Miller solid in first start for Red Sox


Miller solid in first start for Red Sox

By Maureen Mullen Follow @maureenamullen
BOSTON It's been a long wait for Andrew Miller's Red Sox debut.

Acquired from the Marlins in November. Non-tendered soon after that and becoming a free agent. Re-signing with the Sox, but with an opt-out clause in his contract that would allow him to become a free agent again if he wasn't on the major-league roster on June 15. Starting the year in Pawtucket. Struggling with his command early in Triple-A, but then finding his rhythm as the opt-out date approached. Recalled to Boston. Tabbed to start Monday night against San Diego.

Yes, it's been a long wait. And for Miller, a former first-round pick (sixth overall) of the Tigers in 2006, it was not without some degree of pressure.

Completely honest, probably quite a bit, he said when asked if he felt some pressure. I think this was something that from the moment I found out I was going to get a start here, you think about it a little bit. For me in my situation, I had a lot of time to think about it. It wasnt like it was the night before or anything like that. So, it had gone through my head, but I trusted that I was prepared and I was throwing the ball well and I was going to go out there and have a good outing here.

Fortunately for me in my situation, I do have some big-league experience. It hasnt been in Boston but I think that certainly helps it. I certainly wasnt as anxious or nervous as probably most guys who come in here for the first time.

Facing the Padres, Miller went 5 23 innings, giving up three runs on seven hits and three walks with six strikeouts.

He did a good job, said catcher Jason Varitek. All in all, his stuffs good. Threw some real good changeups and pitched out of one situation earlier, man on third, no outs and did a real good job of doing it.

Really good, really encouraging, manager Terry Francona said of Millers outing. His changeup was really good. Solid breaking ball. Theres a lot to be encouraged about. Just made a bad pitch and paid for it.

The bad pitch was to Orlando Hudson, who blasted a three-run homer with one out in the sixth and tied the game at 3-3. Miller was lifted not long afterwards, and thus wasn't involved in the decision as the Sox exploded for 10 runs in the bottom of the seventh en route to a 14-5 victory.

Still, Miller agreed: There was a lot to like Monday night.

It was a lot of fun, Miller said. I think any time you get to pitch in Fenway is going to be fun and especially to go out there with a Red Sox uniform on is a blast.

"Unfortunately, the last inning kind of brought me down to reality a bit. But, all in all, its hard to beat that experience.

With Triple-A Pawtucket, Miller posted a record of 3-3 with a 2.47 ERA in 13 games, with 61 strikeouts and 35 walks in 65 23 innings, holding batters to an International League-best .181 average. In his four starts, since he adjusting his pregame routine, he was 2-1 with a 1.78 ERA, with 26 strikeouts and just three walks. The 6-foot, 7-inch Miller, who has been plagued by control issues during his career, had allowed just one walk in his last three outings, spanning 18 13 innings.

The first walk he gave up Monday was to Cameron Maybin, Milllers former teammate and roommate with the Tigers and Marlins. Miller and Maybin were both part of the seven-player trade that sent them from Detroit (with three other players) to Florida for Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis after the 2007 season. After that he struck out Maybin on a curveball in the fourth and got him to line out to Jacoby Ellsbury in the sixth.

In that first at-bat I didnt really command my fastball to him, Miller said. I think it was in my head a little bit. And after that, ultimately, Im still pitching. But for me, being a friend of his and coming up with him and all, its certainly probably as close to any hitter Ive faced maybe as far as having a personal relationship with him and then having to face him in a game at this level. But, still Im just looking at the catcher and looking at the mitt. So that really wasnt too big of an issue.

Miller handled the Padres well for most of his outing. His first dose of trouble came in the fourth, when Jesus Guzman led off with a triple off the wall in center field. But Miller retired the next three batters, keeping San Diego off the scoreboard for the time being.

But with one out and two runners on in the sixth, the Padres broke through. On the first pitch of the at-bat a 91-mph fastball Hudson delivered a laser into the back row of the Monster seats, tying the score with his first home run of the season.

After the Hudson homer, Miller got Maybin to line out before Anthony Rizzos double into the triangle in center field ended Millers night.

Francona was pleased with Millers outing.

Weve seen what hes done in Triple-A, Francona said. He deserves so much credit. He went and worked on things and the last four, five, six starts was really starting to put together some really good starts. Hes got some moving parts in his delivery. Tall. Lanky. He walked a couple of guys and came right back and made pitches.

