Last week, Houston’s Wade Miller got the best of a pitcher who has been one of the strongest in the National League this season.
With his team fighting for a playoff berth, Miller will need to be just as effective in the rematch as he leads the Astros against Hideo Nomo and the Los Angeles Dodgers in the opener of a three-game series.
On Wednesday, Miller gave up one unearned run and seven hits in seven innings of a 6-1 win over the Dodgers—his fourth victory in five decisions.
The Dodgers scored four runs in the first off Nomo, highlighted by Jeff Bagwell’s three-run homer, to help Miller cruise to the win.
“It relaxes you to the point where you go out there and throw strikes,” Miller said of having an early lead. “You go after them and make them hit the ball and make them swing at your pitches. You’ve got to make them swing the bats.”
Miller was 4-1 with a 1.69 ERA in five August starts.
“I feel like I’m throwing the ball the way I should be throwing it,” Miller said. “Mechanically, I was off for a few months but it feels good. I’m back where I need to be.
“I have one month left. I’d like to pitch better in September,” he added. “That’s the biggest point of the season, last month of the season with the pennant chase. I just want to keep it up in September.”
Nomo, on the other hand, gave up six runs—five earned—and seven hits in five innings of the loss to Miller and the Astros, just his second loss in his last eight decisions.
“I was feeling good, but I just have to say the opponent was better tonight,” Nomo said.
The Dodgers beat Colorado 3-0 on Sunday, but remained 1 1/2 games behind Philadelphia and Florida in the National League wild-card race.
Closer Eric Gagne tied a major league record with his 54th consecutive save, including 46 straight this season.
“It’s a good record because every time (I) get one, it’s going to be a win,” Gagne said.
The Astros lost 3-1 to San Diego on Sunday to fall one game behind first-place St. Louis in the NL Central.
STANDINGS: Astros - 2nd place, 1 GB, NL Central. Dodgers - 2nd place, 11 GB, NL West.
ASTROS PROBABLE STARTER: Miller (11-11, 4.21 ERA). Miller is 2-1 with a 3.10 ERA in three career starts against Los Angeles.
DODGERS PROBABLE STARTER: Nomo (15-10, 2.86 ERA). Nomo is 3-7 with a 4.35 ERA in 15 career starts against Houston.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Astros - Richard Hidalgo, .302 avg.; Bagwell, 31 HRs, 93 runs and 8 SBs; Lance Berkman, 81 RBIs. Dodgers - Paul Lo Duca, .283 avg.; Jeremy Burnitz, 26 HRs and 68 RBIs; Shawn Green, 70 runs; Dave Roberts, 35 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Astros, 2-1.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Astros - C Brad Ausmus is 8-for-25 (.320) all-time against RHP Nomo. … To make room for C Mitch Meluskey on the roster, the Astros technically sent RHP Miller to Double-A Round Rock (Texas) on Friday. Miller, who never actually reported to Round Rock, will be activated Monday to make his start. … RF Hidalgo went 1-for-13 against Los Angeles last week. Dodgers - RHP Gagne’s last blown save during the regular season—and his only one at Dodger Stadium in the last two years—was on Aug. 26, 2002, against Arizona. … OF Roberts, who injured his neck on a headfirst slide Saturday, said he could return as early as Monday. … RHP Nomo is 7-6 with a 3.30 ERA in 14 home starts this season.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Astros - 29-36 on the road; Dodgers - 40-29 at home.
INJURIES: Astros - LHP Carlos Hernandez (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Roy Oswalt (groin), 15-day DL; RHP Brian Moehler (elbow), 60-day DL; RHP Rodrigo Rosario (shoulder), 60-day DL. Dodgers - C Todd Hundley (back), 15-day DL; OF Brian Jordan (knee), 15-day DL; LHP Troy Brohawn (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Darren Dreifort (knee), 60-day DL; LHP Derek Thompson (elbow), 60-day DL; OF Roberts (neck), day-to-day.