LOS ANGELES ― The Dodgers slow-played rookie pitcher Bobby Miller in spring training and waited until May to bring him up to the major leagues.
Their patience appears to be paying off.
Miller allowed one run over six innings in a 6-1 victory over the Washington Nationals, giving an announced crowd of 47,067 at Dodger Stadium their first look at the future of the team’s starting rotation ― and, for now, its present.
Miller (2-0) became the first Dodgers’ starting pitcher to record a victory since, well, Miller himself in his major league debut against the Atlanta Braves last Tuesday. Tony Gonsolin, who shut out the St. Louis Cardinals on May 19, is the last Dodgers starter other than Miller to be credited with a win.
“I don’t know if we could’ve predicted that going into the season,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “It’s a long season. Guys are going to get opportunities by way of performance or by injury. It’s up to those guys to take advantage of them.”
The rookie right-hander was as good as advertised, consistently hitting 100 mph with his four-seam fastball. He walked one batter, struck out four, and threw 87 pitches over six innings.
Miller’s secondary pitches were just as important. He induced four swings on curveballs out of the zone, including a whiff by Nationals designated hitter Joey Meneses on his 87th and final pitch. The strikeout, Miller’s fourth of the game, ended a seven-pitch at-bat.
“A very aggressive lineup,” Miller said of the Nationals. “I knew the team was going to have my back. Guys have been swinging the bat well, so it’s very special.”
Early in Miller’s debut game in Atlanta, Roberts felt the 24-year-old rookie was too predictable in offering batters a first-pitch fastball. That reliance faded as the game went on, and was all but absent Monday. He threw 27 sinkers and 18 changeups compared to 18 four-seamers, according to Statcast, including just four on the first pitch of a plate appearance.
“There’s one mindset of ‘establishing your fastball’ and ‘getting into the game,’ but nowadays guys can time a bullet,” Roberts said. “When you’re trying to ‘establish the fastball’ you might not see the fourth or fifth inning. It’s about urgency from pitch 1, and tonight (Miller) did that.”
The manager said Miller will make his next start in turn on Sunday night against the New York Yankees, a national broadcast on ESPN.
The Nationals (23-31) got their only run on an RBI single by C.J. Abrams. That sequence also ended the second inning, as Jason Heyward threw out the trailing runner, Corey Dickerson, trying to score on Abrams’ single as well.
The Dodgers (33-22) scored six runs in the fifth inning to erase the 1-0 deficit. J.D. Martinez had the big hit, a three-run homer against Trevor Williams (2-3) to cap their six-run rally. It was Martinez’s 11th home run of the season.
The inning began when Heyward walked and went to third base as Abrams flubbed a routine grounder off Miguel Vargas’ bat. A sacrifice fly by James Outman scored Heyward, tying the game 1-1.
With two outs, Mookie Betts singled and Freddie Freeman followed with a two-run double down the right field line. Will Smith drew a walk before Martinez crushed a fastball over the center field fence.
The Dodgers arrived home having lost three of four games to cap an extended three-city, 10-game road trip. They flew in Sunday night from Tampa, Florida, but looked no worse for the wear Monday.
“I think a lot of us were grinding today,” Freeman said. “It was a long road trip, especially yesterday, that was a long day. Credit to the guys in this clubhouse. Huge by Bobby to go out and give us a great game.”
David Peralta (2 for 4) accounted for two of the Dodgers’ six hits. Victor Gonzalez, Justin Bruihl and Shelby Miller each threw a scoreless inning in relief.