Sometimes you hear people say “Only in Cleveland” after hearing some unusual, usually negative event resulting from what’s different about the Forest City.
Following Sunday’s 5-4 victory over the Los Angeles, Anaheim, Orange County, Malibu, maybe even Fruitvale Angels, I’d like to suggest a way something good happened as a result of a distinctive Cleveland trait.
Imagine a New York or Chicago or Los Angeles team that brought in one of the best relievers in baseball and, despite his $9 million salary, turned him into a situational reliever used for lefty/righty matchups, not just save situations.
That’s what seems to be happening here. When Terry Francona was asked how he would use Andrew Miller, he talked about “leverage” and how the lefty would fit in with the rest of the roster to help the team win. At the time, it sounded like the kind of vagueness you hear from every manager.
What Francona actually has done is something sabermetrics people have been suggesting for years. It amounts to choosing relievers to maximize matchups, not to maximize the number of saves bestowed on a star reliever.
Sunday, it was Miller who was called in the seventh inning to face Cliff Pennington, Johnny Giavotella and Nick Buss. He retired them all. Only Buss was a left-handed batter, but if anyone had reached base, there was a chance he could face Kole Calhoun, another lefty. Matchups ruled.
Miller went on to retire three men in a row in the eighth inning before yielding in Cody Allen, who handled the ninth inning.
Note that the save went to the man making a mere $4 million. In the bigger cities with bigger, meaner media, a false controversy might be brewed. Cleveland gets a lot of negative publicity but not for the meanness of its media, which resembles a lapdog more than a watchdog. The daily newspaper doesn’t even deliver its product to homes on Monday mornings.
Francona has worked in Philadelphia and Boston, so he knows what it’s like to deal with reporters who like to stir the pot. While he probably would say he is immune to the heat reporters can bring, he also might agree that his players sometimes do get caught up in the gossip.
That’s not much of a problem in Cleveland, which has a first place team that can follow logic instead of the winds of dissent.
Don’t be surprised if Francona has Miller pitching in the ninth inning some other day if the matchups dictate that decision.
The Indians will be waking up early for a 1 p.m. makeup game against Boston. Josh Tomlin (11-5, 4.18) will start for the Tribe. Boston has not announced a starter.