The Dodgers need a postseason ace. Give the job to Bobby Miller

Dodgers pitcher Bobby Miller works against the Atlanta Braves on Sept. 3, 2023, at Dodger Stadium.
Dodgers rookie Bobby Miller, pitching against the Atlanta Braves on Sunday, limited the best-hitting team in the majors to one run in seven innings. (Michael Owens / MLB Photos via Getty Images)

The Dodgers were battered. They were bleeding. They were backpedaling.

When they took the field at Chavez Ravine on Sunday afternoon against the Atlanta Braves, the Dodgers had lost the previous three games in this four-game series to inarguably the best team in baseball and they were beyond worried.

Is this how the potential National League Championship series would play out? Were they this badly mismatched against their biggest World Series roadblock? How could they stay on the same October field against an All-Star team that has just spent three nights pulverizing them?

Read more: Bobby Miller underlines his October credentials as Dodgers avoid Braves sweep

The Dodgers were desperate for someone to end the carnage. They were desperate for someone to shoulder the weariness. They needed a stopper. They needed an ace. They needed …

Bobby Miller?

Believe it. Bet on it. Buy it.

In throwing seven powerful innings against the most dangerous lineup in the league at a grateful Dodger Stadium, Miller did more than just lead the team to a 3-1 victory.

He proved he belongs at the top of their rotation in the biggest of moments. He showed he is the best choice to start Game 1 of the postseason.

The calm rookie is worthy of being this autumn’s anchor. The 24-year-old kid is pitching like The Man.

Bobby Miller should be their October ace.

What, you would pick Julio Urías? Do you trust him? Friendly reminder, Miller has outpitched him.

Of course, you’d like to pick Clayton Kershaw, everybody would. But is he healthy enough to anchor an October staff? Wouldn’t he be safer to slot into a second- or third-game role?

The Dodgers need a steady cornerstone, and Miller is the only Dodgers starter who carries that weight. Just as they once relied on a kid named Walker Buehler, they should now give the ball to Miller and get out of the way.

Against a Braves lineup that scared the bejeezus out of other Dodgers pitchers, Miller stood strong, completing those career-high seven innings with 96 pitches and barely a flinch.

He gave up only one run on a Matt Olson homer, just three hits, walked just one, and struck out five on a variety of 100-mph fastballs and deliciously fading changeups.

He kept the game scoreless until the Dodgers scratched across two runs in the fifth on a Miguel Rojas double and a Mookie Betts single. That was all he required. He gave the Dodgers exactly what they needed.

“He keeps getting better, he keeps getting better . ..we needed it today and he came up big,” manager Dave Roberts said, adding, “He’s put himself right here in the front of the conversation as far as starting a playoff game,”

Starting a playoff game? I asked, what about starting the first playoff game?

“That, I don’t know,” Roberts said, but then sounded like he did know. “I wouldn’t have thought that at the beginning of the season, so to be a part of that conversation now is a good sign of how well we trust him … the way he’s throwing the baseball it’s hard to see too many guys at any particular time that are a better option than him.”

The thing about Miller, who is 9-3 with a 3.80 ERA, is that he knew the magnitude of this game, and he embraced it. He knew how heavily his team leaned on him, and he thrived on it.

Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw throws against the Milwaukee Brewers on Aug. 16, 2023, in Los Angeles.
Can the Dodgers count on Clayton Kershaw, pitching against the Milwaukee Brewers on Aug. 16, to stay healthy throughout the postseason? (Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

“After the first few games, we really needed this one today,” Miller said. “And I was really locked in. I had a great feeling going into this game. Probably the most locked in I’ve ever been so far. I knew I needed my best stuff.”

He added, “Getting our teeth kicked in the first three games, playing an extra-inning game last night, it felt good for sure.”

His hulking 6-foot-5 frame is offset by a baby face and blank stare. Even standing in front of his locker facing strange cameras and repetitive questions, he doesn’t blink.

I asked him if he liked high-pressure situations like Sunday’s sweat-soaked drama.

“Yeah, I like it,” he said. “I love it.”

He pitched like it, succeeding in a series where starters Urías and Lance Lynn had badly failed.

”He was unfazed today by the desire for us to win a baseball game and salvage a series,” said Roberts. “He felt it but he wasn’t fazed by it. … I can’t give him higher praise.”

Miller could have been rattled when Marcell Ozuna lashed a loud double to left with one out in the second inning, but he calmly retired the next two hitters on lazy fly balls.

He could have folded in the seventh after Olson’s two-out homer into the right-field bullpen was followed by a walk to Ozuna. But he breathed deep, fired smart, and fooled Eddie Rosario into an inning-ending grounder.

Read more: As Dodgers pull away in standings, postseason pitching decisions start to take priority

When he entered the dugout, he was engulfed by relieved veterans who increasingly understand this big lug who started the season in Oklahoma City could make a Hollywood difference.

“It was awesome,” Miller said of the reception. “It was a really close game. I’ve just got to keep us in the game and outlast the pitcher on the other side.”

You can see it in his work. You can feel it in his attitude. You can even hear it in his voice.

What this kid has, the Dodgers need. No acting on seniority. No standing on ceremony.

This is their best October hope. This is their new October strength.

This is their ace.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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