The one time they had a runner on third, nobody out, he really executed. Theres a lot to like. This kid can pitch. Sometimes you have to kind of catch a break to acquire a good pitcher. Maybe we did.

For Miller, who made his major league debut with the Marlins less than three weeks after signing in 2006 but has spent almost as much time in the minor as he has in the big leagues since, theres one way to ensure that he remains in the major leagues, bringing to fruition the promise he has always had.

I think physically at times Ive shown that I have the ability to succeed at this level against the best teams, he said. Its ultimately though you got to do it all the time and I think confidence is huge in that. You build that by success and success breeds confidence. I think thats what Im looking to do and I certainly am aware of that.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen

McAdam: World Series win could clear path to Cooperstown for Epstein or Francona

McAdam: World Series win could clear path to Cooperstown for Epstein or Francona

Sometime over the next 10 or so days, either the Chicago Cubs or Cleveland Indians will win the 2016 World Series.

Naturally, that will mean one of baseball's two longest-suffering franchises will end their championship drought. Either the Cubs will win their first title since 1908, or the Indians will win for the first time since 1948.

That alone should make for an epic World Series.

But there's another bit of history at stake, too - one of legacies.

In addition to the great discomfort felt by Red Sox ownership -- which fired the manager of one participating team and was seemingly happy to hold the door open for the exit of an executive now running the other - it will also almost certainly result, eventually, in either Terry Francona or Theo Epstein being enshrined into the Hall of Fame.

Epstein would go down as the architect who helped two star-crossed franchises win titles - the Red Sox in 2004, and the Cubs this fall.

The Red Sox went 86 years between championships; the Cubs would be ending a run of futility that stretched across 108 seasons.

That would provide Epstein with an unmatched resume when it comes to degree of difficulty. It's one thing to win it all; it's another altogether to do so with the Sox and Cubs, two clubs, until Epstein's arrival, linked in ignominy.

Epstein could become only the fourth GM in modern history win a World Series in both leagues. Frank Cashen (Orioles and Mets); John Schuerholz (Royals and Braves) and Pat Gillick (Blue Jays and Phillies).

He would also join a short list of executives who have won three rings, a list that includes contemporaries Brian Cashman and Brian Sabean.

Of course, Epstein can't claim to have constructed the entire Cubs roster, no more than he could have done when the Red Sox won in '04.

In Boston, Epstein inherited key players such as Manny Ramirez, Pedro Martinez, Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek. Similarly, Javier Baez and Willson Contreras pre-date Epstein's arrival on the North Side.

But Epstein is responsible for nearly the remainder of the roster, and hiring manager Joe Maddon, the coaching staff and most of the Baseball Operations staff, including GM Jed Hoyer and scouting director Jason McLeod.

Francona's influence on the Indians is just as obvious.

Hired in late 2012 after spending a year in the ESPN broadcast booth, he inherited a team which had suffered through four straight losing seasons. In the five previous years before Francona's hiring, the Indians averaged just over 72 wins per season.

Since his arrival, the Indians have posted four straight winning seasons, with two playoff appearances, while averaging 88 wins per season.

It hasn't seemed to matter to the Indians that they've been without two of their three best starters (Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco) this postseason or arguably, their best offensive player for all but 11 games this season (Michael Brantley).

The Indians don't make excuses for injuries, or bemoan their modest payroll. Under Francona, they just win.

This postseason, he's made up for the absences in the rotation by masterfully utilizing reliever Andrew Miller anywhere from the fifth to the ninth inning.

A third World Series would put Francona in similarly rare company. Only 10 managers have won three or more World Series and just six have done so since World War 2 - Walter Alston, Joe Torre, Tony La Russa, Bruce Bochy Sparky Anderson and Casey Stengel.

The individual accomplishments of Epstein and Francona won't take center stage this week and next -- that attention will, rightly, go to their respective beleaguered franchises.

But the subtext shouldn't be overlooked. Once the partying and the parades come to an end, a path to Cooperstown for either the winning manager or winning president of baseball operations can be cleared.


NLCS: Cubs eliminate Dodgers, reach Series for first time since 1945


NLCS: Cubs eliminate Dodgers, reach Series for first time since 1945

CHICAGO -- Cursed by a Billy Goat, bedeviled by Bartman and crushed by decades of disappointment, the Chicago Cubs are at long last headed back to the World Series.

