The most promising part about the Nationals’ 13-3 tear over their past 16 games might be this: They have gone 9-2 in games started by Stephen Strasburg, Ross Detwiler, Brad Peacock and last night’s starter, Tommy Milone.
Milone did not have a huge impact on the Nationals’ 6-4 win last night, allowing three runs in 4 1/3 innings. But with his 2011 season finished, his first cup of coffee drained, Milone can still say he has won every big league game he’s played in – the Nationals went 5-0 in games Milone started.
“It was a learning experience, coming up here and throwing to big league hitters,” Milone said. “I think that was the most important thing for the Nationals, for some of the young guys to come up and to get that experience here.”
This September, Milone posted a 3.81 ERA in 26 innings, striking out 15 while issuing four walks, two of which were intentional. He came basically as advertised. He threw fastballs that would not frighten a pane of glass, but he expertly mixed in cutters and a diving change-up enough to induce plenty of week contact. He led all of minor league baseball in strikeout-to-walk ratio. He was not as dominant in the majors, but he knew he wouldn’t be.
“I knew I wasn’t going to go out there and shut out every team,” Milone said. “They’re big league hitters. I had a lot of strikeouts in the minor leagues, but I didn’t come up here expecting to strike out everybody. My job is to throw strikes and keep as [few] base runners on the base paths as possible.”
Milone never let any game get away from him, with a little help from Manager Davey Johnson and the Nationals’ bullpen. Monday, for instance, he left in the fifth with the bases loaded and one out, and Craig Stammen escaped with minimal damage.
He baffled the Marlins at times, forcing seven swings-and-misses despite throwing his fastest pitch 89 mph. Milone struck out four and his only walk came on an intentional free pass to Mike Stanton, the play that loaded the bases in the fifth. He didn’t feel quite as good as his last start, when he shut out the Phillies over six innings. “I wouldn’t say I felt wild,” Milone said. “But I wasn’t hitting my spots. I was up a little bit more.”
While Milone did not match his success from his last start, he did not leave an altogether sour taste in his final start of 2011. Milone, 24, will join Peacock, Detwiler and others next spring vying for a spot in the starting five.
“There’s a lot of guys hungry to get in this rotation,” Johnson said. “You’ve seen it in September. I don’t care if it was any time of the year. You’re in big league ballgames. You’re pitching and trying to establish.”
FROM THE POST
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