Shaking off the rust: Wade Miley’s 2022 debut plagued by walks in Cubs’ loss to Padres

Miley allowed three runs in three innings against the Padres on Tuesday.

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Lefty Wade Miley made his Cubs debut against the Padres on Tuesday.

Lefty Wade Miley made his Cubs debut against the Padres on Tuesday.

Gregory Bull/AP

Lefty Wade Miley’s path to his first start of the season has been winding, and it showed in his Cubs debut on Tuesday.

In the Cubs’ 5-4 loss to the Padres on Tuesday, Miley walked five batters after being activated from 10-day IL (left elbow inflammation). Despite command issues, and quick ramp up back from injury, Miley limited the damage to three runs in three innings.

“It’s a rusty thing when you haven’t pitched in a while, you’ve had one rehab start,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “We were in desperate need of pitching.”

Miley entered spring training behind several of his rotation mates ramp-up-wise. The Major League Baseball lockout had left the spring training start date uncertain, and at 35 years old, Miley hadn’t wanted to risk overworking his arm.

His elbow inflammation arose, and lingered, in spring training. So, by the time he took the mound at Petco Park Tuesday, it was the veteran’s fourth time facing batters all year. Miley had thrown live batting practice in Arizona this spring and in Atlanta two weeks ago, plus one rehab start last week.

On Tuesday, he ran into trouble in the first inning. Miley recorded two quick outs before walking Manny Machado, the third hitter he faced. Then, Miley gave up back-to-back walks and back-to-back hits before he got out of the frame. By then, the Cubs already trailed by two runs. 

“I just got quick. I was a little too amped up,” he said of the difference after those first two outs. “When the pressure went up, I went with it rather than staying calm and just making pitches. I let myself get frustrated, get angry. I’m not a good angry pitcher. I’ve got to find a way to have fun out there.”

Miley walked two more batters and gave up an RBI single in the third inning, his last in the game. 

“For what we needed and how bad we were in need of some starting pitching,” Ross said, “for him to go out and give us a chance to win and continue to build on him to getting back to being full strength, I thought it was pretty good.”

The Cubs did come within inches of pulling off a comeback.

The Cubs offense tied up the game with Alfonso Rivas’ two-run homer in the third inning and Rafael Ortega’s aggressive base running in the fifth. But the Padres reclaimed the lead the next inning, stringing together four straight hits in the sixth, scoring two runs.

The Cubs rallied in the ninth against Padres left-handed closer Taylor Rogers.

Seiya Suzuki, who was a late scratch from the starting lineup with lingering ankle soreness from the night before, hit a pinch-hit single with two outs to get things started. Then, Rogers hit Willson Contreras with a pitch, and Ian Happ cut the Padres’ lead to one run with an RBI single. Rogers hit Patrick Wisdom, too, to load the bases.

Pinch-hitting Frank Schwindel came inches from a go-ahead grand slam, but Padres left fielder Jurickson Profar caught the long fly was caught at the wall.

“I didn’t celebrate it or anything,” Schwindel said after the game, “ but I thought I hit it good enough to go.”

With a 102.5 mph exit velocity and 33-degree launch angle, according to Statcast, that fly ball, is indeed a hit about seven out of 10 times (.710 expected batting average). But on Tuesday, it was the final out of the game.

Said Ross: “That was a heartbreaker.”

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