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Series Preview: Houston Astros at Cleveland Indians, July 6-9, 2015

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Astros continue long pre-All-Star Game road trip in Cleveland.

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Series Preview: Houston Astros at Cleveland Indians, July 6-9, 2015

It was a rough weekend in Boston, but the Astros always seem to struggle in Beantown -- Houston is 3-11 all-time at Fenway Park.

The Astros have have had a rollercoaster of time lately -- splitting four games with the Yankees, sweeping the Royals at home, and dropping two out of three in Boston. Houston is 6-4 in their last 10 games.

The Astros now head to Cleveland Indians, who may be primed for a surge in the AL Central. The Tigers will be without Miguel Cabrera for six weeks, the young Twins appeared to have leveled off, and the Royals are 5-5 in their least ten games. The Indians' stellar starting pitching could be the key for Cleveland to claw their way out of the AL Central basement.

Cleveland currently sits at 38-43 on the season, nine games behind the Royals for first place in the Central. The Indians are 5-5 in their last ten games, including sweeping four-game series with the Rays.

Pitching

Game 1 - LHP Dallas Keuchel (10-3, 2.03 ERA, 0.96 WHIP) vs. RHP Carlos Carrasco (10-6, 3.88 ERA, 1.14 WHIP) 
Game 2 - RHP Vincent Velasquez (0-0, 4.21 ERA, 1.32 WHIP) vs. RHP Corey Kluber (3-9, 3.64 ERA. 1.14 WHIP)
Game 3 - RHP Dan Straily (0-0, 7.71 ERA, 1.93 WHIP) vs. RHP Trevor Bauer (7-5, 3.88 ERA, 1.25 WHIP) 
Game 4 - RHP Collin McHugh (9-4, 4.54 ERA, 1.30 WHIP) vs. RHP Cody Anderson (1-1, 0.76 ERA, 0.63 WHIP)

On the day, Keuchel will most assuredly selected to the All-Star team and may even be named the starter for the American League, he starts the series for the Astros. Keuchel hasn't allowed a run in 17 innings and has gone at least six innings in 28 consecutive outings. Carlos Carrasco is coming off an outing where he was one out away from a no-hitter. He struck out 13 Rays batters in the game. He is 6-2 with a .300 ERA and 59 strikeouts in his last eight starts.

Vincent Velasquez becomes the fourth rookie in MLB history to not have a decision in his first five starts -- joining  Hideo Nomo (1995), Marc Valdes (1995-96) and Chris Brock (1997). He has struck out 26 batters in 25 2/3 innings this year. He gave up four runs over 6 1/3 innings in his last outing. Corey Kluber win/loss record doesn't tell his 2015 story, he has the second-worst run support per game in 2015 (2.437) behind Cole Hamels. He allowed three runs over eight innings in his last start, striking out 14.

Dan Straily makes his second start this season for the Astros, he allowed four runs over 4 2/3 innings in his first start. Trevor Bauer pitched six hitless innings against the Astros in the second game of the season. He struck out 11 and walked five on 111 pitches. In June, Bauer had a 2-3 record with a 6.26 ERA.

Collin McHugh dipped again this season, struggling through 5 1/3 innings in Boston. He allowed three earned runs on seven hits in that starts. Before that outing he had allowed three runs over sixteen innings in two starts. Rookie Cody Anderson has been stellar in his first three outings -- allowing two earned runs over his first 23 2/3 innings.

Hitting

American League All-Star Jose Altuve is batting .400 in his last 25 at-bats with a home run, five RBIs, and three stolen bases. Evan Gattis is batting .350 in his last 20 at-bats with three extra-base hits and three RBIs. Carlos Correa is batting .318 in his last 22 at-bats with two home runs and four RBIs.

Expect to see more of Evan Gattis and Preston Tucker in the outfield with George Springer out six weeks. Fortunately for the Astros both Colby Rasmus and Jake Marisnick have returned to the lineup.

Three Indians batter are over .300 in their last seven games -- Michael Bourn (.333), Yan Gomes (.333), and Jason Kipnis (.321). Bourn is 6-for-18 with a double, four RBIs, and two stolen bases. Gomes is 7-for-21 with two extra-base hits. Kipnis, arguably the deserving starter at second base for the American League All-Stars, is 9-for-28 with four extra-base hits, four RBIs, and four walks.

Prediction

This will be one hell of a pitching duel in Cleveland. I suspect the Astros will split this series.

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