With their lead over Oakland back to a comfortable eight games, the Astros have to be feeling good as they sit neck and neck with the Yankees in the race for home field advantage throughout the American League playoffs. The emergence of Jose Urquidy has allayed some concerns about the back end of the rotation, and reinforcements figure to be on their way this week with the trade deadline falling on Wednesday. At the moment, the team is as close to fully healthy as it can be, firing on all cylinders, and looking primed to compete for a second world championship in three years.
Across the diamond this week will be the Cleveland Indians, an enigmatic club that has battled back from a brutal start to give themselves a fighting chance for a playoff berth. Today they sit just two games behind Minnesota for the central lead, and have a three game cushion for a Wild Card Game appearance. They’ve had to deal with an early season injury to Francisco Lindor, Carlos Carrasco’s leukemia diagnosis, an extended absence for Corey Kluber and the bizarre struggles of Jose Ramirez, but nonetheless find themselves in prime position to earn a postseason appearance.
Despite the Indians’ resurgence, rumors that they could trade mercurial starting pitcher Trevor Bauer persist, and the Astros have figured into those rumors heavily. Bauer, the best healthy pitcher on the Indians’ staff, is not the type of player that you typically see a team in a playoff chase dangle, and the fact that they are suggests that frustrations over Bauer’s antics, unhealthy social media habits and abrasive personality may be coming to a head in Cleveland. Bauer is not scheduled to pitch in this series, and may have already made his last appearance for the team he’s spent the majority of his big league career with to this point. There’s a chance he’ll be sitting in the opposite dugout by the end of the series, and it’s a storyline to watch as the week’s action unfolds.
Game 1: Justin Verlander vs. Shane Bieber, 6:10 CDT
This is a primetime matchup as the #2 starters for each club face off, with future hall of famer Justin Verlander opposing All-Star Game MVP Shane Bieber. Both hurlers are enjoying banner seasons- Verlander has been a model of consistency through some home run trouble, and Bieber has struck out 31% of opposing batters while walking just 5%, including a 10-strikeout shutout in his last start. Offense figures to be hard to come by in this contest as two pitchers with diverse arsenals and high level location square off.
Game 2: Jose Urquidy vs. Adam Plutko, 6:10 CDT
After struggling a bit in his first couple of major league appearances, Mexican righty Jose Urquidy has settled in nicely for the big club, firing two consecutive quality starts against teams over .500. His opponent will be Adam Plutko, a former unsigned Astros draft pick under the Ed Wade front office. Major league action has not been kind to the finesse-first Plutko, who has averaged 2.48 homers allowed per nine innings as a big leaguer. If Urquidy has command working like in his last two starts, this matchup is definitely advantage Houston, though there is potential for a slugfest.
Game 3: Gerrit Cole vs. Zach Plesac, 6:10 CDT
Destroyer of Worlds Gerrit Cole comes into Thursday’s contest with 200 strikeouts already to his name, and has been arguably the best pitcher in the AL this season. He’s facing off against command artist Zach Plesac this time out, who has responded nicely to his first big league call-up after starting the year in Double-A. The son of former big leaguer and executive Dan Plesac, Zach projects as a back-of-the-rotation starter who succeeds with location and deception. It’s a mismatch to say the least, but Plesac has proved difficult for some opponents to square up in their first time seeing him.
All games will be broadcast on ATT SW, and the final game will also be available on MLB Network for out-of-market viewers. As we get ready for the action, how are TCB readers feeling about Trevor Bauer’s future?
Has Trevor Bauer pitched his last game for the Indians?
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