Reds disrupt Miller on bases; Cardinals batting .215 after nine games

News-DemocratApril 9, 2014 

— Shelby Miller's pitching line Wednesday afternoon will go into the books as a quality start.

The St. Louis Cardinals' second-year right-hander limited the Cincinnati Reds to three runs on seven hits in six innings, but slipped to 0-2 with a 6.35 ERA in a 4-0 loss.

Miller allowed a two-run homer to Devin Mesoraco and was too deliberate to the plate as the Reds pilfered two bases against him --Billy Hamilton in the fifth and Todd Frazier in the sixth.

Last season, Miller led the Cardinals' pitching staff in stolen bases allowed with nine. It's part of his game that clearly needs improvement, and manager Mike Matheny addressed the topic after the game.

"He was a little longer (to the plate) than what he normally is," Matheny said. "After a couple of throw-overs (to first), a couple of quick ones, they would get all over him when he did take a little more time.

"You can't do that. It doesn't matter if Yadi (Molina) is behind the plate or anybody else in the history of the game. If you don't keep your times down, they're going to take bags on you, and it hurt us today."

Miller said he "kind of gave (Hamilton) a little leeway," a mistake that can't be made considering Hamilton's otherworldly speed.

"Obviously, he's a huge threat when he's on the bases," Miller said. "He's fast. I've never really seen somebody run the bases like he has. You've got to make sure you're watching him and mixing up your times (to the plate). You can't give him any leverage when he's on the bases at all."

Miller was most disconcerted about the home run to Mesoraco that gave Cincinnati a 2-0 lead in the fourth. Miller has allowed a staff-high four homers in 11 1/3 innings.

"I went back and looked at it," Miller said of a fastball that Mesoraco whacked 410 feet into the left-center bleachers. "It was down. It was away, but it wasn't off the plate. It was on the plate. It was where we wanted it. He just put a good swing on it. What can you do?"

Team average falls

The Cardinals were 4-for-28 against Mike Leake and reliever Manny Parra as their team average fell to .215.

It's the second-lowest average in franchise history after nine games; the lowest was .203 in 1914.

Are the Cardinals fortunate to be 5-4?

"I don't look at it that way," Matheny said. "I do believe there's more in our tank offensively. We've done a lot of things right, done some things wrong and things we know we want to get better at.

"Right now, we'll take the off day (Thursday). We've got a long run of (26) games after this. Hopefully, we'll throw some good, consistent offensive approaches together and hope our pitchers keep doing what they've been doing."

Matheny tweaks lineup

Jon Jay played right field for the slumping Allen Craig, but was 0-for-3 and bounced into a pair of double plays from the seventh spot in the order. Jay is batting .182 (2-for-11) in six games.

"I wanted to get Jay going," Matheny said before the game. "I definitely want to get Allen Craig going. ... He's real close; he really is. I know he feels it. We're seeing some things that look like it. We're just kind of breaking it up, giving him a couple of days here to get things changed."

Craig has started all eight games and is batting .097 (3-for-31). He was 1-for-8 with two strikeouts in the series, and also grounded into two double plays.

"I don't think anybody deals with it well," Matheny said of Craig's skid. "It's amazing how it's magnified when it's the beginning of the season. This happens in June, July, people just say he's kind of a little rut. Everything is a little more magnified when you start the season.

"Everybody wants to have a good start, no question. He'll be fine. He's just got to go through it, figure it out. He'll be right where he's always been here soon."

Progress for Ellis

Backup second baseman Mark Ellis, on the disabled list with tendinitis in his left knee, ran in the outfield before the game under a trainer's supervision.

"I don't have a timetable, but he's making really good progress," Matheny said. "I've been throwing to him in batting practice and you can tell he's getting there. He feels good defensively as well as swinging the bat. It will just be a matter of time."

The Cardinals have not determined whether Ellis will require a minor-league rehab.

"It's not necessarily something that has to happen," Matheny said. "We'll just kind of watch and see how he's doing."

Contact reporter David Wilhelm at dwilhelm@bnd.com or 239-2665. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidMWilhelm.

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