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2019 Season Preview #9: Cleveland Indians @ Houston Astros

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The Astros (15-9, 1st in AL West) host the Indians (13-10, 2nd in AL Central) in a 4-game rematch of the 2018 ALDS

MLB: ALDS-Cleveland Indians at Houston Astros Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Recency Bias

Indians

The Indians arrive in Houston after splitting a two-game series with the Marlins to end a rather disappointing 2-3 homestand. Though they have the exact same record to start 2019 as they did in 2018, the competition has grown fiercer in the AL Central and they currently find themselves looking up at the Twins atop the division. This is partially due to the injury bugs and some of Cleveland’s regulars not currently playing up to snuff, but the Indians are not in a position where it can expect to waltz into the playoffs like it has in past seasons.

The offense for the Indians has had a pretty decent week though there have certainly been some under-performers. José Ramírez has had a particularly good week after a pretty slow start to the season, and was one of just 4 players to play in all five games this week. He would slash .333/.478/.556 in that time, but a good chunk of those numbers come from yesterday’s game against the Marlins. After that things get a little weird as the best hitting has mostly come from players who did not log a substantial amount of AB’s.

The only other players to show an OPS above 1.000 were Max Moroff and Greg Allen at 1.571 and 1.167, respectively. However, they hit those marks with just 7 and 6 plate appearances. The Indians’ next best hitters in the OPS department are Roberto Pérez and Kevin Plawecki, but Pérez is the only one with an AB total above 10, with just 11 under his belt.

On the year, Carlos Santana has easily been one of the best hitters in Cleveland’s lineup, though he had a pretty quiet week at the plate. Francisco Lindor also had a pretty cold couple of series, but that may be more due to him just barely returning form the IL and still kind of rounding into form for the Indians.

Though there hasn’t been much in the way of explosive offense on the week for the Indians, they have been getting on base at a very good rate as a team. Indeed, 10 of the 13 players to play in this past week would log an OBP of at least .333, with 6 players over .400.

As for the bullpen, the Indians actually boast one of the better sets of arms so far as ERA is concerned this season. Brad Hand, acquired in a trade with the Padres last season, has taken over closing duties for the tribe after Cody Allen signed with the Angels in the offseason. He’s a perfect 6-for-6 in save opportunities this season and is sporting a 1.69 ERA in 10.2 innings.

Nick Wittgren seems to be the new set-up man for the Indians after getting off to an equally impressive start, sitting at a minuscule 1.13 ERA in 8 innings for 2019. He was introduced to high-leverage spots just recently after being called on for a two-inning save against the Mariners over a week ago. Adam Cimber, who was also part of the Brad Hand trade, is another high-leverage guy who has had a very impressive start to the season. Though he had a complete disaster of an outing against the Braves, he’s performed pretty well this season.

Dan Otero and Jon Edwards are probably the more trusted of the remaining relievers for the Indians, with Otero seeing the most work among the two with 10.2 innings in 9 games. After that it thins a little, with Neil Ramírez and Oliver Pérez seeing the most work of the remaining arms in the pen.

While the Astros did Cleveland a favor by taking the series from the Twins, they’ll need to take a shot themselves if they hope to climb into first place.

Astros

As for the good guys, it’s been a nice return to form for the team as they sent the Twins packing with a couple of solid wins. This came after a pretty miserable series loss to the Rangers, especially with the final game just out of reach. Really it’s been about the offense as the Astros have slugged 15 homers, 16 doubles, and one triple this past week alone.

The big hero this week has definitely been Reddick, who comes into this series riding a four-game multi-hit streak. During that time he’s slashing a godly .579/.619/.947 with 2 HR and only 2 K’s in 21 PA’s this week. Right behind him is Bregman with a .400/.536/.800 slasher and a couple of homers of his own, but he’s gotten on base a little more through the walk than the hit than Reddick.

There’s no shortage of guys with OPS north of 1.150 on the team this week though. Brantley and Springer have been crushing the ball, with Springer showing a fatastic eye at the plate in the past two series. He and Brantley have both delivered some clutch hits this week and have 6 RBI to show for it.

Of course, Correa has also turned in 6 RBI this week, though he’s been hitting more for power than average with 3 homers and 3 doubles to go with a .259 AVG/OBP. White and Chirinos have also been swinging the hot bat in the past two series, though they’re both on more limited service time. Altuve has had himself a pretty rough week as well as Gurriel and Marisnick. Altuve has at least managed to make his hits more timely, driving in 7 runners this week.

As for the bullpen, well there’s not really too much news to report. Devo and James were part of the pitching debacle in the first game of the series against the Twins, and Rondón would surrender just his second run of the season in the second game. Beyond that, Framber Valdez is the only reliever currently on the roster to have given up a run this week.

Thanks to a dearth of high leverage situations this week, Hinch has been able to rest Osuna and Pressly more often after having been pressed into service early and often this season. Osuna has only seen a single inning this week while Pressly has been on the mound twice. Will Harris also seems to be gaining Hinch’s trust lately and has been getting the ball in the seventh in games more often for the Astros.

Now that Houston is back alone in first place, expect the team to stay hungry for wins and hopefully put some distance between themselves and the rest of the pack.

