ATLANTA -- Through this season's first month, Shelby Miller has provided a clear indication that he has the potential to serve as Atlanta's ace for many years to come. At the same time, he has proven to be an unselfish competitor, who certainly does not take solace in tough-luck outcomes.
Miller fit this latter description as he spoke to reporters after the Braves experienced Thursday night's 5-1 loss to the Reds at Turner Field. His effective seven-inning effort was blemished by consecutive home runs to begin the seventh inning and marred by a 29-pitch sixth inning that might have been much cleaner had Christian Bethancourt secured a strike-three pitch.
"Personally, I feel like I'm pitching well, but we needed a win tonight, and it's that simple," Miller said. "We didn't get the job done. I can talk about myself and how I'm doing, but we didn't get the job done. We didn't win tonight, and that is the biggest thing on my mind right now."
Miller had to take responsibility for allowing Cincinnati's No. 8 hitter Tucker Barnhart and starting pitcher Mike Leake to begin the seventh inning with back-to-back home runs. But at the same time, there was reason to wonder if things would have been different had Bethancourt not committed his miscue.
When the Braves removed Bethancourt from his starting role during the regular season's second week, they said they wanted him to earn the position. He has been lauded for his strong arm, but his inability to catch the third-strike fastball thrown to Billy Hamilton in Thursday's sixth inning conjured memories of the defensive struggles that frustrated the Braves late last year.
"I know passed balls and stuff like that are going to happen, and wild pitches," Miller said. "I think we did a good job of getting out of some trouble there in the sixth. There were a couple times we got out of some trouble with some good defensive plays."
After surrendering the game's first run on Joey Votto's double in the sixth, Miller escaped a bases-loaded threat without incurring any further damage. But the misplaced fastballs he threw to Barnhart and Leake in the seventh soured what was an otherwise impressive performance by the Braves' hurler, who has posted a 2.17 ERA through his first five starts.
"I thought Shelby Miller was outstanding today," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "If he goes out and gives you 28 more starts like that, he's going to have a [great] year."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.