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2021 Series Preview: Cleveland Indians @ Houston Astros

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The Astros (56-38, 1st in AL West) open a homestand with three games against the Indians (47-43, 2nd in AL Central)

MLB: Cleveland Indians at Houston Astros Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Quick Notes

It’s only been a hot minute since the Astros last played the Indians, handing them a four game sweep at home to start the month of July. However, their fortunes have been better in their two most recent series, having won 5 of their last 6 games. That did come after a 9 game losing streak though, so it hasn’t really improved their playoff odds by much.

Still, the Indians remain in the thick of the hunt for the second Wild Card spot, sitting just 3.5 games back as we begin the downhill portion of the season. But their competition for that spot is stiff and so far this season and Cleveland hasn’t looked like a team ready for prime time. Like all teams there are some bright spots, but overall the Indians don’t look poised to make a big comeback in the standings.

Last 10 Games: 5-5 Record, 2 Series Won, 1 Series Swept, +2 Run Differential (43 Scored, 41 Allowed)

W/L Splits: 24-19 at home, 23-24 on the road, 17-26 against teams over .500


Offense

Cleveland’s offense, slashing a collective .230/.298/.399, has been anemic at best this season, sitting at 29th in the league for both BA and OBP. Their best stat of their slash stats is their .399 SLG, but that’s still only 15th in all of MLB.

Honestly, there’s not a whole lot to write home about when looking at Cleveland’s offensive stats. They don’t strike out a lot (763, 6th in MLB), but that’s balanced by the fact that they also don’t take a lot of walks (251, 28th in MLB). The Indians can also swipe a bag or two (45, 12th in MLB), but getting on base in the first place is the bigger problem.

Notable players:

  • Jose Ramirez (.257/.342/.510) continues to stand out for the Indians, leading the team in most offensive stats. No other Cleveland player has more doubles (18), homers (19), RBI (52), or walks (35) than Ramirez. Easily their most complete player.
  • Though he has spent a chunk of time on the IL, Franmil Reyes (.266/.323/.587) has been an absolute slugger for the Indians when he has been healthy. Even with just 50 games under his belt, Reyes is tied for second on the team with 15 homers and sits at 3rd with 40 RBI. Expect the ball to go a long way if he connects.

Pitching

Not much has changed since the Astros last faced Cleveland’s pitching staff a couple weeks ago. Missing a few key pieces, including Shane Bieber and Aaron Civale, the staff continues to trend more towards average than elite. A collective 4.37 ERA doesn’t exactly inspire confidence and they sit in the bottom half of the league for most traditional stats.

Specifically, the starting pitching has really fallen off a cliff for Cleveland, especially since Shane Bieber and Aaron Civale hit the IL. As a unit their starting staff owns a 5.15 ERA and is in the bottom half of the league when it comes to both WHIP (1.32, 18th in MLB) and BAA (.248, 19th in MLB).

Meanwhile, the relief corps is probably Cleveland’s biggest strength in 2021. The bullpen collectively is third in the league when it comes to ERA (3.33) and BAA (.218) and are in the top ten for most other stats.

Notable Relievers:

  • James Karinchak (RHP, 2.61 ERA, 41.1 IP, 68 K’s) remains the Indians’ closer and one of the more reliable arms out of the pen. Karinchak is currently sitting at 10 saves on the season and leads the bullpen with 68 strikeouts. He’s also tied for most relief work this season after tossing 41.1 innings.
  • Emmanuel Clase (RHP, 2.13 ERA, 38 IP, 43 K’s) and Bryan Shaw (RHP, 2.83 ERA, 41.1 IP, 52 K’s) appear to be the other two trusted arms for the Indians’ pen, and have seen the most work of any other reliever besides Karinchak. Both also have saves under their belts (2 for Shaw and 11 for Clase), so Francona is not afraid to toss them out there in the 9th if needed.

Pitching Matchups

Game 1: J.C. Mejia (RHP, 1-4, 7.42 ERA, 27 K’s) vs Zack Greinke (RHP, 8-3, 3.59 ERA, 85 K’s)

Astros fans may last remember Mejia from when he was getting blown out by Houston for 6 runs in 4 IP at the beginning of July. He went on to give up another 6 runs in just 2.2 innings during his next game before being sent down to AAA Columbus. The Indians are recalling him to make this start though, which will be just his 7th career MLB start.

Game 2: Triston McKenzie (RHP, 1-3, 5.47 ERA, 68 K’s) vs Luis Garcia (RHP, 6-5, 3.06 ERA, 97 K’s)

McKenzie is coming off of one of his best starts of the season after tossing 7 innings of 1-hit ball against the Royals. He’s been back and forth to AAA Columbus a few times this season, and has sort of ping-ponged in effectiveness while in the majors. This will be his first start in 10 days.

Game 3: Eli Morgan (RHP, 1-3, 7.86 ERA, 28 K’s) vs Lance McCullers Jr. (RHP, 7-2, 2.80 ERA, 99 K’s)

Morgan has been having a bit of a rocky debut season and has yet to make a start where he hasn’t given up at least 3 runs. He also hasn’t gone more than five innings in any one game, though he has hit that mark in 4 of his 7 starts. Morgan was touched for 3 runs and took the loss in his last start against the Astros this season.


For Your Viewing and Listening Pleasure

Game 1: Monday, July 19th @ 7:10 pm CDT
Listen: Indians - WTAM 1100, WMMS 100.7 / Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, KLAT 1010, KTRH 740 AM/99.1 FM HD-2
Watch: Indians - Bally Sports Great Lakes / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW

Game 2: Tuesday, July 20th @ 7:10 pm CDT
Listen: Indians - WTAM 1100, WMMS 100.7 / Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, KLAT 1010, KTRH 740 AM/99.1 FM HD-2
Watch: Indians - Bally Sports Great Lakes / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW

Game 3: Thursday, July 21st @ 7:10 pm CDT
Listen: Indians - WTAM 1100, WMMS 100.7 / Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, KLAT 1010, KTRH 740 AM/99.1 FM HD-2
Watch: Indians - Bally Sports Great Lakes / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW


Poll

Who wins this series?

This poll is closed

  • 31%
    Astros Sweep 3-0
    (37 votes)
  • 46%
    Astros Win 2-1
    (54 votes)
  • 11%
    Indians Win 2-1
    (13 votes)
  • 10%
    Indians Sweep 3-0
    (12 votes)
116 votes total Vote Now