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Cardinals' Miller throws 1-hit shutout

The SportsXchange

ST. LOUIS -- With two words, St. Louis manager Mike Matheny described what it took Shelby Miller 113 pitches to author on Friday night.

"Simply incredible," Matheny said of his rookie pitcher.

After yielding a broken-bat leadoff single to Eric Young, Miller retired the last 27 men he faced for his first career shutout as the Cardinals started a 10-game homestand with a 3-0 win over Colorado.

Teaming a 95-mile per hour fastball with a knee-bending breaking ball, Miller fanned 13, including seven on a called third strike. Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki, the third and fourth-place hitters in a Rockies lineup that entered the game averaging five runs per game, were caught looking a combined five times.

"Location," Gonzalez said when asked what made Miller so good. "You combine that with (catcher Yadier Molina) calling pitches back there, you've got something. He just hit his spots all night long."

Miller (5-2) ended his masterpiece in style, blowing a 95 mph heater past Young on the inside corner for a called third strike as the crowd of 37,800 roared and chanted his name.

It was the first complete game at any level of pro baseball for Miller, who lowered his earned run average to 1.58 for a starting rotation that owns a Major League-best ERA of 2.20.

"The finish was unbelievable," he said. "I've said it over and over: Whatever Yadi calls, I throw. We were going to the same thing all night. We were getting the hitters off my fastball with the breaking ball when we needed to and it made my fastball better."

The 22-year-old Miller was regarded as St. Louis' top prospect coming into last year, but struggled at times for Class AAA Memphis, going 11-10 with a 4.74 ERA in 27 starts. What's more, he was passed over for promotions at various points as Joe Kelly and Trevor Rosenthal made it to St. Louis before he did in early September.

Miller was impressive in six late-season games for the Cardinals, then beat out Kelly for the No. 5 spot in the rotation during spring training.

"It was one of the better outings you could ask for from anybody," Matheny said of Miller's effort. "The composure he's shown and the pitches he's made, you can use them as an example for a lot of young pitchers in our system."

Matheny had Miller on a short leash in the ninth, intending to bring closer Edward Mujica in if anyone reached base. But Miller wasn't going to be denied, finishing an outing that even impressed the man he beat.

"He was on, getting early strikes and then finishing guys off," Colorado starter Jon Garland said.

Garland (3-3) lasted five innings, allowing seven hits and all three runs while walking three and striking out five. Reliever Edgmer Escalona followed with three scoreless innings, but all it did was keep the final score respectable.

St. Louis took a 1-0 lead in the second on Pete Kozma's two-out, two-strike single to right field that scored Jon Jay. Carlos Beltran made it 2-0 in the third, jumping on a first-pitch fastball from Garland and launching a 409-foot homer into the right field seats, his ninth of the year.

Jay finished the scoring in the fifth when he lofted a sacrifice fly to center, plating Matt Holliday. Beltran and Molina each had two hits for the Cardinals, which rapped out 10 hits but also stranded 10 runners, including six in scoring position.

It was the eighth win in nine games for St. Louis (22-12), which maintained a three-game lead over Cincinnati in the National League Central. The Rockies (19-16) dropped their third straight game and fell a game back of San Francisco in the NL West, pending the result of the Giants game Friday night.

Surrounded by media after his dominant display, Miller didn't hide his pride.

"Best game I've ever pitched," he said. "It was a night I won't forget."

NOTES: This series features two of the game's top pitching staffs in terms of inducing grounders. St. Louis leads the National League with a 65.4 groundball rate and Colorado is third at 60.4. ... In a reversal of club history, the Rockies entered Friday night's game as the league leaders in road batting average (.276) and slugging percentage (.451). ... Molina extended his hitting streak to 10 games with a third-inning single. That's the team's longest streak this year.
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