A year ago, there would have been no inkling that lefty Wade Miley could be a consequential pitcher in the 2018 postseason, not when you consider his league-leading 93 walks and 5.61 ERA last season for the Orioles.
But as the postseason begins, Miley, 31, is one of a list of former Orioles and Nationals players with a chance to make the World Series, most of whom were on the rosters of the local nines at the start of 2018.
Manny Machado bleeds Dodger blue and Zach Britton wears Yankees pinstripes and plays for the top American League wild card team. Atlanta, the National League East champion, has Kevin Gausman, Brad Brach, Nick Markakis, who signed in 2014 and made his first All-Star game this season.
And if Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson’s injured wrist isn’t ready, utility player Ryan Flaherty, who hit .217 in 81 games, will make the National League Division Series roster.
The Cubs have relief pitcher Brandon Kintzler and second baseman Daniel Murphy.
The wild card Athletics have pitchers Edwin Jackson, All-Star Blake Treinen and Shawn Kelley.
Milwaukee has Gio Gonzalez, Miley and Jonathan Schoop.
Without a doubt, the biggest surprise contributor to a playoff team is Miley, who put an exclamation point on his Orioles career with three nightmare starts at the end of 2017.
In New York, Miley got one out and gave up six runs to the Yankees. Then, in his final two starts combined against Toronto and Tampa Bay, he allowed 10 runs in 8 1/3 innings.
After the season, Miley worked on his refining mechanics with a pitching coach. He signed a minor league contract with the Brewers and developed new pitch patterns, throwing more cutters and fewer fastballs.
Miley, who, as an Diamondback, finished second to the Nationals’ Bryce Harper in the NL Rookie of the Year voting in 2012, has told reporters in Milwaukee that he’s trusting his stuff more within the strike zone. And he’s so comfortable with his cutter - a pitch that’s a blend of a fastball and slider - that he thinks he might throw it too often.
Even as the Brewers were looking for rotation help at the July 31 trade deadline, Miley was expecting to be the odd man out of the rotation if a new pitcher arrived.
That didn’t happen.
Now, Miley, who has a 2.57 ERA in 16 starts, and Jhoulys Chacin are the Brewers’ two most consistent pitchers.
Here are notes on other former Nationals and Orioles wearing different colors this October:
* Schoop, had seven home runs in his final 15 games for the Orioles before he was traded at the end of July, and when he joined the Brewers, he went 3-for-26 with 12 strikeouts. He said he was trying to do too much. A teammate, Mike Moustakas reminded him that his new teammates knew what he could do, so there was no need to try to impress. Schoop hit better as the season moved on, but he still finished at .208 for the Brewers.
* Gonzalez was 3-0 with a 2.13 ERA in five starts for the Brewers with 22 strikeouts and 10 walks. He was inconsistent as a Nationals starter and says he feels the weight of responsibility for his role in the Nationals’ disappointing season.
* Murphy, 33, eligible for free agency after the season, took over the leadoff spot and second base for the Cubs, moving NL MVP candidate Javier Baez to shortstop. The Cubs hope that Murphy can do for them in the postseason what he did against them in 2015. As a Met, Murphy hit .529 with four home runs in the Mets’ four-game National League Championship Series sweep. Murphy owns Wrigley Field with a .363 career average there, including .299 with six home runs for his new team this season.
* Kintzler had a 3-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio for Washington, but he struggled in his first month for the Cubs. He had four consecutive scoreless games until the Cardinals scored on him Sunday. The bullpen is the Cubs’ biggest question mark.
* The Nationals traded Kelley on Aug. 1 after he slammed his glove to the mound in a bizarre tantrum while pitching the ninth inning of a 25-4 blowout win against the Mets. General manager Mike Rizzo made a statement by trading Kelley, but the Nationals missed his 3.34 ERA through July. With Oakland, he’s posted a 2.16 ERA in 19 games.
* Treinen, who has a heavy sinker, had a strong year as a setup pitcher in 2016 for the Nationals, but when they made him their closer at the start of 2017, he struggled. The A’s traded for Treinen, thinking he only needed to repeat his delivery to be effective. Treinen was an AL All-Star and had a 0.78 ERA, lowest in history for any pitcher with at least 75 innings. He’s also saved 38 of 43 games. “Oakland has been the perfect fit for me,’’ Treinen said. “It didn’t work in Washington, but I knew I could pitch.’‘
* Jackson, 35, started 2018 in the Nationals minors, but they released him on June 1 and Oakland signed him a week later. He had a 3.40 ERA for Triple-A Syracuse when the Nats let him go. The Athletics are his 13th team. He has a 3.33 ERA in 17 games for Oakland.
* When the Braves shopped for rotation help, they wanted a young pitcher with a controllable contract that could be at the top of the rotation. Tampa Bay’s Chris Archer was their first choice, and they tried for months to get him. The Braves finally called the Orioles about Gausman, and now they are happy they did: Gausman finished strong Sunday and has a 2.87 ERA in his 10 Braves starts. Archer went to Pittsburgh and had a 4.30 ERA in 10 starts with more hits (53) than innings pitched (52 1/3).
* Brach, who had a 4.85 ERA for the Orioles, helped stabilize the Braves bullpen. He had a 1.52 ERA in 27 games.
* The Orioles received five prospects for Machado, who took over as the Dodgers’ shortstop for the injured Corey Seager and averaged .274 with 13 home runs in his two-plus months in Los Angeles. Seager is an MVP-type player and returns next season. The Dodgers have a long-term contract with Justin Turner, so how the free-agent-to-be Machado fits into Los Angeles’ plans is difficult to figure.
* The Yankees’ addition of Britton, who was on the disabled list until June 12 with an Achilles injury, seems like overkill for a loaded bullpen. But given the weak rotation and the balky knee of closer Aroldis Chapman, a strong bullpen is needed. Britton, and his hard sinker, had 10 scoreless appearances during September, not always as a closer. He’s had three saves for the Yankees. Britton saved 120 of 128 games for the Orioles.