Indians’ bullpen ace Miller as humble as he is devastating

Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona talks about the family feel this Indians team has and the accomplishment of making it to the World Series.

TORONTO – Andrew Miller is wearing his game-worn Cleveland Indians hat overtop his brand new American League champions hat, and there’s a bottle of champagne in his left hand.

Minutes earlier, he became only the fourth relief pitcher in history to win the ALCS MVP. Miller takes a swig from that bottle.

“MVP, it has no business being with me,” says the six-foot-seven left-hander. “It’s unfair to single somebody out. What a special team, top to bottom. So many great plays were made behind me.”

That’s the thing about Cleveland’s star reliever, the 31-year-old with the brown beard who spelled disaster for Toronto every time he jogged out from the bullpen—he’s not only really good, but he manages to somehow be humble, too.

“It’s not fair to single anybody out for anything,” Miller says. He’s then ushered off to the interview room for a press conference, and he excuses himself from the scrum of reporters around him with a “sorry, guys.”

A couple beat reporters laugh about it as Miller walks away—yes, he actually apologized, after answering questions for a good 10 minutes with cameras and recorders in his face.

Over the course of the ALCS series that wrapped up Wednesday, the towering Floridian faced 25 batters. He struck out 14 of them. He walked none of them. He gave up just three hits. When the Blue Jays got to Miller—Dioner Navarro managed this twice—it felt like a major victory. Because it was.

Could he have pitched any better? Cleveland’s pitching coach Mickey Callaway just laughs.

“No,” Callaway says, shortly after champagne and two beers are poured directly over his head (and now he’s cold). “He was lights out. The way he just attacked consistently, early pitch outs, strikeouts. It was amazing.”

Callaway did expect this type of performance from Miller. Well, sort of.

“Not all the strikeouts,” he says, grinning, “but I knew he’d pitch really well and get a lot of big outs for us in the middle of that lineup.”

That he did. In Wednesday’s ALCS-clinching win, Miller came in to face Josh Donaldson in the sixth with a three-run lead, a runner on first and one out. He needed just one pitch—a 93.5 MPH four-seam fastball—to end the inning. Miller got last year’s AL MVP to hit into a double play, just like that.

Cleveland’s third base coach, Mike Sarbaugh, actually saw that coming. Callaway says Sarbaugh called it from the bench: “He’s gonna throw one pitch and get two outs,” he said. And Miller did.

Callaway admits the fastball Miller used for his single pitch in the sixth was “not probably the best pitch to Donaldson in that big situation,” but it led to a ground ball double play anyway.

“The one thing I always lean back on with him is he’s prepared,” Callaway says. “That ball he threw to Donaldson to make the double play, Donaldson was sitting back door slider. Donaldson had showed that—he took a really good swing at a back door slider in his strikeout a couple days ago.”

So Miller hit him with a fastball. And of course it worked, because everything, it seems, works for Miller these days.

“It was almost like tonight he was like, ‘I’m going to get some ground balls and conserve my pitches,’” Callaway says. “It was unbelievable. I think the kid can do whatever he wants.”

That may be true. Not that Miller will take credit for any of his success, though.

Later, in the interview room, Miller is singing his teammate’s praises, deflecting any questions asked about his own performance. “We have a catcher and a defence that are special,” he says. “It’s not just us out there getting outs.

“And all that matters is we won. It doesn’t matter how we got there. I would have given up a hundred runs today if we won the game.”

He didn’t, of course. He’s given up zero runs this entire post-season.

A couple minutes before he arrived in the interview room, Miller hopped in a little buggy car with his wife and son to shuttle down the hall. On the way, he spotted Blue Jays first base coach Tim Leiper. Miller got out of the shuttle to give Leiper a hug, and introduced Leiper to his family.

Blue Jays fans, this may be hard to hear, but Miller not only played a key role in ending Toronto’s season, but he’s also humble and kind. And now, he’s headed to the World Series.

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