Miller's Moment: Cleveland reliever chosen MVP of ALCS
ABS-CBN Sports on Oct 20, 2016 10:33 AM
Cleveland Indians relief pitcher Andrew Miller throws against the Toronto Blue Jays during the seventh inning in Game 2 of baseball's American League Championship Series in Cleveland, Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
NOAH TRISTER, AP Baseball Writer
TORONTO (AP) — MVP: Most Versatile Pitcher.
The humble workhorse in a wipeout bullpen, Andrew Miller was selected AL Championship Series MVP after his latest splendid performance in relief helped the Cleveland Indians win their first pennant since 1997.
Miller tossed 2 2/3 scoreless innings in a 3-0 victory Wednesday over Toronto, capping a five-game series in which the lanky left-hander overpowered the Blue Jays.
He had one strikeout in Game 5 and finished the series with 14 — an ALCS record for a reliever. Miller gave up three hits in 7 2/3 shutout innings against the Blue Jays and earned a save in Game 3.
Now the Indians are on to the World Series for the sixth time — looking for their first championship since 1948.
Miller was acquired from the New York Yankees for a package of prospects in a July 31 trade, and Cleveland had an interesting idea of how to use him. Rather than restricting him to a closer role or using him only in the eighth inning, the Indians have been flexible with Miller — especially in the postseason.
Whenever his team has a lead in the middle innings, the 6-foot-7 (2.01 meters) Miller begins looming large in the bullpen.
Drafted sixth overall by Detroit out of North Carolina in 2006, Miller was part of the blockbuster deal that sent Miguel Cabrera from the Marlins to the Tigers after the 2007 season. Miller made 66 starts in the majors but never fulfilled his promise until switching to the bullpen. His first full season as a reliever — with Boston in 2012 — provided a hint of what was possible.
Miller posted a 3.35 ERA in 53 appearances that year, and the following season he overpowered hitters with 48 strikeouts in 30 2/3 innings.
After stops with Baltimore and the Yankees, Miller ended up in Cleveland, and the Indians had an unorthodox plan for his usage.
"When they were upstairs in their meetings about the trade talks and they were talking about Andrew, they were actually talking — and I was in there listening and doing some talking — just about how he would fit into a bullpen and how you could leverage him, just like we are now," manager Terry Francona said. "So the thought was alive before we got him. We envisioned using him like we are."
There have been plenty of other important contributors in the Cleveland bullpen — particularly closer Cody Allen, who had 32 saves during the regular season and hasn't allowed a run in the postseason.
In fact, Indians relievers racked up 22 innings in the ALCS — the same amount as their starters.
But it's Miller who strikes the most fear in opposing hitters after he whiffed a whopping 14.9 per nine innings this season while going 10-1 with a 1.45 ERA and 12 saves.
In the playoff opener against Boston, Miller entered in the fifth inning and pitched into the seventh. That set the tone for an October in which Miller could be available pretty much any time the Indians need him. He's worked 11 2/3 shutout innings in six appearances. It's a workload that might not be sustainable in the regular season, but with off days built into the playoff schedule, this approach has served the Indians well.
In Game 3 against the Blue Jays on Monday night, Cleveland's bullpen had to pitch 8 1/3 innings after starter Trevor Bauer's finger injury acted up in the first. Miller got the final four outs of that win, helping the Indians take a 3-0 ALCS lead.