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2018 Season Series #17: Houston Astros @ Cleveland Indians

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It’s Deja Vu all over again as the Astros (32-18, 1st in AL West) begin a 4 game set against the Indians (24-23, 1st in AL Central)

Houston Astros v Cleveland Indians Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

Recency Bias

The Astros come into town winners of 3 straight and on a 5 series-win streak with a record of 11-3 during that time. They’ve done it with a solid combination of pitching and defense, backed by an increasingly opportunistic offense. I don’t mean to gloss over how stellar the pitching and bullpen have been, but the big story of the week is Tony Kemp, who was called up to replace Marisnick and proceeded to put the league on notice. During his first 15 ABs, which is a small sample size, he’s hitting .400 with a .940 OPS, 6 RBI, 3 BB, and a stolen base. Just an absolutely fantastic offensive start to his 2018 major league season. Honorable mention goes to Bregman, who has also been an on base machine recently and is boasting a gaudy 1.048 OPS in his last 7 games. As for the rest of the offense, Altuve just had a 7 game hit streak broken, Correa just snapped an 0 for 10 at the plate, and Springer has been a steady force at the top of the lineup. The plan this weekend will be to stay ahead of a strong Mariners charge and hold on to the lead in the West.

Cleveland, meanwhile, will return home after finishing off their own mini sweep against the Cubs. It was a tale of two games for the offense, who pulled off a 10-1 mangling of Chicago and then followed it up with a 1-0 pitcher’s duel. The one constant in both games was the excellent starting pitching coupled with clean innings from the bullpen, which has been hard to come by for the Indians. Cleveland’s offense is currently being led by Jose Ramirez, who is slashing .297/.394/.617 on the year with 14 HR and 6 SB. Lindor leads their team in doubles with 16 and Michael Brantley is on a 12 game hitting streak. Cleveland’s biggest weakness is a suspect bullpen that was able to climb into 29th place in ERA this week and has lost 11 games for the Indians in 2018. As a result, Francona will try to squeeze as much as he can out of his starters, which the Astros were able to take advantage of against Clevinger and Carrasco last time. Like Houston, the Indians will be trying to expand on a 2 game lead in their division.

Pitching Match Ups

Game 1: Charlie Morton, RHP (6-0, 1.94 ERA) vs. Mike Clevinger, RHP (3-1, 2.87 ERA)

Morton rolls into Cleveland off his second straight gem where he twirled 7 innings of one run ball. He did it against these same Indians, holding them to just 4 hits and 1 BB during that game. Morton’s 2018 campaign continues to impress as he’s really only had 2 starts where he wasn’t nails. In that time he has a K:BB ratio of 70:18, a best in the majors 55.91% whiff-per-swing rate on his curve, and has only given up more than three runs in a single start. He’s also the Astros’ only undefeated starter and is on a nine game win streak dating back to last September.

Clevinger comes into his second straight game against the Astros after what was one of his shakier starts of the season. His command left him early but he was able to wiggle out of a bases loaded situation in the first inning before settling down and cruising until the 7th. Houston was able to break through against him and take the game, but Clevinger never really looked bad except for the first and last inning of his outing. He has established himself this year as a solid part of Cleveland’s rotation, which is really saying something considering who his contemporaries are.

Like last time it’s hard to pick who has the advantage here. Morton has had a better season overall, but Clevinger has good stuff and a lot of talent.

Game 2: Dallas Keuchel, LHP (3-6, 3.43 ERA) vs. Corey Kluber, RHP (7-2, 2.36 ERA)

Keuchel comes in off his worst start in 7 tries where he gave up 4 ER to the Indians in 5 innings of work. He got stung for 3 in the first inning but would work efficiently until the fifth, where a Rajai Davis leadoff walk would score a run on two grounders and a single. Dallas has had a few of these types of starts this season where he grinds through at bats and manages a respectable outing but can’t seem to pinpoint his command on the edges. It doesn’t help that he’s had the least amount of run support for any of our starters except for Verlander.

Cleveland will send out their ace, who has had a very strong start to his 2018 season. He has yet to give up more than 3 ER and has gone at least 6 innings in every game so far. If you go back to last year, 24 of his last 25 regular season games have been quality starts. He was on point in his last game against the Astros where he struck out 10 and only gave up 2 ER, both on a home run to Correa, across 7 IP. His K/9 rate is a little lower than usual this season but overall he’s been living up to his reputation as reigning Cy Young winner.

