The reason for his early exit Monday night was different, but the route rookie Shelby Miller took to a fifth-inning ending was familiar enough to frustrate him.
A cramp in his right calf muscle forced Miller from the Cardinals’ 5-2 victory against the Cubs at Busch Stadium and left the bullpen to stretch to cover four innings. Had dehydration not abbreviated his start after the fifth, his pitch count – a recurring nag on his starts – would have gotten to him soon after. It took Miller more than 80 pitches to get 15 outs. He had nearly 70 by the end of the fourth inning.

“That’s something I’ve been struggling with all year,” said Miller, who improved to 8-4 when the bullpen carried his lead to the end. “I can’t remember the last time I threw 15 pitches or less in the first (inning). That’s something I need to figure out. That’s not what we’re trained to do. … I know it’s going to happen. But a night like this holds me back. I felt like I had the momentum going.”

His leg kept him from finding out.

With one out in the fifth inning, Miller had to pause after grimacing on the mound. His velocity had dropped and manager Mike Matheny said there was an immediate sense he didn't have the same "crispness." Miller tried stretching the muscle out behind the mound, dropping to a pushup-like stance to flex the muscle. He received attention on the mound. And he was lifted for a pinch-hitter after throwing five scoreless and leaving with a 2-0 lead. Miller struck out five. He hit 93 mph with a fastball immediately after pausing the stretch the muscle, and he got hitters earlier in the game on a 94-mph fastball and a tight, diving curveball.

Miller said the muscle was loosening after the game and that the medical staff had him down liquids to hydrate. The rookie said he didn’t do “what I needed to to take care of myself” leading up to the game and plans to introduce more fluids and electrolytes into his routine before his next start.