The Tribe walked off with a 3-2 win over the Royals on Thursday night for their 22nd straight victory. Miller entered in the seventh and received a standing ovation from the Cleveland crowd as he made his way out from the bullpen. The lefty allowed a leadoff single to Mike Moustakas before striking out Brandon Moss looking on a 93-mph fastball. After Alcides Escobar singled to put two on for the Royals, Miller got Alex Gordon to ground into a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning.
Miller returns from a right knee issue (patellar tendinitis) that limited him to only three appearances in August and had kept him sidelined for the first two weeks of September. The left-hander is back at the right time.
"It's just hard to miss out, period," Miller said before Thursday's game. "I'm here to play, that's what I want to be a part of. It's been a lot of fun to watch these guys. I'm pulling for them as hard as I can, and the best way to [help] is to be out there and contribute."
Indians manager Terry Francona followed his plan of having Miller pitch on his first day back.
"Then [we'll] bring him back on Sunday. ... But we need to build him back into this, because the goal is for him to be a huge weapon that he can be," Francona said before the game.
Miller said that he is confident in the plan going forward.
"I feel a lot stronger," Miller said. "I feel like I'm more prepared to take on a heavier load. I think that's important."
The All-Star reliever has posted a 1.62 ERA with 80 strikeouts against 17 walks in 55 2/3 innings.
Miller set Major League relief records for innings (19 1/3), strikeouts (30) and multi-inning outings (10) in a single postseason in 2016. While Francona said he wants Miller to be 100 percent for the postseason, the skipper said that he doesn't plan on using him the same way this upcoming October.
"I thought it was a lot," Francona said. "The intent was never to have him throw that many pitches. He's able to do it. I just don't know that ... again, we'd love for him to be a huge weapon. I don't think that it entails throwing that many pitches."
• Francona said that Jason Kipnis (right hamstring strain) ran the bases and did some outfield drills on Thursday. Kipnis -- who will see some time in center field when he is activated from the DL -- is pushing to return to the club on Sunday.
"He'd like to play Sunday," Francona said. "The trainers are going to have to sign off on that, but by watching him, I'd kind of be surprised if they don't. He looks really good."
• Left fielder Michael Brantley is still coming along slowly in his rehab of a right ankle sprain. Francona noted that Brantley hasn't started to run yet, and he said that the team is looking to get a second opinion on the injury.
• The Indians and iHeartMedia Cleveland announced on Thursday a multi-year agreement for WTAM 1100 AM and WMMS 100.7 FM to continue as the "Flagship Home of the Cleveland Indians" through at least 2023.
William Kosileski is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cleveland.