Bobby Miller's career-worst start sinks his year and the Dodgers' rotation to a new low

PHILADELPHIA – Bobby Miller’s uniform was sopping with sweat as Mark Prior greeted him on the mound in the fourth inning. As much as he tried, the sweat would not cease. Nor would the beatdown that faced him. Little has gone right this year for Miller, the budding Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher of the future who so loudly announced his presence last summer.

After Prior’s visit, Miller delivered a first-pitch slider to Trea Turner. It spun over the heart of the plate. The Philadelphia Phillies shortstop punished it, swatting a grand slam that turned a rout into a laugher. By the seventh inning of the miserably hot night, utility man Kiké Hernández was pitching, and he delivered the best performance of the night. Austin Barnes was playing second base.

“Tonight was embarrassing,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said after what ended as a 10-1 loss.

That fourth inning would be Miller’s last inning of the night. He gave up nine runs, pushing his ERA to 8.07 in his seven starts. Getting right has been a slog.

“I have some work to do,” Miller said.

Trouble followed him all night. A two-out walk in the second inning opened the door to a three-run frame, with two runs coming home on Kyle Schwarber’s single into the right-center field gap. The bottom third of the Phillies’ order stung three consecutive hits to push across another run by the time Turner strode to the plate in the fourth. The first-pitch slider Miller threw wound up in the left field seats.

“You face a team like that and you make unexecuted pitches, they put good swings on it every time,” Roberts said. “There was some unlucky stuff in there as well. I didn’t think that grand slam was hit too hard, but at the same time it wasn’t a great pitch.”

Miller has insisted he feels healthy after missing two months with right shoulder inflammation, though his velocity was once again down from his norms. Known for his triple-digit velocity, he hasn’t hit 100 mph since his opening start of the season. He hasn’t hit 98 mph in either of his past two starts. Testing on his shoulder has led the Dodgers to think he’s healthy, Roberts said. Both he and Miller hypothesized something could be off with Miller’s delivery.

“Stuff just doesn’t have enough bite to it right now,” Miller said.

He’ll have the All-Star break to figure out why. But no one expected this.

“I’m a little shell-shocked right now, given what he’s done, expecting him to continue to take steps forward and to see where we’re at,” Roberts said.

It’s never a good time to have an ERA that starts with an eight, but this is hardly a good time for the Dodgers pitching staff. The club as a whole has largely trod water for the last month. There are currently 12 different Dodgers pitchers on the injured list, with Tyler Glasnow added hours before Miller’s start on Tuesday afternoon. Since Yoshinobu Yamamoto went on the injured list on June 16, Dodgers starters have a 5.67 ERA in 101 2/3 innings — the second-worst mark in baseball.

“Winning baseball games, sustaining winning, stems and starts with starting pitching,” Roberts said. Nights like Tuesday haven’t been as few and far between as they once were.

There isn’t an immediate answer. As it stands now, Miller is one of four rookies in this Dodgers rotation alongside James Paxton, a veteran in the midst of trying to discover something that works consistently with his current arsenal.

The Dodgers are hopeful Glasnow won’t miss much time. They think Clayton Kershaw might be able to return after a couple of rehab starts. But their position is clear. Few expected the Dodgers to add pitching to their shopping lists this summer. Now, they may be one of the most pitching-needy teams in the sport.

(Photo of Miller reacting to a home run: Mitchell Leff / Getty Images)

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