Pitching Match Ups

Game 1: Trevor Bauer, RHP (2-1, 2.20 ERA) vs. Gerrit Cole, RHP (1-3, 5.22 ERA)

Bauer has been off to a good start this season and comes into this game after a solid outing against Atlanta last weekend. He would go 6.1 innings with just 2 runs surrendered and fan 10 Braves before his day ended. Bauer has actually managed to go at least 6 innings in 4 of his 5 starts, including a 7 inning no-hit appearance where he would walk 6 and get pulled eventually due to high pitch count. Expect him to be a challenge for the ‘Stros as he definitely has ace stuff.

Meanwhile, Cole comes into this game after the worst start of his career. He would get slapped around by the Rangers to the tune of 9 runs, 8 earned, in just 4.1 innings of work. Cole spoke about the possibility of tipping his pitches to the Rangers, so we’ll see if he can correct in this start. He did manage to punch out 8 in 4.1 innings though, and his K rate is a very healthy 13.50 per 9. Cole is also suffering from an above-average .333 BABIP, and with a 2.66 xFIP you can make the case for a little bit of hard luck this season.

Game 2: Corey Kluber, RHP (2-2, 5.88 ERA) vs. Collin McHugh, RHP (3-2, 4.78 ERA)

Cleveland’s ace Kluber takes the mound for this one after getting off to a pretty terrible start for the season. Kluber has already had two starts where he failed to get out of the fourth inning and surrendered 6 runs in each of those games. His most recent match was game 1 of last Saturday’s double header against the Braves, where he would give up 4 runs on 2 homers, but go 7 innings while striking out 8. He is suffering from an absurdly high .347 BABIP, but a 4.92 xFIP doesn’t bode that well for him.

Houston counters with McHugh, who is also coming off the worst start of his career. He would fall flat on his face against the Rangers in his last game, giving up 10 runs, 9 earned, in 3.1 IP. What made this one hurt is that McHugh had been one of the Astros’ better starters to begin the season, having pitched to a sub-2.00 ERA at that point. Look for him to bounce back and hopefully take advantage of a bit of declined Kluber.

Game 3: Shane Bieber, RHP (2-1, 3.47 ERA) vs. Brad Peacock, RHP (2-1, 4.29 ERA)

Bieber makes this start after a rather poor showing against Atlanta this past week where he would log just 2.1 innings before leaving with 7 runs on his ledger. He had been going pretty well before that, having gone at least 6 innings three starts in a row with just 3 runs surrendered during that stretch. This will be the first time Bieber has started against the Astros.

Peacock would make his return to the rotation in his last start after sitting in the pen for a while. While it wasn’t exactly magical with Peacock giving up 3 runs right away, he would settle down to go 5 against the Twins before yielding to the pen. Peacock has been a little back and forth with his starts this season, but managed to look really good coming out of the pen while the Astros went with a 4-man rotation.

Game 4: Carlos Carrasco, RHP (2-2, 6.00 ERA) vs. Wade Miley, LHP (1-2. 3.58 ERA)

Carrasco opened the season with a couple of terrible outings that has skewed his season numbers in the early going. He would also twirl a 7 inning shutout performance while striking out 12 against the Mariners, showing a flash of what made him such a valuable #3 for the Indians last season. He would leave his last game after 4 innings thanks to slipping and tweaking something in his leg while covering first. Carrasco described the injury as just a bruise and indicated it wasn’t serious.

Miley will toe the slab for Houston and comes into this match after a somewhat gutsy performance against the Twins. After giving up 3 runs in the first, Miley would calm down and go 6 innings without giving up another run. It marks his third quality start of the season as Miley continues to show his value as a #4 starter in the rotation. He also managed to strikeout 7 in his last game, which was a season high for him.

Fun Fact

The Twins have not won a series in Minute Maid Park since 2014.

For Your Viewing and Listening Pleasure

Game 1: Thursday, April 25th @ 7:10 pm CDT
Listen: Indians - WTAM 1100, WMMS 100.7, Indians Radio Network / Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM
Watch: Indians - SportsTime Ohio / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW

Game 2: Friday, April 26th @ 7:10 pm CDT
Listen: Indians - WTAM 1100, WMMS 100.7, Indians Radio Network / Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM
Watch: Indians - SportsTime Ohio / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW

Game 3: Saturday, April 27th @ 3:05 pm CDT
Listen: Indians - WTAM 1100, WMMS 100.7, Indians Radio Network / Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM
Watch: Indians - SportsTime Ohio / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / FS1

Game 4: Sunday, April 28th @ 6:05 pm CDT
Listen: Indians - WTAM 1100, WMMS 100.7, Indians Radio Network / Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / ESPN

Poll

Who wins this series?

This poll is closed

  • 11%
    Astros Sweep 4-0
    (15 votes)
  • 50%
    Astros Win 3-1
    (65 votes)
  • 31%
    Series Split 2-2
    (40 votes)
  • 3%
    Indians Win 3-1
    (5 votes)
  • 2%
    Indians Sweep 4-0
    (3 votes)
128 votes total Vote Now