It’s getting to the point where Braves right-hander Shelby Miller may have to throw a no-hitter to win a game.
That’s not much of an exaggeration. Miller last won when he allowed no hits through 8 2/3 innings at Miami on May 17. He couldn’t get the win on Sunday at Turner Field in spite of holding the Diamondbacks without a hit through seven.
At least the Braves got the victory. Cameron Maybin hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 10th to send the Braves to a 2-1 victory before they begin a seven-game trip in San Diego on Monday.
Miller allowed two hits and a run while striking out 10 batters over seven-plus innings but had to settle for a no decision. That made it 16 starts in a row without a win for Miller, who has a 3.03 ERA during that span.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Miller is the only pitcher since 1920 to have a winless streak that long with an ERA as low. The victory over the Diamondbacks was just the second for the Braves during Miller’s personal winless streak.
“I’m going out there every time and trying to put up zeros,” Miller said. “At the end of the day, we got a win and that’s awesome.”
Diamondbacks shortstop Nick Ahmed ended Miller’s no-hit bid when he led off the eighth with a pop-up single that dropped in shallow right field. Miller had to settle for no decision when Ender Inciarte tied the game with a fielder’s choice RBI.
The Braves had a chance to win the game in the bottom of the ninth when Andrelton Simmons singled and pinch hitter Jonny Gomes walked with two outs. Michael Bourn hit a drive to right-center field but center fielder Inciarte made a diving catch to force extra innings.
Maybin hit the game-winning home run against Diamondbacks reliever David Hernandez.
“It was a big win,” Maybin said. “Shelby again goes out and does a good job and gave us a chance to be in another game. We did a great job of competing and grinding.”
Miller walked the first two batters of the game and then dominated. He retired 21 of the next 23 batters, with walks to Inciarte in the third inning and David Peralta in the seventh the only base runners allowed until the eighth.
After Ahmed got Arizona’s first hit, pinch hitter Jarrod Saltalamacchia followed with a sharp single off second baseman Jace Peterson’s glove to move Ahmed to third. Ross Detwiler replaced Miller and Inciarte hit a ground ball to shortstop Simmons to score a run was that was charged to Miller.
It’s not clear Miller would have gotten the chance to continue his no-hit bid even if he’d made it through the eighth inning.
Manager Fredi Gonzalez said he didn’t have a set pitch limit in mind but wouldn’t risk an injury to Miller to allow him to go for it. Miller left the game having thrown 109 pitches.
“I think I’ve thrown 160 pitches in a high school game one time,” Miller said. “I’m constantly reminding (Gonzalez) of that if he wants me to go that deep. No, obviously Fredi knows what he’s doing as a manager. I kind of knew when I gave up that hit to ‘Salty,’ I was coming out. Our bullpen came in and did a great job and Cam hitting the homer is huge.”
Miller helped his own cause by helping push across the Braves’ first run and making a fine defensive play.
Inciarte led off the sixth inning with a sharp ground ball through the middle. Miller stopped it by blindly reaching behind his back and snagging the ball.
“When something like that happens, you start thinking about the no-hitter,” Maybin said.
“I got kind of lucky,” Miller said.
In the fifth inning, Jace Peterson singled and Andrelton Simmons singled with one out to bring up Miller up to bat against a drawn-in infield. He never had to swing his bat to reach base.
Miller took a strike on the first pitch and also watched the next four. De La Rosa was visibly upset about not getting strike calls from umpire Chris Segal on two of them.
Michael Bourn followed with a ground ball to shortstop Nick Ahmed, who tried to field it as Andrelton Simmons crossed in front of him. Ahmed booted it, allowing Jace Peterson to score. Maybin struck out and Nick Markakis flied out to end the inning.
Miller began the game by immediately getting himself into trouble by walking Inciarte and No. 2 hitter Aaron Hill. He got out of it with his superlative fastball and a sensational catch by left fielder Bourn.
After Miller struck out Paul Goldschmidt with a 96 mph fastball, David Peralta hit a line drive to foul territory in deep left field. Bourn sprinted from his position and, at the last moment, laid out to make the catch before sliding into the wall.
“He’s incredible,” Miller said. “That’s one of the best catches I’ve seen.”
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Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC