WASHINGTON, D.C.: Oddly, coming out of the Washington Nationals’ stirring, come-from-behind, 14-12 win over the Miami Marlins on Thursday, Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez said his first thought was that he had to get Justin Miller right. His team battled back from a 9-0 deficit and somehow got away with a win, but the manager’s focus was on Miller, who’d given up a double and a walk to the two batters he faced in that game, both of whom scored on a three-run home run off Kelvin Herrera.
“After the game, it’s funny, cause I sat there and the first thing I thought about was trying to fix Justin Miller,” Martinez explained, “and trying to get him to relax a little bit. Those were my thoughts.
“Cause we need him, he’s a big part of what we do, and I just need him to kind of relax and be that guy, I mean, he just had an unbelievable outing for us in Philly.
“We ask him to do things he’s not comfortable doing and he’s been doing it, so he’s a big part of what we have going on and he will be a big part of what we have going on.”
As of the middle of the afternoon on Friday, Miller said they hadn’t had a one-on-one talk, though Martinez did address the relief corps as a group.
“He hasn’t talked to me personally one on one. He went out there and was talking to us bullpen guys as a group, and it was pretty good,” the reliever explained.
“But yeah, of course, I’m not happy with myself,” Miller said.
“Yesterday’s outing I go out there give up a double [Starlin Castro] and a tough at bat [with Derek Dietrich] but wind up walking him when I think I could have had him.
“I think I had him 1-2 and he winds up working a walk, and then Kelvin comes in, but hey, that’s the nature of the beast, just part of the game, part of being in the bullpen.”
Miller got up 0-2 on Dietrich in that at bat, which ended up going on for ten pitches, with the right-hander unable to put the hitter away, as Dietrich took two pitches, one low and one high, fouled of four others, and spit on a 3-2 offering up out of the zone.
The outing was the seventh in his last ten to that point in which Miller was charged with at least a run, but he said he’s felt fine on the mound in a stretch that saw him go on three straight days and then in back-to-back outings in the finale with the Sox and opener with the Fish.
Miller’s time in the Nationals’ bullpen started with 10 2⁄3 scoreless, in which he gave up two hits, struck out 21 batters, and didn’t walk anyone.
Over 12 innings before the second of four with the Marlins in D.C. on Friday night, he’d given up 14 hits, eight walks and nine earned runs, striking out 13.
“The last few outings have been pretty good,” Miller said.
“Philly, I pitched good there, battled with that extra innings game, I mean it was three days in a row so that was kind of tough and just gave it everything I had.”
As for Martinez’s comments about Miller being asked to do things he’s not comfortable doing, Miller said that’s the role.
“That’s what I signed up for,” Miller said. “I didn’t sign a contract to be a seventh, eighth, or ninth-inning guy.”
Friday night, the right-hander got the ball in the sixth, when starter Gio Gonzalez was lifted after five, and worked around a leadoff single, with two outs on a 6-4-3 DP and K from the opposing pitcher wrapping up a quick 16-pitch, 10-strike frame.
Martinez said after the 3-2 walk-off win he thought Miller looked much better on the mound.
“Yes, he did. I talked to him today a little bit and just told him relax and have fun, and you’re a big part of our bullpen and you’ve done great, so just go out there relax and have fun and try to keep that ball down. I said you’re really good when you’re down [in the zone], and I showed him the percentages of his fastballs and swings and misses, and he appreciated that, and he was really good tonight.”