound at Truist Park. “As confident as I looked out there, I was very nervous under that poker face. I just got to focus on my breathing and tell myself it’s the same game still. Nothing changes. Stick to the game plan. Trust Will (Smith) behind the plate. I didn’t shake him off at all and he took me to the promised land.”

Miller gave up a two-out RBI double to Austin Riley in the first inning and didn’t get his first big-league strikeout until the ninth batter he faced, getting outfielder Sam Hilliard to swing over the top of a curveball. But he stranded runners at third base in the third and fourth innings and retired nine of the last 10 batters he faced, four on strikeouts.

In his fourth start of the season for Triple-A Oklahoma City last week, Miller threw 43 four-seam fastballs, averaged 99.5 mph with them, hit 100 mph 19 times and 101 three times. That translated to the majors – he averaged 99.5 mph on 21 four-seamers. Nineteen of them rounded up to 100 or 101 mph.

Braves starter Stephen Strider is one of the hardest-throwing starting pitchers in the majors, but Miller threw 24 pitches faster than Strider’s fastest on Tuesday (99.2 mph).

The Braves seemed ready for the heat. They swung and missed at a Miller fastball just twice. Instead, Smith – like Miller, a first-round pick out of the University of Louisville – called for 25 sliders, 23 changeups and 11 curveballs. Those pitches produced seven swing-and-misses.

“It was just an adjustment we had to make,” said Smith, like Miller, a first-round draft pick from the University of Louisville. “He throws 100 mph. You’re gonna go at guys and challenge them. But they were kind of on it, so we had to get off of that and go another route.

“I think that’s why guys with mixes like that do well for such a long time – because they can (adjust). They’re not stuck in a hole. They have options. They have different possibilities to go to to really kind of mess with the other team.”

Miller was comfortable with the game plan and said he never shook Smith off when he called for a pitch.

“At the start of games, you’ve always got to establish the fastball. If I don’t have my fastball there, nothing else is really going to work,” Miller said. “So I have to establish that first. A lot of times I do rely on my offspeed. It’s going to change each game. Nothing’s going to be the same. Some days I’ll be getting away with my fastball. Some days I’ll be getting away with the slider and curveball and changeup. Especially against a good lineup like this, you’ve got to mix up everything.”

Smith and the rest of the Dodgers did what they could to calm Miller’s nerves by scoring four times in the first two innings.

Mookie Betts led off the game with a double and moved to third on a groundout. With the infield in – surprisingly early – Smith slapped an RBI single past diving shortstop Orlando Arcia.

In the second, Jason Heyward jumped on a high fastball from Strider for a solo home run to start the inning.

With two outs, first baseman Matt Olson booted a ground ball to extend the inning. The Dodgers took advantage. Walks loaded the bases for Smith who drove in two more runs with a double (the second of his three hits in the game).

Miller’s 76 pitches in his start last week were his season-high in four starts for OKC. He matched that through four innings against the Braves then went back out and retired the side in order in the fifth, striking out two, and finished the night at 95 pitches.

“For me, the biggest takeaway is, when it got a little hot, when he needed to make a pitch, he was able to not overthrow,” Roberts said. “I was also really impressed with how he held his velocity for 90 pitches. He was touching 100 (mph) at 90 pitches. Really impressive.”

The Dodgers’ bullpen followed Miller with four scoreless innings, allowing just one hit, and the Dodgers broke it open with an RBI single from Max Muncy in the seventh and a three-run home run by J.D. Martinez in the ninth.

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An MLB debut to remember for Bobby Miller.

— MLB (@MLB) May 24, 2023

Stay hot, @JDMartinez28!

— SportsNet LA (@SportsNetLA) May 24, 2023

2 innings, 3 RBI for Will.

— SportsNet LA (@SportsNetLA) May 23, 2023

No doubt from J-Hey.

— SportsNet LA (@SportsNetLA) May 23, 2023

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