Kyle Hendricks outpitched Clayton KershawAnthony Rizzo and Willson Contreras homered early and the Cubs won their first pennant since 1945, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 Saturday night in Game 6 of the NL Championship Series.

The drought ended when closer Aroldis Chapman got Yasiel Puig to ground into a double play, setting off a wild celebration inside Wrigley Field, outside the ballpark and all over the city.

Seeking their first crown since 1908, manager Joe Maddon's team opens the World Series at Cleveland on Tuesday night. The Indians haven't won it all since 1948 - Cleveland and Cubs have the two longest title waits in the majors.

"This city deserves it so much," Rizzo said. "We got four more big ones to go, but we're going to enjoy this. We're going to the World Series. I can't even believe that."

All-everything Javier Baez and pitcher Jon Lester shared the NLCS MVP. Baez hit .318, drove in five runs and made several sharp plays at second base. Lester, a former World Series champion in Boston, was 1-0 with a 1.38 ERA in two starts against the Dodgers.

Deemed World Series favorites since opening day, the Cubs topped the majors with 103 wins to win the NL Central, then beat the Giants and Dodgers in the playoffs.

The Cubs overcame a 2-1 deficit against the Dodgers and won their 17th pennant. They had not earned a World Series trip since winning a doubleheader opener 4-3 at Pittsburgh on Sept. 29, 1945, to clinch the pennant on the next-to-last day of the season.

The eternal "wait till next year" is over. No more dwelling on a history of failure - the future is now.

"We're too young. We don't care about it," star slugger Kris Bryant said. "We don't look into it. This is a new team, this is a completely different time of our lives. We're enjoying it and our work's just getting started."

Hendricks pitched two-hit ball for 7 1/3 innings. Chapman took over and closed with hitless relief, then threw both arms in the air as he was mobbed by teammates and coaches.

The crowd joined in, chanting and serenading their team.

"Chicago!" shouted popular backup catcher David Ross.

The Cubs shook off back-to-back shutout losses earlier in this series by pounding the Dodgers for 23 runs to win the final three games.

And they were in no way overwhelmed by the moment on Saturday, putting aside previous frustration.

In 1945, the Billy Goat Curse supposedly began when a tavern owner wasn't allowed to bring his goat to Wrigley. In 2003, the Cubs lost the final three games of the NLCS to Florida, punctuated with a Game 6 defeat when fan Steve Bartman deflected a foul ball.

Even as recently as 2012, the Cubs lost 101 times.

This time, no such ill luck.

Bryant had an RBI single and scored in a two-run first. Dexter Fowler added two hits, drove in a run and scored one.

Contreras led off the fourth with a homer. Rizzo continued his resurgence with a solo drive in the fifth.

That was plenty for Hendricks, the major league ERA leader.

Hendricks left to a standing ovation after Josh Reddick singled with one out in the eighth. The only other hit Hendricks allowed was a single by Andrew Toles on the game's first pitch.

Kershaw, dominant in Game 2 shutout, gave up five runs and seven hits before being lifted for a pinch hitter in the sixth. He fell to 4-7 in the postseason.

The Dodgers haven't been to the World Series since winning in 1988.

Pitching on five days' rest, the three-time NL Cy Young Award winner threw 30 pitches in the first. Fowler led off with a double, and Bryant's single had the crowd shaking the 102-year-old ballpark.

They had more to cheer when left fielder Andrew Toles dropped Rizzo's fly, putting runners on second and third, and Ben Zobrist made it 2-0 a sacrifice fly.

The Cubs added a run in the second when Addison Russell doubled to deep left and scored on a two-out single by Fowler.


Maddon benched slumping right fielder Jason Heyward in favor of Albert Almora Jr.

"Kershaw's pitching, so I wanted to get one more right-handed bat in the lineup, and also with Albert I don't feel like we're losing anything on defense," Maddon said. "I know Jason's a Gold Glover, but I think Albert, given an opportunity to play often enough would be considered a Gold Glove-caliber outfielder, too."

Heyward was 2 for 28 in the playoffs - 1 for 16 in the NLCS.


Kerry Wood, wearing a Ron Santo jersey, threw out the first pitch and actor Jim Belushi delivered the "Play Ball!" call before the game. Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder and actor John Cusack were also in attendance. And Bulls great Scottie Pippen led the seventh-inning stretch.