2018 Season Series #15: Cleveland Indians @ Houston Astros

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Astros (28-17, 1st in AL West) open a 5 game home stand with a series against the Cleveland Indians (21-21, 1st in AL Central).


Cleveland stumbles into town following a series loss against the Tigers where there were able to salvage the final game to climb back to .500. Even with such a literally middling record, they are hanging on to first in what appears to be the weakest division in baseball, the AL Central. Though they've had a disappointing start to their season they're like the Astros in the sense that an inconsistent offense has certainly not helped things. However, unlike the Astros, their bullpen has been hot garbage in spite of strong pitching by their starters. They have looked better as of late with Francisco Lindor starting to heat up at the dish and the rest of the bats showing some life, but they'll have their hands full against Houston pitching. Cleveland's big goals this weekend are to start rising above .500 while strengthening their claim to a very winnable division.

On the other side of the diamond, the Astros come in after romping through the AL West with three straight division series wins. The offense was rather ho hum out in Anaheim, but was good enough to take two out of three from the Angels and move Houston into a two game division lead in the West. Altuve seems to be coming around with the bat, managing 4 hits in the series and a 3 RBI bases loaded double that won the second game. Evan Gattis also seems to be shaking off his hibernation, having had a hit in 7 of his last 8 games. He provided all of the offense in game 3 by clubbing a game winning 2 run homer, his third in the last 5 games. Honorable mention goes out to the bullpen, which has only given up 2 ER during the last three series. The Astros will look to take advantage of a diminished Cleveland team and start solidifying a hold on the AL West.


Game 1: Mike Clevinger, RHP (3-0, 2.70 ERA) vs. Charlie Morton, RHP (5-0, 2.03 ERA)

Clevinger was a revelation in Cleveland's rotation last year during his first full season as an MLB starter. He's continued that performance this year and has become a solid force in the starting 5. His K/9 is way down from last year, but he's balanced that by giving out a lot less walks and home runs. He's also an innings eater, getting through or past the 6th inning in all but one of his starts, and already has a complete game shutout under his belt in 2018. He'll match up with Charlie Morton, who bounced back from a mediocre AZ start with a 7 inning, 1 ER, 14K gem last week. He has a couple of starts where his command has been spotty, but Morton has easily been our third best starter so far this season. He'll make his rotation leading 7th start at MMP, a place where Morton has traditionally done well. I can't really see who has the advantage in this game as both pitchers are having very good starts to the season.

Game 2: Corey Kluber, RHP (6-2, 2.34 ERA) vs. Dallas Keuchel, LHP (3-5, 3.10 ERA)

Kluber will take the mound for game 2 in a battle of the Cy Young winners. As the honoree for last year's award, Kluber has continued his winning ways so far in 2018. He also leads his team in IP at 65.1 and has only failed to get into the 7th in one game, where he only went 6 IP. Like Clevinger, he's lost a step on his K/9 but has also lowered his BB/9. However, his ridiculously low .212 BABIP and a 3.73 FIP do suggest that he might be more gettable than it seems. Meanwhile, Keuchel continued a string of good to strong starts in his most recent game. He went 7 shutout innings with a season high 8 K's to spank the Rangers on their way out of town. His recent performance has allowed him to lower his ERA by almost a full run in his last two starts. However, I'd be remiss if I didn't also mention that DK's BABIP is a bit low at .244 and his FIP of 4.16 may suggest some luck on his part. Unfortunately, I'm going to have to slide the edge to Kluber on this one.

Game 3: Carlos Carrasco, RHP (5-2, 3.66 ERA) vs. Lance McCullers Jr., RHP (5-2, 3.63 ERA)

Carrasco has been sneaky good this season, though he has stumbled from time to time. He's had a few stinkers but he's also had a few dominant outings, including 2 complete games. Like the other two Cleveland pitchers, Carrasco has dropped a little on his K/9, but hasn't significantly improved in BB/9. His peripherals don't suggest any smoke and mirrors though, meaning his reputation as a very good but not quite elite starter is well deserved. He'll be countered by Lance McCullers, who is currently going through an evolution as a pitcher. As you can read in CRPerry's excellent article, LMJ has been successfully incorporating a changeup into his repertoire. This is just in time as Lance has struggled to command his curveball recently, a first for him. Thanks to his new weapon, he's been able to grind through starts where his curve isn't working and was able to go 6 IP in spite of spotty control against the Angels. I'm on the fence for the same reason as the first game as both pitchers are close in season quality so far.

Prediction: Ugh, this is a tough one. I think Kluber will have his way but the other two games are going to be about getting into that soft underbelly of a bullpen. If the deciding factor is the bullpen, I feel like I have to say 2-1 Astros. However, I'm going to waffle and say we could easily lose 2 if Carrasco or Clevinger can go deep into their starts.


Game 1: Friday, May 18th @ 7:10 pm CDT
Listen: Indians - WTAM 1100, WMMS 100.7, Indians Radio Network / Astros - KBME 790, La Ranchera 850 AM
Watch: Indians - SportsTime Ohio / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / MLB.TV

Game 2: Saturday, May 19th @ 3:10 pm CDT
Listen: Indians - WMMS 100.7, Indians Radio Network / Astros - KBME 790, La Ranchera 850 AM
Watch: Indians - SportsTime Ohio / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / MLB Network (out-of-market only) / MLB.TV

Game 3: Sunday, May 20th @ 7:08 pm CDT
Listen: Indians - WTAM 1100, WMMS 100.7, Indians Radio Network / Astros - KBME 790, La Ranchera 850 AM
Watch: ESPN