Miller’s spotless season comes to abrupt halt
Well, you knew it was not going to last forever. Andrew Miller was off to one of the best starts of a season for any relief pitcher — until Tuesday night. Opposing hitters had been a combined 0-for-their-last-31 at-bats with 15 strikeouts against Miller until Ryan Zimmerman drove a 3-1 fastball off the right field foul pole for a two-run home run, his 10th career walk-off homer, that sent the Yankees to an 8-6, 10-inning loss.
Miller’s 31 strikeouts were the most by a pitcher prior to allowing his first run of the season in Yankees history. He was one of eight pitchers in major league history (and the only Yankees reliever) to record at least 13 saves in the club’s first 30 games of a season.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Miller is the first pitcher to convert each of his first 13 save opportunities with the club. Even Mariano Rivera did not do that. The streak is still intact because Miller was not in a save situation Tuesday night. He entered the game in the 10th with the score 6-6.
Miller has multiple strikeouts in 10 of his 18 appearances and is averaging 14.95 Ks per nine innings. He has held opposing hitters to a .067 batting average, but that fourth hit in 60 at-bats proved a killer.
After Dellin Betances kept his streak of not allowing an earned run to 20 games with a shutout eighth and ninth, Miller came on in the 10th and got off to a good start by striking out Ian Desmond. After a walk to Yunel Escobar, Miller got a big strikeout of Bryce Harper before falling behind 3-1 in the count to Zimmerman, whose home run dropped the Yankees into a first-place tie with the Rays in the American League East and pushed the Nationals into a first-place tie with the Mets in the National League East.
For a while there it appeared as if the offensive anemia that has plagued the Yankees on the current trip would continue. In the first three innings at Nationals Park, the Yankees went three-up, three-down, all on ground balls against Gio Gonzalez.
Come the fourth inning, however, the Yankees batted around and turned a 2-0 deficit into a 4-2 lead. As efficient as Gonzalez was in the first three innings, he fell out of synch in the fourth. A leadoff walk to Jacoby Ellsbury proved ominous. He advanced to second on a ground ball and scored on a single by Chris Young. Another walk and three straight two-out hits — a double by Chase Headley and singles by Jose Pirela and Stephen Drew — and the Yankees took control.
They padded the lead to 6-2 with two out in the fifth, Gonzalez’s last inning, on a two-run home run by Mark Teixeira. For the second straight start, Nathan Eovaldi could not maintain an early lead. Eovaldi, who had given up solo home runs in the first inning to Desmond and Harper, could not get through the fifth as the Nats cut the deficit to one run on a double by pinch hitter Clint Robinson and singles by Denard Span, Desmond and Escobar.
Lefthander Justin Wilson bailed out Eovaldi by getting Harper, one of the hottest hitters in the game, to ground into a double play. The high note was short-lived as David Carpenter gave up a game-tying home run the next inning to Wilson Ramos, who also extended his hitting streak to 19 games.
After that, the Yankees could muster nothing against the Nationals’ bullpen. Five Washington relievers combined to hold the Yankees scoreless over the final five innings with two hits and one walk allowed and five strikeouts.
Another big loss for the Yankees was that of Ellsbury, who is likely to be placed on the 15-day disabled list Wednesday because of a right knee injury that drove him from the game in the fourth inning.