Miller named MVP of ALCS

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By Noah Tris­ter

The hum­ble work­horse in a wipe­out bullpen, An­drew Miller was se­lected AL Cham­pi­onship Se­ries MVP after his lat­est spot­less out­ing sent the Cleve­land In­di­ans to their first pen­nant since 1997.

TORONTO >> MVP: Most Ver­sa­tile Pitcher.

The hum­ble work­horse in a wipe­out bullpen, An­drew Miller was se­lected AL Cham­pi­onship Se­ries MVP after his lat­est spot­less out­ing sent the Cleve­land In­di­ans to their first pen­nant since 1997.

Miller tossed 2 2/3 in­nings in a 3-0 vic­tory Wed­nes­day over Toronto, cap­ping a five-game se­ries in which the lanky left­hander over­pow­ered the dan­ger­ous 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 Toronto and earned a four-out save in Game 3.

“At this point of the year, you just find a way. That’s all that mat­ters. It’s about win­ning,” Miller said . “I would have given up 100 runs if we won 101-100. That’s all that mat­ters is we’re go­ing to the World Se­ries, and that’s a spe­cial ex­pe­ri­ence and I can’t wait.”

After cap­tur­ing their sixth pen­nant, thanks in large part to Miller, the In­di­ans are four wins from 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 fea­ture 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.

“It’s so fun to be a part of this team,” he said. “I re­ally en­joyed my time with the Yan­kees. It’s tough when you leave a com­fort zone and a place that you like and peo­ple that you like. But I knew I was com­ing to a team that had won a lot and had ex­pec­ta­tions to win more.”

Now, when­ever the In­di­ans have a lead in the mid­dle in­nings, the 6-foot-7 lefty be­gins loom­ing large in the bullpen — and Miller time is near.

With that nasty slider and a siz­zling fast­ball he spots to both sides of the plate, he struck out 21 of 41 bat­ters dur­ing the AL play­offs. He has al­lowed a mere six hits over 20 score­less in­nings in his post­sea­son ca­reer.

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 dom­i­nated 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 re­cently. “So the thought was alive be­fore we got him. We en­vi­sioned us­ing him like we are.”

There are 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.

Miller has tossed 11 2/3 shutout in­nings in six post­sea­son 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.

“All that mat­ters are outs. All that mat­ters are wins. It hon­estly does not mat­ter how we get there,” Miller said. “And I think top to bot­tom, this team be­lieves in that.”

NATHAN DENETTE — THE CANA­DIAN PRESS VIA AP

Cleve­land In­di­ans re­lief pitcher An­drew Miller ac­cepts the MVP tro­phy for the se­ries after the In­di­ans de­feated the Toronto Blue Jays 3-0 in Game 5 of the base­ball Amer­i­can League Cham­pi­onship Se­ries in Toronto on Wed­nes­day.

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