Originally created 08/08/99

GreenJackets lose to Sand Gnats



Greg Miller found it mildly amusing when it was suggested last Sunday that the end of his dominance was the result of his pregame meal.

The GreenJackets left-hander isn't laughing anymore.

For a second straight outing, Miller was anything but the man who earned Red Sox minor-league pitcher of the month in July, and the 19-year-old wasn't in the mood for jokes about silly superstitions following Saturday's 7-2 loss to the Savannah Sand Gnats.

"I'll joke around about it and (stuff), but the bottom line is that it comes down to getting it done on the mound," said Miller, who allowed six runs on nine hits in five innings to lose for the first time since June 17.

"The fact is, I haven't been doing the job my last two starts."

Good thing for Miller he isn't your typical, quirky southpaw. If he were superstitious, perhaps this latest setback might drive him to drastic measures, like a trip to some all-night Thai restaurant on Gordon Highway.

During his string of dominance, Miller made eating sesame chicken at a local Chinese buffet an integral part of his routine prior to every home start.

The results had endorsement deal written all over it.

During a five-week run from June 24-July 27, Miller won six straight decisions, had an ERA of 1.99 and held opponents to a .173 batting average.

But prior to his previous start last Sunday vs. Greensboro, for reasons he can't explain, Miller broke with tradition.

Instead of the usual Szechuan fare, he found himself immersed in a plate of 10-cent chicken wings at Rhinehart's. Later that day, Miller took a no-decision after Greensboro pounded 11 hits and scored five runs off him in 4 1/3 innings.

Including Saturday's loss, he has given up 20 hits and 10 earned runs in his last 9 1/3 innings (9.64 ERA).

"He'd better go back to eating Chinese," Jackets manager Billy Gardner joked.

Though Miller (8-5) did indeed return to the stir fry Saturday, Sand Gnats hitters and starter Matt Kosderka created the most noticeable stir on this night.

Left fielder Derek Ottevaere belted his sixth home run of the year off Miller in the fourth inning and first baseman Travis Hafner followed in the fifth with his 21st, which gave Savannah a 6-0 lead.

Kosderka tossed 4 2/3 no-hit innings and held the Jackets at bay for seven innings, allowing one earned run on three hits to even his record at 8-8.

The bullpen was a definite bright spot for the Jackets -- Alex Lontayo and Matt Phillips combined to hold the Gnats to one run on two hits, retiring 13 of the final 15 batters faced, with nine strikeouts.

After Lontayo surrendered a one-out homer to designated hitter Frank Marciante in the sixth, he retired eight of the next nine batters, including seven by strikeout.

Despite Miller's recent problems, pitching coach Larry Pierson isn't concerned.

"He's 19, he's gonna be riding the roller coaster a bit, and it's my job to get him off the roller coaster," Pierson said. "He may be in a mode where he's trying to overthrow a bit. I'll try to straighten him back out and get him focused again. I think he'll be fine."

Rob Mueller covers minor league baseball for The Augusta Chronicle. He can be reached at (706) 823-3425 or robm99@hotmail.com.