Shelby Miller may only have five weeks of experience pitching at Triple-A, but he's already turning into a leader on the mound. On Tuesday, he took on the role of stopper.
MLB.com's No. 4 prospect scattered three hits over six scoreless innings in the Memphis Redbirds' 6-0 win over the Colorado Springs Sky Sox to snap a nine-game losing streak.
"The clubhouse was down," the 21-year-old Texas native said. "Baseball's just not fun when you're losing, especially nine in a row. Winning was key for the game today.
"I didn't want to go out there and get the loss. After last night, I wanted to be the guy that changed that."
Miller stranded runners on first and second in the first inning, and he worked around Chad Tracy's leadoff base hit in the second.
The Cardinals' top prospect then walked Hernan Iribarren and yielded a two-out double to Matt McBride in the third, but he retired the next 10 batters he faced before turning over a 6-0 lead to the bullpen.
"It was probably my best so far," said Miller, who threw 56 of 89 pitches for strikes. "I was just looking for a win. The team put a shutout together and we got a 'W'.
"I really didn't throw the off-speed much. I threw a couple curveballs and changeups, but my out pitch was definitely my fastball. I got a lot of pitches in play with it and I think all of my strikeouts were on fastballs. It's obviously my best pitch and it was working tonight."
Miller's best Triple-A start -- and his fourth victory -- didn't come easily. The Redbirds were held without a hit until the fifth inning by Rob Scahill (3-4), who kept the game scoreless until Memphis pounced for six runs -- five earned -- in the home half of the fifth.
"It's tough when you know the other pitcher is going well," said Miller, selected 19th overall in the 2009 Draft. "He had a no-hitter through four innings and you knew he was on top of his game. It brings out the best in you because you want to do better than he is."
The 6-foot-3 right-hander has now won four consecutive decisions, and he has not lost since dropping consecutive games to Oklahoma City at the start of the season.
In eight Pacific Coast League games, Miller has a 3.79 ERA with 48 strikeouts in 40 1/3 innings. He has issued 18 free passes and allowed five homers, and opponents are batting .291 against him.
With plenty of room for improvement, the Cardinals' Minor League Pitcher of the Year hopes to replicate Tuesday's performance in his next couple outings.
"I'm just getting stronger and working out really hard and doing the right things between starts," he said. "Triple-A is a grind, the whole Minor Leagues are. But here is a tough league to pitch in. The hitters are better. I didn't think it would be as big of a jump, but there's no doubt that Triple-A hitters are much better than at Double-A."
And Miller's schedule between starts?
"Day one is usually legs, all lower body, and the second day after a start I throw my bullpen. Then it's upper body on day three, I'm off on the fourth day and then I pitch again on the fifth.
"I'm pitching more than I'm throwing and it's all coming together. Hopefully I can get better. You can always get better somewhere. I have to keep doing all the right things; getting my running and lifting right and making sure I'm on top of my game 24/7."
On Tuesday, left-hander Barret Browning struck out one batter over an inning of relief, fellow southpaw Sam Freeman tossed a perfect eighth and Chuckie Fick worked around a pair of hits to complete the shutout.
First baseman Matt Adams smacked a three-run homer -- his seventh longball of the year -- and second baseman Pete Kozma plated two runs in the win.