Smoke Signals: Miller not himself, still effective in return

Plus: Cimber vs. Clichés, Ohtani vs. Tribe

Alex Hooper
August 03, 2018 - 11:45 pm
Aug 3, 2018; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians relief pitcher Andrew Miller (24) throws a pitch to begin the sixth inning against the Los Angeles Angels at Progressive Field.

© Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

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Cleveland, OH (92.3 The Fan) – For a baseball player who warms up to a song that is a pun, Adam Cimber felt the wrath of another literary aspect on Friday night: the cliché.

Upon entering a tie game with a runner on first in the top of the 8th inning, the submarining right-hander walked Albert Pujols prior to recording a fielder’s choice, retiring him at second base. The slow roller, 71.3 mph off the bat of Andrelton Simmons was not hit hard enough to generate a double play.

A batter later, the cliché struck.

“A game of inches.”

Rookie David Fletcher worked a six-pitch go-ahead double off of Cimber, flaring a slider to right field that dropped exactly onto the foul line and out of play. The blooper travelled 249 ft. at 82.7 mph off of the bat, generating a 43% hit probability according to StatCast.

(That number would likely be higher if the directional angle were accounted for in that metric.)

To make matters worse for the rookie after an intentional walk of pinch-hitter Luis Valbuena, Jose Briceno extended the inning. The Angels backup catcher reached on a bleeder to the right side, beating out a throw from Jose Ramirez at third by a step, and driving in another run.

The base hit came off the bat so awkwardly that it did not register on StatCast at all.

Enter the second cliché, or at least the second half of the second cliché: the blast in “a bloop and a blast.”

While not a 'blast' in the technical baseball term, Cimber’s 16th pitch of the inning generated a 100.5 mph double from Eric Young, Jr. off of the center field wall for a two-run double. The game was then out of reach.

“I thought he deserved better,” Manager Terry Francona said. “The ball hits the right field chalk line, swinging bunt, mixed in a couple intentional walks to get the right matchups and it ended up being a big inning. That obviously hurt our chances.”

Miller Lite

Andrew Miller made his first appearance since May 25, a day prior to being placed on the 10-day disabled list. He was activated from the disabled list prior to the contest.

The lefty struck out one, walked another and threw a wild pitches over an inning that spanned 16 pitches.

BaseballSavant.com

Miller was not particularly sharp with his command, as could be seen by the wild pitch alone. He also got a little help from home plate umpire Marty Foster.

The 33-year-old’s fastball topped out at 92.9 mph, averaging 91.8 over seven offerings.

That average speed would register as the lowest in a major league game for his career if not for the August 21, 2017 outing against the Boston Red Sox in which he faced just one hitter. Miller walked one in that outing and left after re-aggravating patella tendonitis in his right knee.

“I didn’t think it was his best stuff, and I’m sure he’d say that,” Francona said. “But it was nice to get him out there in a major league game. The more we pitch him, the better he’s going to get.”

The southpaw did admit as such, though a scoreless inning is a nice way to frame what will be a somewhat lengthy process as Miller ascends to full health.

“I think it’s repetitions at this level,” he said. “I think I got through that on the minor league games and coming back, this is a different animal. I think that atmosphere was great. It was a lot of fun. The situation was something I feel like I genuinely thrive on and getting back into it, I know the results were good, but I know I can be better.”

Oh no, Ohtani

Angels two-way rookie phenom Shohei Ohtani’s season has not gone quite as well as possible given his lofty expectations.

Sample sizes be damned, “the modern day Babe Ruth” has managed to look somehow better than the Bambino when he faces the Indians.

Ohtani homered twice and singled twice more on Friday, recording his first multi-homer and four-hit games of his young career. That night extended his season against the Indians to a 9-of-14 run at the plate (.643).

According to STATS LLC, Ohtani became the first player in Major League history to hit 10-or-more homers and record 50-or-more pitcher strikeouts in the same season. The 23-year-old became the first player since Ruth in 1919 to hit at least 10 homers and throw at least 40 innings in a single season, as well as the first with 10-plus homers and four-plus victories.