Series Preview #41: Houston Astros (54-74) at Cleveland Indians (64-62)
Bob Toth | On 22, Aug 2014
If you want to be seriously considered in the playoff picture, you need to win. While the results have not always been pretty this season, the Cleveland Indians are winning right now when it counts. They will look to continue their recent hot stretch, while still not playing on all cylinders and to their potential, as they host the Houston Astros for three games starting Friday night.
Cleveland (64-62) took advantage of a young and struggling Minnesota club during the week to push their recent streak to seven wins in the last ten games. After falling behind 5-0 without a single out retired in the series opener on Tuesday, the Indians chipped away with runs in the second, fourth, fifth, and sixth to complete one of their bigger comebacks this season, winning 7-5. T.J. House and four relievers combined on a six-hit shutout on Wednesday, 5-0. The offense could not get anything going against Phil Hughes on Thursday afternoon as the Twins defeated Corey Kluber and the Tribe, 4-1.
Houston (54-74) provided Cleveland with a boost to their AL Wild Card pursuit by taking two of three from the New York Yankees during the week. They won 7-4 on Tuesday on a three-run home run from Chris Carter in the ninth inning. A four-run seventh inning pushed them past the Bronx Bombers 5-2 on Wednesday night. The Yankees avoided the sweep at home by claiming a 3-0 victory on Thursday, as both pitchers went the distance for their respective clubs.
Carlos Carrasco (5-4, 3.27 ERA) will lead the Indians onto the field on Friday night as the Indians host the Astros for the first time this season. Since returning to the rotation, Carrasco is 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA and has allowed opposing batters to hit just .125 in 12 innings while not walking a batter. Brad Peacock (3-8, 5.47) will have the task for Houston. He has been hit hard in August, allowing an 8.79 ERA in three starts. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 PM ET.
Danny Salazar (4-6, 4.79) will start the 7:05 PM ET middle game of the weekend series for Cleveland. Salazar was dealt a tough loss in his last start against Baltimore, as he allowed two earned runs in five innings, but the offense provided just one run of support in a 4-1 loss. Collin McHugh (6-9, 3.00) will look to continue his strong August. He has allowed one earned run in each of his last four starts (1.42 ERA in the month) and has claimed the win in each of the last two.
Trevor Bauer (4-7, 4.41) hopes for a better first inning on Sunday as he makes the game’s 1:05 PM ET first pitch. After allowing the first five men to reach and score in his last start, he retired 14 straight batters before a walk in the fifth ended his outing. Brett Oberholtzer (4-8, 4.01) will go for Bo Porter and the Astros. He struck out seven Yankees in a no-decision his last time out.
Each of the three games in the series will appear on Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio and on Comcast SportsNet. The radio affiliates of the Cleveland Indians and Houston Astros Radio Networks will handle audio calls.
The Indians are 14-11 all-time against the Astros. They are 7-3 at home against Houston but just 7-8 on the road. The two teams met seven times last season, with the Indians taking six of the seven games. Cleveland has a six game winning streak against Houston overall and has won six consecutive games against them at Progressive Field dating back to July of 2000.
Yan Gomes left Thursday’s loss to Minnesota with concussion-like symptoms. He was not in the starting lineup for Friday’s game and his playing status had yet to be announced by the club prior to this post.
First baseman Nick Swisher will miss the rest of the season after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on both of his knees during the week. Right fielders David Murphy (right abdominal strain) and Ryan Raburn (right wrist soreness) are on the 15-day disabled list, while designated hitter Jason Giambi (left knee inflammation) remains on the 60-day DL.
For Houston, reliever Chad Qualls is nursing a stiff lower back and may be held out of Friday night’s contest. He is not expecting to be placed on the disabled list. Catcher Carlos Corporan has been dealing with an ongoing right thumb issue for the last two months, but will not see disabled list time.
Five pitchers are on the DL for the Astros. Darin Downs could return in September from a strained right oblique. Jesse Crain is recovering from biceps surgery last October. Former Indians reliever Matt Albers is on the 60-day DL with right shoulder tendinitis. Jose Cisnero (Tommy John surgery in May) and Josh Zeid (bilateral sesamoiditis) are out for the season.
BY THE NUMBERS
Michael Brantley is seventh in the AL with 80 RBI, sixth with his .314 batting average, and fourth with 78 runs scored. His 149 hits on the season are the fifth-most in the league.
Carlos Santana continues to lead baseball in walks with 88 on the season. He is tops in the second half in the same stat. He is hitting .231 on the season with 21 homers and 59 RBI, but has hit seven of the home runs while batting .292 since the All-Star break.
Jose Altuve leads baseball with a .336 batting average. His 175 hits are 13 more than the next closest player and his 33 doubles are third in the league. On top of that, he is first in the AL and second overall with 46 stolen bases this season.
Dexter Fowler has hit in each of his last six games with four multi-hit games in that stretch. He is hitting .324 over his last ten games and .279 on the season in his first year in Houston.
Carter has slugged his way to fourth on the home run leaderboard with 30 blasts this season. He is batting .230 on the season and has driven in 72 runs, but has the third-most strikeouts in the AL. In the second half, he leads baseball with eleven home runs and 32 RBI and is tied for third with 23 runs scored.
Despite their 20 games under .500 record, the Astros have been a run scoring offense this season, especially in the second half. Since the All-Star break, Houston leads all of baseball in runs scored and is second in home runs. Their pitching staff, however, is responsible for the 26th-worst ERA in that span. They have struck out the second-fewest batters in the second half while allowing the sixth-most home runs.
I LIKE YOUR HAT
The Astros have a pair of representatives on the top of the “Golden Sombrero” leaderboard. Rookie outfielder Springer has accomplished the feat of striking out four times in a game in five different games this season to lead all of baseball. Teammate Carter is third on the list with three such games.
The Indians’ “leader” is Michael Bourn, with two four-strikeout games this season.
Eighty-four different players have suited up for both the Cleveland Indians and Houston Astros during their Major League careers.
Relievers Tony Sipp, Jose Veras, and Albers are all on the roster of the Astros while Bourn spent parts of four seasons, including one All-Star trip, in Houston before a two year stay in Atlanta prior to his signing with Cleveland.
Among the notables to play for both clubs throughout their shared histories including relievers Mike Jackson and Doug Jones, who both rank in the top five in Indians history in saves. So did pitcher Dwight Gooden, who played 49 games with Cleveland in 1998 and 1999 and just one game in Houston in 2000. Pitcher Greg Swindell spent parts of seven seasons with the Indians and four with the Astros.
Third baseman Buddy Bell spent eight seasons in Cleveland (1972-1978) and one season in Houston in 1988. Playoff hero Tony Pena spent nine games in Houston in 1997 after his three seasons in Cleveland. Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington spent parts of one season in each city.
Possibly the most successful of the bunch was Kenny Lofton, who was drafted by Houston in the 17th round of the 1988 draft. With a crowded outfield mix blocking his path to the Majors, the Astros dealt him to the Indians with Dave Rohde in December of 1991 for pitcher Willie Blair and catcher Eddie Taubensee. Lofton would be robbed of the AL Rookie of the Year Award in 1992 as the club’s starting center fielder and would later make six consecutive All-Star teams, five with Cleveland, and would win four Gold Glove Awards. He spent parts of ten of his 17 MLB seasons as an Indians outfielder scattered over three separate stints with the organization.
The Indians will hit the road for their second-to-last road trip of the season, beginning after Monday’s off day with three games in Chicago with the White Sox. The Astros will return home to Houston to host three straight divisional matchups, starting Monday with Oakland.
Photo: Hannah Foslien/Getty Images