There was a fair chance Wade Miley never even would have taken the mound on Friday night. Cleveland was pelted by rain, causing an 83-minute delay of the start of the Indians’ Ohio Cup matchup with the Cincinnati Reds, but it was just another anomaly in the baseball life of Miley. Push that rain back to post-warmup and the loosened-up starter is likely scratched from the lineup after a long delay. As luck would have it, they delayed the warmups and Cincinnati’s renaissance man went to work.
It’s been a long, strange trip for the 34-year-old who pitched in his first major league game in 2011. The ‘renaissance’ in this case has a twofold meaning. Not only has the Louisiana native experienced so much in baseball that there are few situations that he has not found himself in, but also during that time, he himself has experienced his own personal renaissance as a pitcher.
Kick it Off With a Bang
The man who’s son put a temporary tattoo of the Incredible Hulk on his forearm before Friday night’s miraculous performance broke into the league with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2011. He made just seven starts, so when he made the team out of Spring training in 2012 the southpaw still qualified as a rookie. That season, Miley took the league by storm. Rookie of the Month. A no-no bid taken into the sixth inning versus the Marlins. An immaculate inning. A nod to the NL All-Star team.
Miley tossed just shy of 200 innings with 29 starts and a trio of appearances from the bullpen, finishing with 16 wins and a 3.33 ERA. It culminated with a second-place finish in National League Rookie of the Year voting. He would have won it, too, if not for Bryce Harper’s 22 homers. Probably still should have, but hype is a hell of an opponent to best.
In 2013 and 2014, Miley regressed. 10 wins in 2013. An 8-12 record in 2014 with a 4.34 ERA. In another example of a man who has seen it all, he smacked his first major league homer during the 2013 season. You name it, he’s done it.
On the Road Again
When it rains, it pours. Miley was traded three times in the next three years. Arizona sent him to Boston, who gave him a three-year extension. Almost one year to the day, Boston shipped he and his two remaining years off to Seattle. Less than eight months later he packed his bags as the Emerald City dished him over to Baltimore. In two seasons with the Orioles, The Man With The Hulk Tattoo never had a sub-5.00 ERA, endured back injuries, and his option was declined.
Before departing after the 2017 season, Miley etched his name into the record books. He coughed up Adrian Beltre’s 3,000th hit. Seen it all.
After signing a minor league deal with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2018, the lefty was called up to the majors in short order but had to go on the 60-day DL with an oblique injury, likely caused in part due to his previous back ailments. He did return in time to go 5-2 to end the season, and in the NLCS that year, Miley set two more strange records. In Game 5 of the series, he became the first starting pitcher to face just a single batter while not inducing an out before being removed without injury. On top of that, the following day he became the first pitcher in 88 years to start back-to-back postseason games. You can’t make this stuff up.
Get In, We’re Going On a Renaissance
In the offseason prior to the 2019 season, Miley would sign a one-year, $4.5 million deal with the Houston Astros. He went 14-6 with a 3.98 ERA in 33 starts. Between his rookie season and the beginning of that season with Houston, the big guy went 51-63 with a 4.43 ERA and a 1.42 WHIP. Six years of toiling in mediocrity with two magical seasons as bookends.
Off he went to the Reds on a two year, $15 million deal. He began the 2020 COVID-19 shortened season injured before returning to post an 0-3 record with a 5.65 ERA over four starts. Ah… this guy again.
Maybe Miley had yet another renaissance left to make? In 2021, he is 4-2 with a tidy 2.00 ERA, and one of the best WHIPs in the league at 0.75. Eight earned runs in six starts. Just days prior to Friday night’s tilt, Miley was asked what he had been working on and he responded that he needed to go further into games.
When Preparation Met Opportunity
On Friday, May 7, Miley paced the clubhouse waiting through the rain delay. He says he kept himself loose and entertained by bugging his teammates.
“Position players were getting pretty frustrated with me. It’s kind of what I do. Just try to stay loose, not put too much pressure, not think too much.”
Since it’s Miley, there had to be even more extenuating circumstances. Veteran catcher Tucker Barnhart took the field without realizing he had left his scouting report catcher card in his locker. Center fielder Tyler Naquin admitted after the game he used the wrong side of his outfield card for the entire game. Add those to the list of things Miley’s seen.
It was cold and wet in Cleveland. As the southpaw continually frustrated Indians batters with routine ground ball after routine ground ball, his teammates started to warm up to something special happening. The position players that he said were ‘frustrated’ with him in the clubhouse were making plays and willing their guy along. That is, until the game reached the point where no one would go anywhere near him in the dugout.
Miley carried his no-no through the eighth inning, but nearly equally as good was Cleveland righty Zach Plesac. Plesac held the Reds in check and off the scoreboard, but was lifted prior to the top of the ninth inning. Cincinnati finally broke through, scoring three runs in the frame and setting up Miley for the coup de grace. A 1-2-3 bottom of the ninth, and the 17th no-hitter in the history of the oldest professional baseball team.
Just when you thought he’d seen it all.