Hard-luck Orioles loser Wade Miley gets back to basics in strong outing against Blue Jays

After seeing his early-season success stifled by unsteady control that has led to some frustrating early exits, Orioles left-hander Wade Miley wanted to go into Sunday's start against the Toronto Blue Jays focused on keeping opposing hitters off balance instead of trying to overpower them.

The results for Miley weren't as desired — he was the hard-luck losing pitcher in a 3-1 loss to the Blue Jays at Camden Yards, the victim of three unearned first-inning runs — but he still gave one of his best all-around performances of this young season.


His one mistake was a first-pitch curveball to Devon Travis that the Blue Jays second baseman sent over the left-center-field fence for a three-run homer with two outs in the first inning after a fielding error by Jonathan Schoop extended the inning.

But Miley recovered well, allowing just four additional hits while holding the Blue Jays scoreless for the next six innings.

Miley went into the game averaging a majors-worst 5.83 walks per nine innings, nearly one walk higher than the next qualified starting pitchers, which is the main reason he had been able to work beyond the sixth inning in just two of his previous eight starts.

On Sunday, Miley had his deepest start in nearly a month, going seven innings for the first time April 25 against the Tampa Bay Rays.

"Just [tried to] get three outs at a time," Miley said. "Get this out, the next out and the next out, and then go sit down for a while. Instead of putting pressure on yourself about going deep in the game and then the next thing you know, you look up and you're at 75 pitches in the third. Try to not even look at the pitch count out there. When they told me I was done, I was done."

In the past, Miley found himself reaching for more speed on his fastball when he got in trouble. The key Sunday was mixing speeds — including on his fastball — to induce groundouts and dodge damage. Miley recorded 13 groundouts.

"I just pitched more today," Miley said. "Rather than just throw, it was like a cat-and-mouse thing, hard fastball, soft fastball, changeup, curveball. It was more of a mix. We just made a few more pitches here and there when I fell behind, had the [batting practice] fastball to get some groundballs. That's kind of more who I'd like to be instead of going out there and throwing it as hard as I can. I like to pitch."

Miley, whose fastball averaged 93 mph in his previous start, in Detroit, took a few ticks off his four-seamer (91.1 mph) and threw his two-seam and four-seam between 85 and 95 mph.

"I was really impressed with the way he changed speeds on his fastball," catcher Caleb Joseph said. "That in itself can present different pitches. You can have three or four different pitches with the fastball by adding and subtracting. Real veteran thing. I'm just real excited about what he's figured out and found over the past two, three months. It's real encouraging. Veterans, they back off when they get under pressure. They don't hit the gas. They back off, and he did a lot today. He induced a lot of weak contact, so I really wish we could have pushed runs across because he really deserved a win today."

Miley lived low in the strike zone, and home plate umpire Ron Kulpa — known as a strike hunter — obliged, giving Miley the low borderline strike he wasn't getting in previous starts.

"A lot of those balls that were just a tick down or a tick up or he got the benefit of a 50-50 call," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "But he's not going to give in. He was good."

As he gathered control of the game, Miley could pick his battles, as in the fifth inning, when he walked leadoff hitter Kevin Pillar with a runner at third and two outs after falling behind 3-0 — even with slugger Jose Bautista behind him — instead of forcing a hitter's pitch. Two pitches after walking Pillar, Miley got Bautista to hit a 90-mph two-seamer into the ground for an inning-ending fielder's choice.

"When I fell behind 3-0, I wasn't going to give in," Miley said. "I was like, 'I'll take my chances against Bautista right here than work back through a hitters count.' I didn't want to walk him on four pitches but, at the same time, I didn't want to throw him a cookie with runners on base. I was able to start fresh with Bautista."

Against a Toronto team known for bashing left-handers but currently struggling with injuries, Miley had success.


"He pitches, not around guys, but he knows where the outs are and he knows where he matches up and he doesn't give in and he's not going to just start elevating the ball," Showalter said.

The end result — a loss — wasn't what Miley wanted, but after the game, he was pleased that he found success on the mound by getting back to basics.

"It's back to pitching, you know?" Miley said. "The past couple starts I would get out there and get mad about the walks and overthrow, lose command. Just tried to make pitches today."