Pete Hodges presents our ALCS Game 1 recap in which Andrew Miller continues to dominate out of the bullpen for Terry Francona and the Indians.
At the trade deadline back in July, one of the most sought after commodities was New York Yankees reliever Andrew Miller. The haul that the Yankees eventually received for relief ace Miller was substantial: the Indians sent prospects Clint Frazier, Justus Sheffield, J.P. Feyereisen, and Ben Heller for two years and two months of the lefty reliever. But anyone who doubted the wisdom of that deal at the time should now fully understand why Cleveland’s President of Baseball Operations, Chris Antonetti, pulled the trigger on that deal now. Miller has thus far thrown 7 ⅔ scoreless innings in the 2016 postseason, striking out 17 and allowing just three hits, and two walks. Those numbers now include two scoreless frames from Game 2 of the ALCS.
Josh Tomlin took the ball for the Indians and retired the first five Blue Jays he faced via ground balls before catcher Russell Martin finally smacked one through the infield. But Tomlin then struck out designated hitter Michael Saunders to end the second inning. The Indians starter was moved up a day to replace drone enthusiast Trevor Bauer, and his two scoreless frames to lead off the game were a welcome sight.
Following a two-out single by Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor, Toronto lefty and Cy Young candidate J.A. Happ struck out slugging first baseman Mike Napoli to end the first inning. The 20-game winner was then greeted by Carlos Santana solo shot in the second inning, for a 1-0 Cleveland. Happ then struck out Jose Ramirez before forcing Brandon Guyer and Lonnie Chisenhall to ground out to second base and end the inning.
Tomlin allowed a one-out single to 9-hole hitter Darwin Barney in the top of the third, which was followed by a grounder to short by Carrera that advanced Barney to second. Doubles maven Josh Donaldson then launched a line drive into right field, scoring Barney and tying the game at one run apiece. Tomlin walked Edwin Encarnacion – placing men on first and second – but he was able to strike out Jose Bautista to end the inning.
Happ began the bottom of the third by walking Roberto Perez after a hard-fought eight-pitch at-bat. The speedy Rajai Davis grounded into a force out, giving Cleveland a better option at first for a running play. With Kipnis at the plate, Davis stole second base, and a wild pitch on the third pitch of the at-bat allowed Davis to advance to third. However, Kipnis was unable to score the runner from third with a shallow fly out. But Game 1 hero Lindor rescued the Tribe with an RBI single. With the score now 2-1, Happ forced Napoli to ground out to third to end the inning.
Tomlin and Happ traded perfect frames in the fourth, and then Tomlin reproduced that effort in the fifth. But Happ fell victim to a leadoff single by Chisenhall in the fifth, and then worked around it, keeping the basepaths otherwise clear. Tomlin then came out to pitch the sixth and retired Donaldson on one pitch and Encarnacion on two. However, a walk to Bautista resulted imanager Terry Francona calling upon the hard-throwing Bryan Shaw to face Troy Tulowitzki. Shaw threw six cutters to the Jays shortstop, eventually inducing a ground out from Tulo to end the inning.
Happ was lifted in favor of right-handed Joe Biagini who pitched a scoreless sixth inning, striking out one and walking one. It was then that Francona showed his penchant for ignoring conventional wisdom and called for the ace up his sleeve: Miller. The Jays catcher, Martin, pinch-hitter Melvin Upton Jr., and then Kevin Pillar struck out on a combined 15 pitches and th e Indians were through the top of the seventh with a 2-1 lead
Biagini tossed a perfect bottom half of the frame, striking out one. The Blue Jays reliever ended his night with two innings pitched, two strikeouts, and one walk. Meanwhile, Miller remained in the game to pitch the top of the eighth and sandwiched a Carrera groundout in between a Barney K and a Donaldson K. ALDS hero Roberto Osuna then made his first appearance of the ALCS for Toronto and retired the side without incident on 13 pitches.
With the lead intact and the inning number reading “9”, Miller handed the ball off to closer Cody Allen. Allen picked up where the releif ace left off, striking out Encarnacion and Bautista before Tulowitzki flied out to center field to end the game.
Andrew Miller once again showed how valuable he is – allowing Terry Francona to concentrate on the other aspects of his job. Miller’s presence may also have some effect – small as it may be – on the psyche of the opponent. Knowing one of the best closers in baseball can come into the game at any point from the fifth inning on has to be affect the strategy of the game and the confidence of the opposing hitters.
Cleveland did exactly what they were supposed to do in winning both home games, although it isn’t what I had expected them to do. Heading north of the border will be a tough challenge, with Marcus Stroman slated to pitch Game 3 against Trevor Bauer, and Aaron Sanchez going against Mike Clevinger Game 4.