ST. LOUIS — Top prospect Shelby Miller gave St. Louis Cardinals fans a glimpse into the future Wednesday.
Miller, who could be in the 2013 rotation, pending offseason developments, made his first career start after five relief appearances and took a no-hitter into the sixth inning against Cincinnati.
Wilson Valdez's bloop single ended the dream, but Miller subdued the Reds on one hit in six innings while walking two and striking out seven in a game the Cardinals won 1-0 to end the regular season.
"I felt good," Miller said. "I didn't really know how I was going to feel going into it, as far as my arm. I hadn't started since whenever it was (Aug. 31), but the arm felt good and I went deep into the game, which is great. I couldn't really ask for more."
Fifty-two of Miller's 72 pitches were strikes, and he fanned five of six batters during one stretch.
Miller even recorded the first two hits of his career: a third-inning double to left-center against Homer Bailey and a fifth-inning single to left against Jose Arredondo.
"That's funny because I didn't get any hits in Memphis this year," Miller said. "It was awesome doing that. I finally put something into play. It seemed like in Triple-A, I was striking out almost every at-bat. (So) it was an exciting feeling."
Miller, who turns 22 next Wednesday, was the Cardinals' No. 1 draft pick in 2009. He was 11-10 with a 4.74 ERA at Class AAA Memphis after a sluggish start to the season.
Many of Miller's Memphis teammates were on the field with him Wednesday, as Adron Chambers started in left, Shane Robinson in center, Bryan Anderson at first base, Ryan Jackson at second base and Pete Kozma at shortstop.
The Reds, who started their regulars, had difficulty centering any of Miller's pitches. Miller allowed little hard contact throughout his performance, and struck out Joey Votto, Ryan Ludwick, Jay Bruce and Scott Rolen once apiece.
"Shelby looked terrific," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "He went out there against a very good team that put their lineup out there that's going to be (the same) as the first day in the playoffs.
"One of the most impressive things was how he was able to keep his mental focus. Being put on the shelf quite a bit, throwing a little bit out of the pen, to be able to come out and do that, he had to stay sharp. It was just an overall exciting day."
Fans began being intrigued by the no-hit possibility in the fifth, and livened up even more in the sixth when Miller retired the Reds' first two hitters, Chris Heisey and Miguel Cairo.
But the air went out of the balloon when Valdez dropped a soft liner well out of the reach of Jackson.
Fans gave Miller a long ovation after the hit. Miller set down his final hitter of the game, Votto, on a check-swing roller to first.
Miller was well aware that he was working on a no-hitter.
"After the fourth, you look at the scoreboard and know you've got it going, but you don't want to think about it too much," Miller said. "I had good focus out there. I felt good. Whatever happened, happened. I was just following (catcher Tony) Cruz."
Matheny said it would have been difficult to remove Miller as long as the no-no was intact.
"I don't think I could have taken him out if he hadn't given up a hit," Matheny said. "We weren't too afraid of hurting him in that situation, and his (pitch) count was low. He was only at 70. That's about what we wanted from him."
Miller's status for next year depends on a couple of variables.
If, as expected, Kyle Lohse departs via free agency, the Cardinals would have six starters for five spots: Miller, Chris Carpenter, Jake Westbrook, Adam Wainwright, Jaime Garcia and Lance Lynn.
Carpenter's health, as always, will be a question mark until the club sees him in spring training. But he has successfully come back from thoracic outlet syndrome surgery and pitched well in three late-season starts.
It's not out of the question that Miller could spend another year, or part of the season, at Memphis. This season was his first at the Triple-A level, and there could be more to learn for Miller in the high minors.
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2665.