Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Miller is unhittable, no matter the inning

Andrew Miller has faced 28 batters this postseason; 17 have struck out.

Getty Images

Andrew Miller has faced 28 batters this postseason; 17 have struck out.

Here he comes again, marching onto the field when the bullpen door swings open, this high-priced assassin brought to Cleveland to torture the best hitters in the world.

Here comes Andrew Miller, the reliever who cost the Indians $9 million and four prospects — and that's still a bargain.

Miller and Indians manager Terry Francona have torn up traditional thinking during this postseason and it has them two wins from the World Series. Francona, the roles-be-damned manager, and Miller, the easygoing reliever with enough contract and humility to embrace his manager's unorthodox ways.

They were at it again Saturday when Miller was called on to pitch the seventh and eighth innings of the Indians' 2-1 win over the Blue Jays to take a commanding 2-0 lead in the ALCS. Miller struck out the first four batters he faced with a slider nastier than Donald Trump's mouth.

Try as they might, this stacked Blue Jays lineup simply can't hit it. Miller has retired 11 of the 12 batters he has faced in this series thanks primarily to that slider. He has thrown it 31 times in these two wins. Only once was it put in play. Once. A harmless single by Josh Donaldson in the eighth inning Friday night.

"When you think about what he's doing against ... some of the best hitters in the game, and he's making them look that bad? He's got stuff," Rajai Davis said. "His deception, his sharpness on his curve and his slider, they look like they're going to be strikes and then when you go to swing, they're not a strike. And they're so close that they could be."

It took time for the 6-foot-7 lefty to refine that slider, a pitch that is nearing Mariano Rivera's cutter in terms of unhittability. Miller has faced 28 batters in this postseason; 17 of them have struck out.

"There was no moment where I said, 'A-ha! I've got it! I've figured it out!' "said Miller, whose move to the bullpen revived his career. "It was just little things. Probably millions of little adjustments or changes."

Francona has praised Miller for his flexibility. Most elite relievers crave defined roles, particularly late in games. But Miller 's making $9 million this season and has another $18 million coming the next two years whether he pitches the fifth, the ninth or in between. Miller has his money. Now he wants a ring.

"I do think it's easier when you've got a big contract," said Francona, whose use of Miller might force managers across baseball to re-evaluate what they're doing.

"If you're a young kid ... the best way to make money is to get some saves. Bullpens can be volatile, too. The Riveras of the world aren't growing on trees."

Maybe not, but there is one in full bloom in Cleveland.

— Akron Beacon Journal (TNS)

Miller is unhittable, no matter the inning 10/16/16 [Last modified: Sunday, October 16, 2016 8:12pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Tribune News Service.

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Alex Faedo, Florida advance to face LSU in College World Series finals


    OMAHA, Neb. — Alex Faedo pitched three-hit ball for 71/3 innings in a second straight strong performance against TCU, and Florida moved to the College World Series finals with a 3-0 win Saturday night.

    Florida’s Austin Langworthy scores on a single by Mike Rivera in the second inning during a 3-0 victory over TCU.
  2. Jones: Bucs need success to get national respect


    Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones offers up his Two Cents on the world of sports.

    No respect

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter walks the field during the second day of mandatory minicamp at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, June 14, 2017. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times
  3. Rays journal: Jumbo Diaz falters after getting within a strike of ending rally

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Saturday's game got away starting with a leadoff walk in the seventh inning by Rays LHP Jose Alvarado, who was brought in exclusively to face Baltimore's lefty-swinging Seth Smith.

    Rays reliever Jumbo Diaz wipes his face as he walks off the mound after the Orioles score four during the seventh inning to give them a 7-3 lead. Diaz was one strike away from working out of the jam before he allowed a two-run double and a two-run homer on back-to-back pitches.
  4. Rookie Jake Faria dissatisfied with performance in Rays' loss to Orioles

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The rookie pitcher walked to his locker Saturday after tossing the fourth quality start in as many tries to begin his career. He held the potent Orioles bats to three runs and for six innings gave his team a chance to win.

    Orioles third baseman Manny Machado tags out the Rays’ Mallex Smith at third after a rundown in the first inning.
  5. Roger Mooney's takeaways from Saturday's Rays-Orioles game

    The Heater

    It was refreshing to see RHP Jacob Faria take the blame after the loss even though he gave the Rays a chance to win. Too often young pitchers are encouraged by what they did and not necessarily the outcome, but Faria, making just his fourth big-league start, came to the Trop to win, didn't, and pointed the finger …