Cleveland starting pitcher Corey Kluber was 88 pitches deep after he gave up a leadoff single to Ben Zobrist in the seventh inning of Game 1 Tuesday. He could have seen a couple more batters, but Terry Francona planned ahead, and pulled him for Andrew Miller, the shaggy scarecrow who hadn’t allowed a run since Sept. 7. It almost backfired.
As the San Francisco Giants can explain, the 2016 Cubs can claw their way back from practically any deficit. They came close last night. Miller started his appearance by walking Kyle Schwarber, who hadn’t played in a major-league game since April after tearing up his knee, and allowing Javier Báez to single and load the bases with no one out. Recall how Miller had performed in all bases-loaded situations since 2014:
A minor correction: He had actually allowed two runs in his last 12 situations. But in a mess against the Cubs, Miller got out of it without damage:
The 6-foot-7 lefty induced a shallow flyout from Willson Contreras, then his slider, upon which he had been relying the entire inning, clicked. He struck out Addison Russell on three pitches and froze David Ross on a full count to get out of the jam.
What else is there to say but “Holy shit”? Kluber was excellent, but Miller, after showing some vulnerability, was downright masterful. The Cubs, the best team in their league, had a chance to get back into the game and draw blood from the AL’s best reliever. But instead of allowing a demoralizing rally, Miller stuck with the approach that makes him the threat that he is, and he punked three hitters in a row. Cleveland won, 6-0. This man is unfair.