ST. LOUIS -- Already having a season worthy of Rookie of the Year consideration, Shelby Miller believed that adding another pitch to his repertoire would help him take the next step forward. The experimentation was minimal and the implementation almost immediate. But as Miller found Saturday night, there was plenty incentive to keep throwing that cut fastball.
Wanting to find a way to keep hitters from sitting on his high fastball, Miller thought the addition of a cutter could be a weapon. He had seen how effectively Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn used the pitch, and that prompted Miller to throw a few in his start last Monday.
After those worked OK, Miller featured the pitch about 15 times Saturday, with even more success.
"I'm not going to change the way I pitch, but I think it's something to have," Miller said. "Just getting in the hitters' head and let them know you have a little something extra there. I think that's going to be a real good pitch for me in the future. If it keeps progressing forward from where it is, it's going to be one of my better pitches. But right now, we're just trying to mix it up more."
Miller threw the cut fastball with an average velocity of 91 mph, about 3 mph slower than his average fastball velocity. The pitch also has more movement than a traditional fastball.
"To come up with something completely new [in-season] is very unique," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "He had a couple yesterday that it looked like it cut but was so hard that I ended up asking [catcher] Yadi [Molina about it] in the middle of the game. He said, 'Yeah, that's a cutter.' It was really impressive. For a guy who has been getting a feel for his breaking ball and who has obviously been living on his fastball, to throw a hard, 90-plus [mph] cutter in there with a hard-rising fastball, that's a great mix."
Neither Matheny nor Miller thought it was coincidence, either, that on a night when Miller threw the cutter so many times, he was more efficient than he had been in a while. Miller threw 101 pitches and covered seven innings for the first time since the first of June.
"Yadi called it a lot," Miller said. "Obviously, I'm going to go with what he calls. I have all the faith in the world in him. I know it's not going to be that good every single time I go out, but [Saturday] it was just on. If I can have that extra pitch in the mix, I think it's going to take me to the next step of being that much better. There's always room to improve on something."
Lyons re-enters rotation in thick of division race
ST. LOUIS -- Told Friday that he would slide from the bullpen to the rotation, lefty Tyler Lyons now steps into the thick of the Cardinals' pursuit for their first division title since 2009.
Lyons is slated to start against the Reds on Monday, kicking off a string of 13 consecutive games the Cardinals have against the National League Central's other two contending teams. Having not pitched since Tuesday, Lyons was able to throw a bullpen session Friday to get back on the starting routine.
"[I'm] just keeping everything the same, not making too much of it," Lyons said. "[I'm] just sticking with what I was doing down [in the Minors] and trying to use that here."
Lyons has the opportunity to learn from past mistakes, too. His start in Cincinnati on June 8 lasted 5 1/3 innings, and Lyons gave up four earned runs on six hits and a walk in the loss. Four of those hits were by left-handed hitters. Jay Bruce tagged Lyons for a home run, Joey Votto tallied two doubles and Shin-Soo Choo led off the first with a single.
It is the Cardinals' hope that this time around Lyons can have improved success specifically against those lefties. That was one of the reasons why the club tabbed him -- not Michael Wacha or Carlos Martinez as the fill-in starter. The Reds are 22-21 in games started by left-handers this season.
"Maybe left-on-left is a little bit of an advantage, but you still have to make pitches obviously," Lyons said. "If you make s a mistake, they can still hit it. Hopefully, I can use that to my advantage."
In a stat that Lyons found surprising, lefties are actually hitting him at a better clip (.289) than right-handers (.242) this year.
If Lyons performs well Monday, he has the opportunity to remain in the rotation for at least a few more turns. That would put him in line to face the Pirates in two consecutive starts.
• Right-hander Jake Westbrook (lower back strain) played catch on the outfield grass Sunday morning to test out his back. Westbrook hopes to resume throwing off the mound this week. He is not eligible to come off the disabled list until Sept. 6.
• The Reds' rotation lines up as follows for their visit to Busch Stadium: Mike Leake (11-5, 3.12 ERA) will pitch Monday, Mat Latos (13-4, 2.93 ERA) on Tuesday and Homer Bailey (8-10, 3.71 ERA) on Wednesday.
• According to Elias Sports Bureau, with 19 home runs from the No. 2 hole this season, Carlos Beltran has set a single-season Cardinals record for long balls from that spot in the lineup. The previous mark of 18 was set by Chris Duncan in 2006. Sunday marked the 74th time this season that Beltran started and hit second in the batting order.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.