The Baltimore Orioles beat the Toronto Blue Jays, 6-4, on Friday, April 14. (Ulysses Muñoz / Baltimore Sun)
TORONTO — It was evident early on Friday night that Orioles left-hander Wade Miley possessed much better command than he had in his first outing of the season.
In the Orioles' 6-4 win over the reeling Toronto Blue Jays, Miley struck out eight and walked none in six innings, writing an entirely different script from his season debut Sunday, when he walked seven over five frames.
"You can talk about all parts of the game, but the key was Wade's outing," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "We all know we live in a what have you done for me lately world. But we know what Wade's capable of. It's nice to see him show us some things that he brings that we're going to be in need of."
It started with Miley establishing his fastball command early in counts, then keeping a frustrated Toronto batting order off balance with his secondary pitches. That's how he struck out the side in the first inning, getting ahead with his two-seamer, then working off that that with his slider and curveball.
"It's weird how that works, right?" Miley said. "I just spent some time slowing down a little bit throughout the week and slowing my delivery down and I was able to command the fastball a little better. I had the breaking ball a little bit as well. I was able to throw the backdoor slider and then bury it when I needed to. [Catcher] Caleb [Joseph] did an outstanding job. I can't say enough about the way the worked together. I'd seen him working back there hard for me and it's a pretty good feeling. Definitely the command was there tonight, where it was nonexistent the other day."
While Miley's improved fastball command allowed him to dictate the pace of the game, the pitch that might have been most effective was his curveball. Out of Miley's 101 pitches, he threw 16 curveballs, 15 of them strikes – 10 swings and five calls – and garnered three whiffs on the pitch.
Combine that with a backdoor slider that Toronto's frustrated batting order was trying to pull – they swung at the slider 14 out of 34 times, but put only one ball in play – and it was a recipe for success for Miley.
"I felt like the slider, the curveball was there," Miley said. "I think that's the big thing. When you can get a handle on that fastball, the other pitches work off that. We were able to do that. And the offense, they picked me up, they got me a run, I gave two up and then they picked me up pretty good. They put up a three spot that one inning and then tacked a few on later. It's my job to get them back in the dugout as soon as possible."
Miley's ability to throw all four pitches for strikes – he threw just six changeups, a pitch he threw 18 percent of the time – gave Joseph plenty of weapons to choose from.
"There's no doubt in my mind that that's going to be a normal start for Wade night in, night out," Joseph said. "There are things I think he's tapping into here that are going to help him be really successful. He's really losing both sides of the plate. Look, if you get enough years in this league, they kind of get a book on you, right? And Wade's got the ability to move pitches around to different areas and locations and continue to change the book. That's what we did tonight and I thought it was really successful."
Miley is undoubtedly a wild card for the Orioles rotation. If he can be more like the pitcher he was Friday – and the one who posted a 1.93 ERA in his final three starts of last season – than the one who struggled upon arriving in Baltimore, the Orioles will have far fewer worries this season.
"He was working four pitches and command of all four pitches. It wasn't like you had to bag one after the third inning because he didn't have command of it," Joseph said. "He had command of all four pitches and command of those pitches both inside and out, up and down.
"In my opinion, I wasn't shocked or surprised at all by the way he pitched tonight. That should be his normal. When he's even more efficient, he should be able to go seven or eight without any question in my mind."