Bryce Miller’s dream start interrupted by Yankees as Mariners fall 10-4

Tribune Content Agency

SEATTLE — Bryce Miller couldn’t hide the disappointment as he stood on the mound and watched as Mariners manager Scott Servais walked toward him.

His outing was done. Really, it could have been over two batters earlier. He was tired and frustrated. His best pitch had been beaten up for the better part of 4 2/3 innings and he didn’t have the command with it or his secondary pitches to make it stop.

For the first time in his young big-league career, Miller was fallible to major-league hitters, including the reigning American League Most Valuable Player, and the results were ugly.

Facing a pieced-together Yankees lineup that centered on the omnipotent slugger that is Aaron Judge, Miller suffered through the worst outing of his six-start MLB career, giving up eight runs in the first five innings — a deficit his teammates couldn’t overcome — in what would be a 10-4 loss on Monday.

“Bryce Miller has been so good for us, but tonight he obviously didn’t have his ‘A’ game, so to speak,” Servais said. “Against a good fastball-hitting team like that, you need to have the ‘A’ game going. Locating the fastball was a little bit of an issue and he just didn’t have the same life on the fastball that we’ve seen him have since he’s been in the big leagues.”

Using a mid-90s fastball that carried through the upper levels of the strike zone, that hitters struggled to hit squarely, Miller had been outstanding in his first five starts, allowing a total of four runs on 13 hits with no homers.

Knowing that Miller used his fastball almost 70 percent of the time, the Yankees came in prepared to hit it when it was in the middle of the zone. Admittedly, too many found the middle of the zone.

“It was a weird to start to the game,” Miller said. “I was kind of all over the place with the fastball. Command-wise, it wasn’t where it’s been the last couple of weeks. The ones that I was throwing, I wasn’t at the top of the zone like I needed to be. It just kind of led to me throwing more off speed. I made some good pitches, but I’ve got to make better ones.”

New York grabbed a 1-0 lead when one-time Mariner Jake Bauers roped a double into the right-field corner to score Harrison Bader in the top of the second.

Seattle answered with a run in the bottom of the inning. Jarred Kelenic led off with a single, stole second and later scored on Teoscar Hernandez’s ground out to shortstop.

At least the first homer allowed by Miller in his MLB career would come from the preeminent home-run hitter in baseball. After Gleyber Torres led off with a single, Judge came to the batter’s box for his second plate appearance of the game, having popped out in his first at-bat.

Using mostly off-speed pitches in the at-bat, Miller was faced with a 3-2 count. He fired a fastball that was supposed ride to the inside corner but instead leaked out over the plate at 94 mph. Judge doesn’t miss those sort of mistakes. He turned on it, sending a rocket to left field. Miller and the Mariners tried to coax it to go foul. But the ball, which had an exit velocity of 116.9 mph, was hit too hard. It banged off the foul pole for a two-run homer and a 3-1 lead.

Chants of “MVP! MVP!” from a large contingent of Yankee fans in the announced crowd of 34,154 filled T-Mobile Park.

“Probably the most center-cut fastball I threw was the first one in the first at-bat that Judge popped up,” Miller said. “In the next two at-bats, I had him in finish counts and I just didn’t finish. That’s the guy in the lineup that you have to make all your pitches on or he’ll make you pay if you don’t.”

Bauers made it 4-1 in the top of the fourth, turning on another 3-2 fastball and pulling it into the right-field seats.

Julio Rodriguez, who provided most of the Mariners’ offense, cut the lead to 4-2 with his own line-drive homer to left field. Rodriguez hammered a hanging breaking ball from Yankees starter Domingo German for his 10th homer of the season, which ties him for the team lead with Kelenic.

But Miller couldn’t keep the Mariners within reach in a fifth inning he didn’t finish.

Torres led off with a single, Judge narrowly missed another two-run homer, ripping a ball off the wall in left-center for a double.

“That’s just a bad pitch,” Miller said of the breaking ball that stayed up in the zone.

Willie Calhoun scored both runners with a double just inside the first-base bag. Miller’s outing ended with two outs when Isiah Kiner-Falefa pulled a breaking ball just past Eugenio Suarez at third base for another two-run double.

His final line: 4 2/3 innings, eight runs allowed on 11 hits with no walks, a hit batter and three strikeouts.

The eight runs allowed doubled what he allowed combined in his previous starts.

“He tried to make an adjustment, tried to get into some more off-speed pitches,” Servais said. “It just was a rough night for him. That’s going to happen once in a while. It happens to the best of them, and I don’t want him to get his head down at all. He’ll get the ball again next turn around. I’m sure he’ll make some adjustments.”

Of his 86 pitches, 50 were fastballs. The Yankees swung at them 29 times, whiffing just four times, fouling off 15 and putting 10 in play — six went for hits.

“It was just inconsistent,” Servais said. “His bread and butter is the fastball. It kind of gets the game going for him. It sets everything up. Both away, in, up at the top of the zone. It was just uncharacteristic. He left some balls down that he was trying to get up. It was tough for him tonight. He just couldn’t get a rhythm going.”

With no game Thursday, Miller will get an extra day in between starts. But he won’t get a break with his next start coming against the Rangers, who have one of the best offenses in MLB. It also means he will play in his home state for the first time as a big-leaguer.

“He absolutely does have the right mentality and he’s got the right stuff,” Servais said of a potential bounce-back performance.

Down 8-2, Rodriguez trimmed two more runs off the Yankees’ lead, singling through the right side to score a pair of runs in the bottom of the fifth.

But there was no coming back.

Judge hit a solo homer off Juan Then in the sixth inning for the 31st multihomer game of his career. He has 17 homers on the season. He also robbed Hernandez of a solo homer in the eighth inning with a brilliant leaping grab in right field, which generated more MVP chants.