By Katie Woo
GOODYEAR, Ariz. — For Andrew Miller and the Cleveland Indians, a model for the ideal 2017 season is hiding in plain sight elsewhere in the AL Central.
The Indians found themselves on the wrong side of a one-run game in Game Seven of the World Series last fall, just as like the Kansas City Royals did in 2014. Kansas City won the World Series the next year.
“It’s easy for us to look at what the Royals did a couple of years ago,” said reliever Andrew Miller, who has become a staple in the Indians bullpen. “They lost in the World Series and won it the next year. That’s our model.”
The Royals became the 15th team in baseball history to win the World Series the year after they lost it.
“I’ve seen teams go the other direction, but it’s pretty easy for us to look at the model they had,” Miller said. “We had a lot of guys that were young, maybe a little unproven in the playoff setting, but we went out and backed it up.
“Hopefully that experience makes everybody more prepared for the future.”
The Indians won 94 games in the regular season and breezed past Boston and Toronto in the playoffs. They lost Game 7 of the World Series to the Cubs, 8-7, in 10 innings.
With the trade deadline imminent, Miller had joined the Indians in a deal with the Yankees on July 31. He quickly proved — and added to — his reputation as one of the most dominant relievers in the game. He showed a reliever doesn’t have to be strictly a closer to be a star. Manager Terry Francona shrewdly deployed Miller at entry points from the sixth through the ninth innings.
In the regular season with Cleveland, Miller went 4-0 with a 1.55 ERA. Then he really got going in the postseason.
In the division series against Boston, Miller pitched four innings and didn’t allow a run.
In the championship series against Toronto, he became historic. He became the first reliever to have at least five strikeouts in consecutive postseason games. For the series, which the Indians won in five games, Miller pitched 7 ⅔ innings, allowed no runs and no walks, and struck out a whopping 14. He was named the MVP of the championship series.
In the World Series, the Cubs didn’t really get to him until they scored two runs in Game 7.
A “traveling man” of his own sorts, Miller is no stranger to new teams and teammates. He’s played for four teams over the last three years. When he reached the Indians, he knew what his new teammates wanted to accomplish.
“These guys knew what they were trying to do,” said Miller. “There’s a great core that’s here. It’s been a blast to be a part of the team here, the organization is great. For something that’s so out of my control I don’t think I could’ve scripted it anything better.”
Miller is under contract with the Indians for two more seasons. As he looks ready to start his first full season as an Indian, Miller says there’s only one thing the team is striving for that differs from last year.
“One more win,” he said with a smile. “That’s all we’re asking for.”