In last night’s game against the Chicago Cubs, Andrew Miller teased the baseball world. He allowed fans to see a sliver of hope against him; let them think that a string of hitters might be able to rack up runs. With only one inherited runner, the Cubs found a way to load the bases against Miller. No runners came home. This is a close examination of Andrew Miller’s high wire act in the top of the seventh inning.
Up to the entrance of Miller, Corey Kluber pitched an incredible game. He allowed four hits in six innings of work without a walk while tallying nine strikeouts. Should anyone doubt whether or not this kind of performance "is the baseball", there are plenty of us willing to confirm.
However, Kluber allowed a lead-off single to Ben Zobrist, who is still a member of the Devil Rays as far as I know. I’m not exactly sure how the Cubs got him on their roster, but fine. They did it. Kyle Schwarber stepped up to the plate next. You may or may not be aware, but Scwharber’s leg exploded in early April, and vague baseball rules allowed him to join the World Series roster despite not playing any regular season or playoff games since. It seems pretty clear that Miller and Roberto Perez had a specific strategy planned for Schwarber.
Yep. Nothing to hit. Maybe he swings! Maybe he doesn’t! Let’s just keep him from depositing another baseball on top of a scoreboard.
With Zobrist on second and Schwarber on first, Javier Baez stepped up to the plate. Baez has been a top prospect for a number of years, and there are some around baseball who believe that he can be one of the best players in the entire league. What is his one major downfall? Strikeouts. There are times when he simply swings at pitches that he shouldn’t. While he’s improved this season, there are still grumblings.
His first pitch against Miller last night? A foul ball. The second pitch? A foul ball on a slider more than and inch off of the plate. The third pitch? A slider on the black, one that any hitter must swing at in order to protect the plate. The final pitch? Well. Maybe it wasn’t quite what the Indians wanted. Baez ropes a line drive to left field on a Miller that isn’t literally at the exact bottom of the strike zone. He got a base hit off of Andrew Miller after swinging at every single pitch. That is not something of which a human being should be capable. I am absolutely terrified at the kind of player that Baez may become if he ever learns the virtue of patience.
Wilson Contreras stepped up to the plate with no outs and the bases juiced. The Indians led by three runs. He watched the first pitch for a ball, and then tried to put one of Miller’s sliders into play. He popped it up to Rajai Davis in center field.
Next came Addison Russell. Miller threw him three sliders. Russell touched none of them. After taking a first-pitch slider that broke almost nine inches horizontally, Russell swung through the next two pitches and strode back to the Cubs’ dugout.
Two outs. The potential go-ahead run emerged for the third consecutive time, now wearing the ancient face of David Ross. I’m going to spoil the outcome for you: Miller strikes him out. I want to look at exactly how Miller does this, however. Here is our pitch chart courtesy, once again, of BrooksBaseball.net:
We can all accept that first ball call, right? A fastball over the center of the plate, just above the knees? A ball? It happens. That’s baseball. Sometimes an umpire is going to miss a call. Did everyone at the Chicago watch party start yelling? Did someone at said watch party spike a glass onto the ground? Did I squeeze a glass beer bottle into a small ball as if it were paper? History can neither confirm nor deny these events. It can point out that Miller got hosed on the first pitch.
Miller tosses a slider for the first strike, evening the count. Then, another fastball, in an excellent spot, and Ross takes YET AGAIN. It’s intriguing to me, and I wonder if he happened to be looking for another slider. While the pitch is low, did he expect Miller to miss over the plate late in the at bat?
Miller’s next pitch is a slider, too far off of the plate. He answers with another that Ross swings through; a slider that darts to the bottom corner of the strike zone. On the very next pitch Miler locates the ball to break away from Ross. With the count full, Ross offers and whiffs. Just like that, Andrew Miller escaped a bases-loaded, zero out jam. He retained an ERA of 0.00.
To make matters even worse for the Cubs, Miller came out in the 8th inning for an encore. This time, the tying run reached the plate with runners on first and third, but Miller struck out Kyle Schwarber. There was much rejoicing.
Will Andrew Miller be available tonight against the Cubs? Maybe. While he held down the fort with two scoreless innings, it took him 46 pitches.
In the five years he's been a reliever, tonight's 46 pitches are the most Andrew Miller has thrown.— Jason Lukehart (@JasonLukehart) October 26, 2016
Knowing Miller, he will pitch if called upon. However the Indians still have excellent arms available to them, as Bryan Shaw and Dan Otero were not needed in last night’s game. I won’t lie, though -- I’d like to see Miller pitch in the World Series as often as possible. I don't think I'm the only one.
"I'm not stuck in this bases-loaded scenario with you, you're stuck in this bases-loaded scenario with me" - Andrew Miller, probably.— Let's Go Tribe (@LetsGoTribe) October 26, 2016