CLEVELAND — Andrew Miller set the standard for the new wave of bringing in one of your ace relievers in the middle innings during last year’s postseason. Indians manager Terry Francona rode Miller and the rest of his excellent bullpen all the way to the seventh game of the World Series.
Joe Girardi may have set a new standard in Tuesday’s 8-4 AL wild card win over the Twins when he had to use his bullpen for 26 outs after starter Luis Severino lasted one-third of an inning.
Miller, the MVP of last year’s ALCS, marveled on Wednesday at how Yankees relievers excelled after getting the early call and pitching multiple innings.
That’s like Picasso telling another painter he likes his brushstrokes.
Chad Green replaced Severino and pitched into the third inning, when David Robertson took over. Robertson threw a career-high 3 1⁄3 innings before Tommy Kahnle threw 2 1⁄3 perfect innings in his postseason debut. Aroldis Chapman had the easiest assignment — the ninth inning with a four-run lead.
“I couldn’t believe D-Rob was out there as long as he was,” Miller said on the eve of Game 1 of the ALDS. “That was really an impressive performance from him. Kahnle, too. Across the board. Those are pretty outlier performances for relievers. What Joe asked them to do, I think they showed they can do it. That’s pretty impressive. You tip your cap to them.”
Miller, who the Yankees traded to the Indians in their 2016 “rebuilding” purge, said he doesn’t feel any special excitement about going up against his old teammates or bullpen-mates.
“I know a lot of the guys in that bullpen and they did really well,” he said. “So good for them. Now they’re the opponent and it’s our job to beat them three times before they beat us. It’ll be a challenge, but that’s not any sort of news to us. We knew it was going to be. I think it’s exciting. This is what you work all year for — to play these games.”
Miller threw 19 1⁄3 innings in 10 postseason appearances in 2016. He is still coming back from a knee injury that landed him on the disabled list twice after the All-Star break. Miller’s latest return came on Sept. 14. Overall, he went 4-3 with a 1.44 ERA and two saves in 57 regular-season games. He did not face the Yankees.
“I’m still getting stronger,” Miller said. “It’s going in the right direction. So ideally it’s something that’s in the rear-view mirror.”