CLEVELAND — It’s taken nearly the entire season, but it may be Miller time once again.
Manager Terry Francona said he’s confident left-hander Andrew Miller is nearing postseason form since returning from his third stint on the disabled list this season.
Miller has cleared all the hurdles since being activated from the injured list Sept. 10, including logging more than one inning in an appearance and pitching on consecutive days.
“One of the hardest things for a manager is not knowing,” Francona said. “The more question marks you can eliminate the better off you are. We feel really good about bringing him into games now. If he comes in and gets on a roll, we can leave him in a game. If he has to work, OK, maybe we don’t leave him in as long. But I still think we feel really good about where he’s at.”
Though Miller allowed runs in three of seven appearances since leaving the DL through Saturday, he’s also shown flashes of his old dominant self, striking out nine over seven innings.
Kip, Kip hooray
Jason Kipnis hasn’t seen a ton of action in eight starts in center field through Saturday, but his manager thinks he’s holding his own.
“I think he’s doing pretty good,” Francona said. “We started him out and allowed him to kind of play deeper, just for comfort level. And now, the last couple days we’ve challenged him to kind of start creeping in a little bit and being more aggressive, and he understands that.”
Kipnis entered Sunday batting .228, but was hitting just under .260 over his last 77 games and was at .297 (22-for-74) with six home runs and 23 RBIs over his last 22 games.
Cody Allen threw a bullpen session Saturday at Progressive Field and Francona confirmed that the right-hander would pitch tonight when the Indians open a three-game series against the White Sox in Chicago.
Allen hasn’t made an appearance since Sept. 15, but after struggling for much of the season, he’s been much better of late, posting a 2.55 ERA over his last 25 games. He hasn’t allowed a run in his last nine appearances, striking out 11 over 81⁄3 innings.
Francona will have a number of postseason roster decisions to make, one of them being whether there is room for both of Cleveland’s speedy outfielders, Rajai Davis and Greg Allen.
“We’ve gone over a lot of stuff. There’s a lot of either-ors and also things happen,” he said. “If I answer one thing, then ... I’d just kind of rather stay away from the roster stuff.”
Though he’s benefited from being able to use both players over the final month of the season, Francona said there is a downside to rosters expanding to 40 players in September.
“You play until Sept. 1 with a (25-man) roster, you play every playoff game with a 25-man roster and then you go for a month (with a 40-man roster),” he said. “And in a lot of instances they’re the most important games of the year and you can do things that you’ve never thought of. (Saturday) night we were getting guys out, getting guys in. It’s a different game. I hope at some point we get more uniform.”
Right-hander Mike Clevinger reached 200 strikeouts Saturday night and is 62⁄3 innings away from 200 innings with one start remaining before the regular season is complete.
After spending time in the starting and relief role last year, Clevinger, 27, solidified his spot in the rotation this season, owning a 12-8 record and 3.07 ERA over 31 starts.
“Sunshine been throwing the ball great, especially these last 10, 11, 12 starts,” left fielder Michael Brantley said. “He’s really kind of honed in and got in a good rhythm, a good groove. That’s fun to watch. It’s fun to watch a person develop when they have such good stuff and start getting better command and using all his pitches at any given time. He’s keeping hitters off-balance and he’s doing a phenomenal job.”
Opposing batters are hitting .225 off Clevinger.
The Indians wrap up the regular season with a seven-game road trip that begins tonight at 8:10 in the opener of a three-game series against the White Sox.
Corey Kluber (19-7, 2.93 ERA) opens the set, opposing RHP Dylan Covey (5-13, 5.33), while Trevor Bauer (12-6, 2.21) starts Tuesday at 8:10 p.m., with the Sox employing their bullpen.
Bauer, who will be making just his second appearance since Aug. 11, is expected to throw 60-65 pitches and will be followed to the mound by Carlos Carrasco (16-9, 3.35).
Shane Bieber (10-5, 4.80) will start the series finale Wednesday at 8:10 p.m. against RHP James Shields (7-16, 4.48).
- The Indians entered their final home game of the regular season owning a 48-32 record at Progressive Field.
- Brantley, Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez and Edwin Encarnacion each have recorded at least 50 RBIs at home, joining Roberto Alomar, Manny Ramirez, Richie Sexson and Jim Thome (1999) and Earl Averill, Jeff Heath, Ken Keltner and Hal Trosky (1938) as the only quartet in franchise history to do so.
- Brantley entered Saturday with a career .326 average in September, the highest of any active player (minimum 500 plate appearances) in the majors.
- Cleveland’s bullpen had a 3.50 ERA since the all-star break going into Sunday’s game, which ranked third in the AL and fourth in the majors.