By Jonathan Peterlin
CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) –There’s been a constant forming within these Indians wins. The formula is simple, use your best relievers in high leverage spots, and lock down the victory. In eight of the nine games the Indians have won, there has been some combination of Andrew Miller, Cody Allen, and Bryan Shaw used.
It makes sense. When you have three guns in the pen, you want to see them on the field as much as possible. Much has been written about Andrew Miller’s slider, but he makes up just one piece to this puzzle that has left teams playing with five innings to hit while the Indians get nine.
The roles haven’t always been the same, but the three of them being a part of the games late has been.
It’s amazing how much flurry was made over Andrew Miller coming into the fifth inning of Game One of the LDS to relieve Trevor Bauer. In game three of the World Series, we didn’t even blink when he entered earlier in the fifth. It was assumed. We had evolved our thought process. 17 pitches later we saw Bryan Shaw come in to start the seventh.
Miller on Shaw replacing him “we have a lot of trust in who ever we put out there. To me it’s the playoffs, I think you do whatever it takes. We have 5 games left, you do whatever it takes to win today.”
This is where things got interesting for Terry Francona. He could’ve used Cody Allen for two innings, stretched him out, and taxed him with an amount we hadn’t seen him do this postseason. Shaw stayed in and threw eight straight cutters to get Addison Russell swinging on pitch nine of the at bat. He then threw four straight cutters to induce a Kyle Schwarber pop out. After a Dexter Fowler single, his night was done.
Using Shaw the way he was used in Game three of the LCS against Toronto played to Francona’s advantage. Nobody would’ve questioned if he brought Allen in to face Schwarber, a big offensive threat to get the job done. What this allows was just eighteen pitches for Allen and seventeen for Miller in the most important spot of the series for bullpen use. That is of course, three games back to back and now an opportunity to use all three relievers in the upcoming two days.
In a postseason that has seen each Miller and Allen hit the forty pitch count twice, it’s key to use these guys in game three wisely.
Miller and Allen have been dominant together though. Per Ben Reiter from Sports Illustrated – the two have identical strikeout rates at just over 16 this postseason. The combo is also yet to allow a run.
If you throw Shaw in the mix, the three of them haven’t allowed a run in their last 26 2/3 pitched. Shaw last allowing a run in game four of the LCS, the only game the team lost that series.
Relievers get the rep in baseball culture to be fungible assets. Front office executives rarely give them big contracts, and it’s assumed most will fluctuate within their roles in a short period of time. Some are just journeyman, making a good living. This postseason, the trio of Shaw, Allen, and Miller has been just as important as any other part of the Indians continued success.