Andrew Miller has had some long walks back to the Boston Red Sox’s dugout this season.
Miller suffered his fifth loss Friday night after an eighth-inning meltdown allowed the Oakland Athletics to break a 3-3 tie. Miller, who hit two batters and surrendered an RBI single to Coco Crisp en route to a 4-3 defeat at O.co Coliseum, again held himself accountable following another devastating loss in which the left-hander failed to come through in a key spot.
“This one’s a lot easier to look at and see what went wrong,” Miller told reporters in Oakland. “There weren’t any bleeder hits. I didn’t throw a ball into center field. I hit two guys at the bottom of the lineup. I hit one of them after I got ahead, the other one first pitch. It’s pretty easy to look back and see where I screwed this one up.”
Miller suffered two walk-off losses to the Minnesota Twins over a three-day stretch in the middle of May. He then suffered back-to-back losses to the Tampa Bay Rays on May 23 and May 24, with one loss coming when he threw a ball into center field. It’s been a difficult season for Miller in that regard despite his overall importance to the continued success of the Red Sox’s typically reliable bullpen, and Friday’s effort was especially concerning because it involved a breakdown in control — Miller’s biggest bugaboo before establishing himself as a solid, late-inning, power arm.
Miller saved the Red Sox and Burke Badenhop’s scoreless streak — which now stands at 32 1/3 innings — in the seventh inning by retiring Stephen Vogt on a line drive to left field with two runners in scoring position. Miller imploded after striking out Brandon Moss to begin the eighth inning, and it all started with him plunking Kyle Blanks and Alberto Callaspo — Oakland’s No. 7 and No. 8 hitters — on the feet.
“I was just trying to throw a breaking ball, same spot, to Blanks,” Miller said. “He chased the first one and I was trying to throw it a little bit lower to get him to chase again. I just went a little bit too far with that one. And the second one (to Callaspo) was just a bad yank. That was not even close to where I wanted to go. A fastball, terrible.
“Just can’t afford to hit those guys in that part of the lineup right there.”
Miller rebounded to strike out Nick Punto for the second out of the eighth inning and was on the verge of escaping the threat unscathed. Red Sox manager John Farrell stuck with Miller against Crisp rather than turn to Junichi Tazawa because of Miller’s past success against the A’s outfielder and the skipper’s desire to keep the switch-hitter batting from the right side. Miller got to two strikes on Crisp, but a 2-2 fastball caught too much of the outside corner. Crisp lined it into right field for the go-ahead hit.
“In hindsight, wrong pitch,” Miller said. “I felt like it was away, but it wasn’t down enough. On a 2-and-2 pitch, I wanted to go right after him. In hindsight, I wish I’d thrown a breaking ball, or thrown something in. I didn’t.”
Miller didn’t execute, the Red Sox lost and the pitcher accepted blame. It’s been an all-too-familiar sight for Miller this season, and one that might not be so prevalent if the Red Sox’s offense could produce some more timely hits.
But that’s a whole other story.