With several of the Arizona Diamondbacks' veteran starters either on the disabled list or underachieving, rookie Wade Miley has not only emerged as the staff's unlikely anchor, but also as one of the top pitchers in the league.
Miley seeks to become the NL's first rookie with 10 wins before the All-Star break in a decade Saturday night when he, Aaron Hill and the Diamondbacks continue their series in Milwaukee against the Brewers.
Miley (9-3, 2.19 ERA), who maintains rookie status after throwing 40 innings for the Diamondbacks (39-37) in 2011, has pitched well all season but has really hit his stride in recent weeks, lasting seven innings or longer while giving up exactly one run in each of his last four starts. He was dominant against the Chicago Cubs on Sunday, limiting them to three hits and one walk while striking out seven in a 5-1 victory.
The left-hander's ERA ranks fourth in the majors, making him a prime candidate to represent Arizona at the All-Star game.
"I've still got a couple more starts before then," Miley told the Diamondbacks' official website. "I try to keep that out of my head as much as possible. It'd be great but we have two and a half weeks left - have to focus on winning ball games."
If Miley wins one more, he'll become the first Arizona pitcher with 10 wins before the All-Star break since Brandon Webb (13-4) in 2008, and the first NL rookie to do so since 2002, when Kazuhisa Ishii was 11-5 for the Dodgers. He's proving even more valuable to the Diamondbacks with veterans Joe Saunders and Daniel Hudson on the DL, and last year's ace Ian Kennedy sporting a sub-.500 record and an ERA above the league average.
"He doesn't back down from anybody, he just throws strike one every time," catcher Miguel Montero said. "He competes and believes in his stuff."
Miley didn't have his best stuff against Milwaukee (34-42) on May 26, allowing five runs and eight hits in six innings, but it was good enough to get credit for Arizona's 8-5 win.
The Diamondbacks had an even better offensive night in Friday's series opener, winning 9-3 as Hill hit for the cycle for the second time in 12 days. He became the first major leaguer to hit for the cycle twice in one season since Babe Herman in 1931, and the first to do it twice in one calendar month since John Reilly in 1883.
Hill has torched Milwaukee pitching in 2012, going 10 for 15 with three doubles, four RBIs and four runs scored in four games. He's a .607 lifetime hitter versus the Brewers, getting at least one hit in all seven games he's played against them.
"He can really hit," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "This is a really good hitter. We made some bad pitches."
Neither Hill nor any other Arizona hitter has ever faced Michael Fiers (2-2, 2.70), who will take the ball Saturday for Milwaukee. The rookie right-hander enjoyed the best outing of his brief career Sunday, limiting the Chicago White Sox to five hits and one walk over 7 1-3 innings of a contest the Brewers lost 1-0 in 10 innings.
"It's OK. I've got to do my job and the runs we score is what we score," Fiers said. "If I get a loss, it doesn't matter to me. It's putting zeros up on the board and keeping my team in the game and getting a good result."
Milwaukee has lost five of six overall, and three straight against the Diamondbacks.