Braves’ Shelby Miller, making his 89th career start, delivers a pitch to the Rockies during the first inning in a baseball game on Wednesday, August 26, 2015, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com
Photo: Curtis Compton
Photo: Curtis Compton

Braves’ Miller blows lead in loss to Rockies, is winless in 18 starts

Nearly 3 ½ months after coming within one out of throwing a no-hitter, Braves ace Shelby Miller still has not recorded another win. And Wednesday night, it was a bad bounce and a big blown lead by Miller that continued the streak.

His winless skid reached further historic proportions when he blew a 3-0 lead against the Rockies, giving up four runs in the seventh inning of a 6-3 Braves loss at Turner Field. It was the 18th consecutive winless start for Miller, the longest by any Braves pitcher in one season since the team moved to Atlanta in 1966.

The Braves, losers of nine of their past 10 games, dropped the series and fell to 1-6 against Colorado. The Rockies had won only two of their previous 14 games before taking the last two in the poorly attended three-game series.

“We come every day to try to get a win, and it seems like we can’t do it consistently,” said Braves second baseman Jace Peterson, who had three hits including a double, and two sacrifice bunts. “So, yeah, we’re frustrated. I thought Shelby threw a great game. He had that one inning where things kind of got out of hand, but I thought he threw great, gave us a chance. We were right there at the end of the ballgame, still had a chance to win it, so we kept fighting.”

Miller (5-11) worked out of trouble in each of the first two innings and got some support in the sixth via consecutive home runs from Jonny Gomes and Adonis Garcia to start the inning, pushing the lead to 3-0.

But after getting 15 outs in a 14-batter span through the sixth, including four consecutive perfect innings, Miller ran into a wall in the seventh. The Rockies batted around in the inning, getting five hits against Miller, including a two-out, high-chop infield single from Charlie Blackmon that drove in the second run.

““There was some bad luck,” said manager Fredi Gonzalez, whose Braves have lost 31 of 43 games since their 42-42 start. “He made a nice pitch to Blackmon and the ball hit off the plate and got up in the air, we couldn’t get anybody out.

Blackmon’s single was followed by a two-run triple from Jose Reyes for a 4-3 lead. One intentional walk later, Peter Moylan replaced Miller and got the final out of the inning.

“I just got in a little rut there and the momentum just kind of kept going for them,” said Miller, who was charged with nine hits, four runs and two walks with seven strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings.

He fell to 0-10 with a 3.24 ERA in his past 18 starts, the longest single-season winless streak in Atlanta franchise history and four starts from matching the record of 22 winless starts by the Braves’ Carl Morton from mid-September 1975 to mid-July 1976.

The 10 consecutive losses is the most by any Braves starter since the Boston Braves’ Many Salvo lost 10 straight decisions in 1941.

“We’ve seen some strange things happen this year,” Peterson said. “It’s terrible, but I know he’s going to keep battling and we’re going to get him a win here pretty soon.”

The Braves had another chance to tie or regain the lead after loading the bases with two out in the seventh, but Andrelton Simmons grounded out to end the inning. The Rockies added a two-run homer by Brandon Barnes in the eighth against reliever Edwin Jackson to open a 6-3 lead.

For much of the night it looked like Miller had a bump of good karma from Mitch Miller, his father, who works for the fire department in Brownwood, Texas, and was among those who threw out ceremonial first pitches before the game. The International Association of Fire Chiefs is having its annual Fire-Rescue Conference and Expo this week in Atlanta.

But the upbeat night turned sour when Miller gave up four runs in the seventh, wiping away his potential win. His 18-start winless streak surpassed a 17-start drought by Morton in 1976 as the longest single-season drought in Atlanta history.

It was already the longest in major league history by any pitcher within a season in which he made an All-Star team, easily surpassing the previous record of 13 consecutive winless starts by Nolan Ryan of the 1983 Astros.

Gomes and Garcia feasted on left-hander Yohan Flande, hitting back-to-back jacks three pitches apart off Flande, who was chased from the game when Jace Peterson followed with a double that bounced over the center-field fence.

Gomes started the first and last games of the series against lefties and homered in each. Garcia has played 31 games and the rookie already has six homers, fifth-most among current Braves.

Miller worked out of trouble in each of the first two innings. After giving up consecutive one-out singles in the first, Miller struck out DJ LeMahieu and Ben Paulsen to end the inning. When the Rockies loaded the bases with none out in the second, Miller escaped by striking out Flande and inducing a double-play grounder from Blackmon.

The Braves took a 1-0 lead in the second when Gomes drew a leadoff walk, Garcia singled, Peterson advanced the runners with a sacrifice bunt, and Christian Bethancourt grounded out to score Gomes. In the sixth, the lead grew when the Braves hit back-to-back homers for the third time this season.

Miller entered with just a 5-10 record despite a 2.50 ERA that was the sixth-best among NL starters. He had the worst run support among major league starters at 2.56 per nine innings pitched before Wednesday, and during his winless streak that support had shrunk to just 1.55 runs per nine innings.

He got about twice that Wednesday, to no avail.

“I felt good. I felt like we had good command of our pitches,” Miller said. “Betty (catcher Chirstian Bethancourt) called a great game…. You give up some good at-bats, and then you go out there and make some pitches and don’t have anything to show for it. At the same time, that’s part of the game. And that’s what happened.”

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