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First-inning failures haunt Shelby Miller in Cardinals' loss

Wednesday, June 12, 2013 | 11:47 p.m. CDT; updated 1:18 a.m. CDT, Thursday, June 13, 2013
Cardinals starting pitcher Shelby Miller reacts as New York Mets' David Wright runs the bases after hitting a home run in Wednesday's game in New York.

NEW YORK — Shelby Miller can do without the first inning.

No, Miller's not talking about that dominant outing in which he gave up a leadoff hit before retiring 27 in a row. He's bemoaning the fact he's only had one perfect opening inning in his 13 starts this season.

Miller gave up two of his career-worst four runs in the first Wednesday night, and the St. Louis Cardinals' streaking offense was stifled by Dillon Gee in a 5-1 loss to the New York Mets.

"I've never really had a three-up, three-down first inning," Miller said. "It kind of sets the tone, giving up two runs."

Lucas Duda and David Wright homered against Miller, and Marlon Byrd connected later for the Mets as they snapped a three-game skid and improved to 2-6 in June. Duda drove in two runs, including a first-inning single that scored Daniel Murphy from first base.

"I simply didn't execute," Miller said. "A curveball right down the middle to Duda, a fastball right down the middle to Wright. I made mistakes and they capitalized on them."

Despite his difficulties in the first inning, Miller (7-4) has solidified a spot in the Cardinals' rotation with surprising consistency for a 22-year-old. The four runs the Mets scored off him were the most he's allowed in 19 big league appearances — 13 starts this season. He had allowed three runs three times this year and his ERA is 2.21, up from 1.91 going into the game.

Miller struck out 10 without a walk in six innings.

St. Louis manager Mike Matheny thinks Miller needs to learn to be more precise.

"There are times that it's not just selection (of pitches), but execution," Matheny said. "Sometimes young pitchers with early success in their careers fall into this. It is a tough league, good hitters — they make adjustments. They call this a game of adjustments for a reason."

The Mets did not score against Miller over 5 2-3 innings on May 15 but were able to go ahead in the first when Wright lined a two-out double to right-center and scored on Murphy's single.

Running on a pitch to Duda, Murphy, not known for his speed, scored from first when right fielder Carlos Beltran played the line drive down the first base line lackadaisically and made his throw to second base.

"What a great read. He never slowed down," Byrd said. "That's what we need — aggressive."

With one out in the fourth, Duda homered into the Cardinals' bullpen in right-center to end a run of eight straight outs by Miller that began after Duda's RBI single in the first.

The first-inning runs against Miller were enough for Gee.

With prized pitching prospect Zack Wheeler nearing his promotion to the big leagues, Gee (5-6) has done everything possible to protect his spot in the rotation. The right-hander has yielded only three earned runs over 21 innings in his past three starts — all wins.

"I think he's back, I really do," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "It's the Dillon Gee we've seen in the past. He's a strike thrower with all his pitches."

A day after being named NL captain for the Home Run Derby during All-Star week at Citi Field, Wright hit a long ball into the center-field seats just to the right of the Big Apple in the sixth.

The NL Central-leading Cardinals entered with the league's best batting average at .277 but could get little going against Gee, who is on a three-game run that's as good as Miller has been all season.

Gee scattered six hits and struck out seven in 6 2-3 innings. He gave up a one-out homer in the sixth to Allen Craig — his second in two days against the Mets.

The recent success could not have come at a better time for the crafty Gee, because the Mets plan to call up Wheeler to start one game of Tuesday's doubleheader in Atlanta. While Collins said everyone would get their turn through the rotation, a pitcher will likely be demoted to the bullpen after that to make room for Wheeler — and it most likely will be Gee or Jeremy Hefner.

Byrd homered off Seth Maness in the seventh.

David Freese went 0 for 4 for the Cardinals, ending his career-best hitting streak at 20 games — longest in the majors this season.


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