Bullpen at its best for Indians in ALDS

Allen, Miller and Shaw a major reason for sweep of Red Sox

Bullpen at its best for Indians in ALDS

BOSTON -- The pitches piled up for Cody Allen -- five 3-0 or 3-1 counts in eight batters, full counts to the final four, all of them waiting for a pitch to send into the Boston night, add a chapter to the Red Sox's October heroics and carry the American League Division Series at least one more day.

All the while, the Indians' bullpen was still.

Game Date Matchup Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 6 CLE 5, BOS 4 video
Gm 2 Oct. 7 CLE 6, BOS 0 video
Gm 3 Oct. 10 CLE 4, BOS 3 video

"He was going to finish," manager Terry Francona said, "one way or another."

Even Allen admitted, as the count went full once more on Travis Shaw with the tying run on second base, that he wasn't sure which way it would go.

"It was one of those spots where I was pretty freaking nervous," Allen said. "But you know what, I was trying to make one pitch at a time. I didn't make some great pitches tonight. I fell behind guys. I got in a spot where I could've gotten beat. But you know what, we came out with a win.

"[Shaw] popped it up. He could've easily put the barrel on that ball and it could've been a tie game, but it worked out in our favor."

And as Shaw's fly ball landed in right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall's glove, sealing a 4-3 win and a Cleveland sweep, it also completed an impressive bullpen performance for a team that needed it to have a chance. The Tribe took three straight to advance to the AL Championship Series against the Blue Jays, but with the Indians down to three healthy starters, the margin of difference had a lot to do with the relief corps.

Cleveland's bullpen combined for 10 1/3 innings of two-run ball with four walks and 14 strikeouts for the series. Allen, Andrew Miller and Bryan Shaw combined for all but one of those innings.

"It's impressive, because we got it done," Miller said. "This offense that we faced, this team, is so great, but particularly from the perspective of a relief pitcher, this offense is just unbelievable. To find a way, it doesn't have to be pretty, and it wasn't tonight."

Miller's two scoreless innings

The last AL team to roll into Fenway Park for a playoff series can attest to that; the Tigers are still haunted by comeback homers in the 2013 ALCS. Miller was part of the Red Sox's bullpen then -- although he was injured and didn't pitch in the postseason -- and still draws from seeing the difference Boston's bullpen made in that series. Monday's game felt like a dramatic hit waiting to happen from the moment Miller replaced starter Josh Tomlin with a runner on and nobody out in the sixth inning.

Tomlin had pitched effectively, but Francona, who led the Red Sox to World Series titles in 2004 and '07, had seen too many dramatic scenes in this place to push it.

"I thought we were to the point in the game where, if everything played out, we could cover it," Francona said. "It doesn't guarantee anything, and they certainly made us work for it. But there's a reason we went and got Andrew Miller."

Francona on Ortiz, Farrell

Miller threw two scoreless innings for the second time this series. He had to retire David Ortiz with two runners on to do it. Ortiz, 1-for-8 against Miller, centered a 2-1 pitch and scorched a line drive, but Rajai Davis ran it down to limit the damage to a sacrifice fly.

By the time the top of the Boston order came around again, Miller had thrown 35 pitches. In came Shaw, who caught the corner for strike three on Dustin Pedroia before Travis Shaw's single brought the potential tying run back to the plate.

Third baseman Jose Ramirez's stop down the line on Mookie Betts denied a double on a ball hit at 112.5 mph according to Statcast™. The batting average on balls like that this season was .521 (25-for-48).

Ramirez's great stop

"We're producers, not directors," Betts said.

That made Allen's job easier as he entered for the four-out save. But back came Ortiz.

"So many times, you think the script is written, and he's just waiting to play his part," Red Sox manager John Farrell said.

Allen was not. He wasn't going to challenge Ortiz over the plate, and Ortiz wasn't going to chase. Ortiz took the four-pitch walk, and Hanley Ramirez took a 2-0 count before lacing a line-drive single to left to score a run and pull the Red Sox to within one.

With the tying run at second, Allen had to face Xander Bogaerts, who struck out against him with the tying run on third in the eighth inning of Game 1. With a 1-2 count, Allen had him set up again, and went to his curveball to try to finish him off. But Bogaerts pounded a line drive toward the middle -- right where second baseman Jason Kipnis was positioned.

"If it was somewhere else, it's a base hit and would have been a different situation," Bogaerts said. "I would definitely trade any hits I got this year for that one to go through."

Allen retired the first two batters of the ninth, but still had to battle. One out away, he went 3-0 on Jackie Bradley Jr., who sent a full-count pitch down the right-field line for his first hit of the series. A walk to Pedroia brought up Shaw as Allen's pitch count climbed.

Shaw's fly ball came on Allen's 40th pitch of the night. Asked what carries him through moments like that, whether adrenaline or focus, he shrugged it off.

"We've had a few days with the rainout and the off-day, so it was fine," Allen said. "And it's October. If you're going to blow it out at any point in the season, you might as well blow it out now."

Jason Beck has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.