Star relievers Chapman, Miller yanked into World Series
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The Cubs and the Indians?
When you talk about the World Series, these franchises don’t exactly roll off the tongue with the same resonance as the Yankees. Or even without a smirk usually.
But both teams bring a lot of Yankee-like swagger into this matchup, if only because of the key acquisitions each picked up from the Yankees before the trade-deadline.
Three months after they were acquired for heavy hauls of prospects, lefty relievers Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman are on the biggest baseball stage of their lives and poised to play decisive roles in ending one team’s generations-long championship drought.
“Both teams made aggressive trades to do that, and both teams are still standing,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said. “And there’s something to that. Miller’s been amazing for them, and their bullpen’s been great. And Tito has been aggressive deploying those guys, which has been really smart.”
Tito, of course, is Indians manager Terry Francona, the first manager Cubs president Theo Epstein hired when he was a general manager in Boston. Hoyer was Epstein’s assistant then.
Francona, who helped bust the Bambino curse in Boston in 2004 and then won another World Series in 2007, now goes after Cleveland’s first since 1948 and will try to keep the Cubs from winning their first since 1908.
Hoyer said Francona set a tone for the Indians’ 7-1 run through the American League playoffs when he went to Miller in the fifth inning of a one-run game in Game 1 of the division series against Boston. Miller got the next six outs and earned the win.
Miller, who has a 1.53 ERA for the Indians, has performed even better in the playoffs: six scoreless appearances with a save.
Chapman has been a major weapon for the Cubs as well, though he hasn’t proven as versatile in as many roles for manager Joe Maddon. Chapman still prefers the standard ninth-inning save situation. Still, he has pitched in eight of the Cubs’ 10 postseason games, accounting for 24 outs with three saves and a 3.38 ERA.
Miller figures to be one of the most important players to watch in the series if only for the fact that he is one of only two left-handers the Indians have had on their postseason roster. The other is rookie Ryan Merritt.
In fact, as Francona looks for the ideal sequences to unleash Miller against the Cubs, watch for where Kyle Schwarber might fall into the sequence, assuming the Cubs add Schwarber to the World Series roster after he’d missed all but three games with a knee injury.
Schwarber might be the biggest reason the Cubs don’t have both Miller and Chapman. The Cubs refused the Yankees’ insistent demands for Schwarber to be included in any deal for Miller.
Now they might have to figure out a way to beat the lefty with 12 career scoreless playoff appearances. Miller has 31 strikeouts and three walks in 20 playoff innings.
The key to navigating that, Hoyer said, is to take him out of the equation before it gets that far.
“You’ve got to get an early lead and keep those guys off the mound,” Hoyer said.
Which brings the Cubs to Cleveland’s Cy Young ace, Corey Kluber.
But that’s another story.
Follow me on Twitter @GDubCub.