The Cleveland Indians managed to eke out a win Monday at Progressive Field on a rough night from the mound for two of the top staffs in the American League.
The Indians (fifth) and visiting Tampa Bay Rays (third) are both top five in the AL in team earned run average, but the bat-missing stuff needed to produce those numbers didn’t show up Monday. The 8-7 Indians win featured 20 total hits and began with at least one run scored in every half inning until the bottom the fourth.
These things happen to even the best pitching staffs over the duration of a 162-game season, but Monday’s noteworthy moment came in the eighth inning. Indians left-handed reliever Andrew Miller surrendered his first run of the season on a two-out sacrifice fly from Rays first baseman Logan Morrison that scored designated hitter Corey Dickerson.
Monday was Miller’s 16th appearance this season and he had recorded 54 straight outs without an opponent plating a run of any kind, earned or unearned, before Morrison’s sac fly. The lanky lefty now sports a 0.47 ERA and three more strikeouts boosted his season-long total to 26 over 19 innings. Miller did walk one and give up an infield base hit to Rays second baseman Brad Miller during his 1 1/3 innings Monday, but opposing batters are hitting just .149 against him and his walks plus hits per inning pitched rate remains well below 1.00, at 0.79.
The 31-year-old with the nasty, wipeout slider has developed into one of the game’s most dominating relievers over the past few seasons and he’s picking up where he left off in 2016. Aside from perfecting his slider, a big reason why Miller continues to mow down big-league hitters is his attacking approach. The Gainesville, Florida native threw 70.2 percent of his pitches for strikes in 2016 and has improved that to 71.1 this year.
There now remain four Major League Baseball relievers with at least 10 innings pitched who own 0.00 ERAs and one is Miller’s teammate in the Indians bullpen, 25-year-old Nick Goody (13 2/3 innings). The others are Chicago White Sox righty reliever Anthony Swarzak (19 2/3 innings), Chicago Cubs righty closer Wade Davis (15 1/3 innings), and Seattle Mariners lefty Marc Rzepczynski (10 1/3 innings). Rzepczynski and Swarzak haven’t given up a run of any kind.
Last season it was Baltimore Orioles lefty closer Zach Britton grabbing headlines for his ability to keep runs off the board. He went 41 1/3 innings, a stretch lasting from May 5 to August 22, without surrendering an earned run, and produced three other lengthy runs of completely scoreless baseball – 21 2/3 innings, 19 innings and 15 innings.