CLEVELAND -- Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona had many options to go to in the bullpen when he lifted starting pitcher Trevor Bauer with two outs in the top of the fifth inning, but he went the unconventional route.
Rather than going with a middle reliever, Francona gave the ball to left-handed fire-baller Andrew Miller, who has been a back-end, late-inning hurler for the New York Yankees, and as well as the Indians following a late-July trade to Cleveland.
And the move proved fruitful, as Miller kept Boston off the scoreboard over his two innings of work in the 5-4 win over the Red Sox in Game 1 of the American League Division Series at Progressive Field Thursday night.
“Well, one, he's really good,” Francona said with a laugh after the win over the Red Sox (laughter).
“There was a lot of a combination of things. I didn't want for them to come through the third time if they had a chance to tie the game. And Trevor was nearing 80 coming back on short rest. There was a lot of combinations. Andrew first came in, they made him throw a lot of pitches. That's a heck of a lineup, but he was up to the task. I mean, that's why we got him.”
Despite third baseman Brock Holt doubling to deep center field and right fielder Mookie Betts working his way to a walk following a seven-pitch at-bat after being down in the count, 1-2, Miller faced off against one of the best hitters in postseason history, David Ortiz.
Behind in the count, 2-1, Miller evened it up with a called second strike, and then, got Ortiz out swinging to end the threat.
“He's really good,” Francona said. “He's been a starter in the past. Normally he has such quick innings that you can send him out for two. He wasn't throwing strikes when he came in, wasn't quite on top of his game like he usually is, but he had such good stuff that we kept them off the scoreboard. They made him work hard for everything he got.”
Once thought of as a reclamation project with the Red Sox during the 2011 season, Miller has developed into a reliable end-of-game option over the past six years despite playing for four teams since the start of the 2014 season.
Since joining the Indians in July, Miller struck out 46 hitters and surrendered only two walks and five earned runs over 29 innings of work. Miller posted a 4-0 record in 26 appearances for the Indians.
“He's turned himself into one of the elite pitchers in the game,” Miller said. “The idea when he came to Boston was that he would try to work on simplifying some things and I don't know in my wildest dreams that we ever imagined him being this good. It's amazing what confidence and repetition. He's really something. He showed it tonight.”