Terry Francona deserves some credit for going to his lone lefty so early, but in the end, Andrew Miller was the one who got the job done.
Most remember Miller was traded from Boston to Baltimore for Eduardo Rodriguez then was part of strong Yankees' bullpen before being dealt to Cleveland.
Still, what most forget is Miller was on his last legs when he arrived in Boston, looking like a first-round bust after failing as a starter in Detroit and Florida from 2006-2010.
He wasn’t good in his first year in Boston, starting 12 games with a 5.54 ERA. But then in 2011 -- Francona’s last year in Boston, in case you haven’t been reminded in the last 90 seconds -- he became a reliever.
Five seasons later, he has the same role for the Indians as Koji Uehara had for the Red Sox in 2013 and is recognized as one of the best relievers in baseball.
“It’s miserable, especially as a lefty hitter,” Miller’s teammate, Jason Kipnis, said of what it’s like facing the lefty. “I know what those pitches look like, I’ve faced them and I’ve walked back to the dugout with my head down after every time seeing him. “You really kind of have to pick your spots against him and kind of get lucky. You have to guess right and after guessing right you have to execute. It’s not a fun at bat for lefties -- or anybody.”
Miller’s worked primarily as a setup man in either the eighth or seventh, while having spots as a closer, too, but Thursday night was a totally different animal. In fact, it was the first time Miller had appeared in a game before the seventh inning since April 18, 2014 -- when he pitched for the Red Sox.
You never would’ve guessed it was unfamiliar territory by his two-inning, four-strikeout performance.
“I think every reliever outside of...there’s 30 closers and most teams have a setup man, but there’s seven guys [in the bullpen] for most teams," Miller said. "The other five guys have to pitch anywhere from the first inning to the ninth inning every day. That’s the role I’ve been in the majority of my career, I have one year where I was closing and had that kind of set, nice role. It’s nice to have that luxury of preparing a certain way, but ultimately I think most of us just find a way to go out there and pitch when called upon and do the best we can.”
To which Kipnis joked, “One day you’ll be a closer, or a setup guy.”
What Miller did Thursday night is much more difficult and valuable than what any closer does.
Like Miller said, there are 30 closers in the league, but if you look around, there’s only one Andrew Miller.