I picked Kluber as having the edge last time and I think it’ll be the same here.

Game 3: Lance McCullers Jr., RHP (6-2, 3.20 ERA) vs. Carlos Carrasco, RHP (5-3, 3.65 ERA)

Lance continues rounding into the high quality starter that the Astros always thought he could be. A big part of that has been his secondary pitches, which he’s been throwing with increasing confidence and accuracy. He had excellent command last time out and was able to take a perfect game into the 6th inning while keeping Indians off balance all night, who only managed one line drive single off of him the entire game. He would end the night with 7 IP, 1 H, 2 BB, 0 ER, and 8 K’s, easily one of his top 3 starts for 2018.

Carrasco will toe the slab for Cleveland as he comes in after two straight quality start losses. Against Houston he managed 6 shutout innings before finally stumbling in the 7th and allowing 2 runs. He was lifted for a reliever in the 8th, who allowed his 3rd ER to score. Carrasco lives in the shadow of Kluber, but is probably one of the better middle of the rotation pitchers that no one talks about. However, you can usually expect a solid performance where he might give up a run or three but will go deep into his game.

Another tough one. If McCullers has all three pitches working he can outduel anyone in the game, but Carrasco has proven to be just as capable this season.

Game 4: Gerrit Cole, RHP (5-1, 1.86 ERA) vs. Trevor Bauer, RHP (4-3, 2.35 ERA)

Gerrit Cole comes in after a string of three starts that you can describe as him coming down to earth I guess? Mainly his walks have ticked up slightly with a slight drop in command and he hasn’t gotten past the 6th inning. His K/9 rate was at least 12.00 in each of those starts so he has been mostly good, just not as ridiculously good as his first 7 starts. In his most recent game against the Giants he went 6 IP, gave up 2 ER off a Brandon Crawford homer, and walked 3 while striking out 8. He is now at 101 K’s for the season after 10 games and, assuming he stays healthy, is on pace for around 323 after about a third of the season.

Trevor Bauer is a Very Smart Man who is just Asking Questions about Pine Tar. As for baseball, he’s actually been really good so far this season. Baeur comes into this game riding a 14 inning scoreless streak in his past two games after getting slapped around in Kansas City in his lone clunker of the year. His most recent game was against the Cubs where he was not sharp, allowing 9 base runners over 6 innings, but did not allow a single run to score. He’s gone deep in a majority of his games this season, reaching the 7th inning in 6 out of 10 starts, and is a solid #2.

I very much want to believe that the Astros and Cole will embarrass Bauer. So I do!

Prediction: Cleveland is a team that has the ability to punch above their weight as far as the record is concerned. Their starting pitching in particular is really good and has already pitched pretty well against Houston. Plus 6 series wins in a row is a lot to ask. I’m going to be cautious and say series split.

For Your Viewing and Listening Pleasure

Game 1: Thursday, May 24th @ 5:10 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790, La Ranchera 850 AM / Indians - WTAM 1100, WMMS 100.7, Indians Radio Network
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Indians - SportsTime Ohio / MLB Network (out-of-market only) / MLB.TV

Game 2: Friday, May 25th @ 6:10 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790, La Ranchera 850 AM / Indians - WTAM 1100, WMMS 100.7, Indians Radio Network
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Indians - SportsTime Ohio / MLB Network (out-of-market only) / MLB.TV

Game 3: Saturday, May 26th @ 6:15 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790, La Ranchera 850 AM / Indians - WTAM 1100, WMMS 100.7, Indians Radio Network
Watch: FOX / MLB.TV

Game 4: Sunday, May 27th @ 12:10 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790, La Ranchera 850 AM / Indians - WTAM 1100, WMMS 100.7, Indians Radio Network
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Indians - SportsTime Ohio / MLB Network (out-of-market only) / MLB.TV

Poll

Who wins this series?

This poll is closed

  • 12%
    Astros Sweep 4-0
    (10 votes)
  • 44%
    Astros Win 3-1
    (35 votes)
  • 34%
    Series Split 2-2
    (27 votes)
  • 8%
    Indians Win 3-1
    (7 votes)
  • 0%
    Indians Sweep 4-0
    (0 votes)
79 votes total Vote Now