Astros Make Yearly Visit to Progressive Field as Cleveland Hosts Houston
Bob Toth | On 25, Apr 2017
As well as the Cleveland Indians have been playing on the road this season, they may not have wanted to come home after their two-city trip through Minneapolis and Chicago this past week. But, the schedule says that they must as the Houston Astros will make their lone trip to Progressive Field this season for three days beginning Tuesday night.
The Indians (10-8) doubled their win total for the season last week alone with a productive 5-1 road trip. Starting pitching was living up to expectations and the bats came alive and drove in the runs that had been stranded during the first two weeks of the season.
A rebuilt and threatening Houston (13-6) lineup is poised for big things in the American League West this season and is already off to a quick start. They have started the season 6-2 on the road and their 13 wins are tied for the most in the American League. They hold a three-game lead over Oakland in the West.
PITCHING PROBABLES and NOTES
The 29-year-old southpaw Keuchel has been about as good as can be to start the 2017 season. He has pitched seven innings in all four of his starts to date and allowed just two hits in each of the first two games before four- and eight-hit efforts. Just three runs have been scored against him this season, with just one solo run in each of his last three outings. He is 3-0 with a 2.27 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP in five career outings against Cleveland and is 2-0 at Progressive Field in a pair of starts. Tomlin fired a season-high six innings in his last outing against Minnesota on April 18, earning his first quality start. It will be his first career start against Houston and just his second appearance overall after working one inning of scoreless relief last season.
The key to getting to McCullers may be hosting him at Progressive Field. He has fared poorly on the road throughout his career, posting a 3-8 record with a 5.11 ERA overall. His lone no-decision this season came in his only road start and it is the only time this season that he has not given the Astros at least a quality start. Wednesday will mark his first career appearance against Cleveland. It could be the perfect storm for Bauer, who has flourished against Houston in his career. In five starts against them, he has earned five wins with a 1.97 ERA and a 1.03 WHIP. Like Tomlin, he looks to build off of his best start of the season to date after allowing two runs on three hits in a quality six and one-third innings against the Twins on April 20.
Fiers faced the Tribe twice and beat the Tribe twice last season. He has allowed just three runs over those 12 career innings (2.25 ERA) with a 1.17 WHIP. The home run ball has been his undoing so far in 2017 as he has surrendered six blasts in 15 innings, including three in his last outing on April 21 against Tampa Bay. Kluber has given the Indians length in all four of his starts this season, but his last outing was his best and longest of the bunch as he threw a complete game three-hit shutout over the Chicago White Sox with a season-high nine strikeouts. He has worked seven times against Houston previously in his career with a 4-3 record, a 3.15 ERA, and a 1.13 WHIP with 50 strikeouts in 40 innings of work.
TV – Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio (all games); ROOTSW (4/25, 4/26), MLB Network (4/27 out of market)
Radio (all games) – Cleveland Indians Radio Network; La Nueva 94.1 FM, KBME 790 (Houston)
Cody Anderson (SP) – 60-day disabled list (4/2) – right elbow surgery
Jandel Gustave (RP) – 10-day disabled list (4/19) – right forearm tightness
Jake Marisnick (OF) – day-to-day – concussion-like symptoms
Collin McHugh (SP) – 10-day disabled list (3/30) – right elbow impingement; on rehab assignment
David Paulino (P) – 10-day disabled list (3/30) – bone bruise in right elbow
George Springer (OF) – day-to-day – hamstring discomfort
The Indians and Astros have a limited history with one another due to Houston’s time in the National League prior to and at the beginning of interleague play. A total of 46 games have been played between them, with Cleveland victorious in 27 and Houston winners of 19.
The two clubs first met in 1997, when Cleveland took two of three from the NL Central club. They faced off for six straight years, with the Astros holding a slight 8-7 edge in the series, but then did not see each other again until 2012, their final season in the NL. Houston claimed two of three that season.
Since becoming a member of the junior circuit, the Astros have had little luck against the Indians. Cleveland held a 16-5 record against them from 2013 through 2015 before going just 3-4 against an improved Astros roster in 2016.
Nori Aoki was added in a waivers claim from Seattle in November and catcher Brian McCann was acquired in a trade with the New York Yankees for a pair of minor leaguers. Two more outfield options were brought in with the signings of left-handed hitting Josh Reddick and switch-hitting Carlos Beltran.
ALTUVE STILL HITTING
Second baseman and four-time All-Star Jose Altuve has started another year strong at the plate after finishing third in the AL MVP race last season. Through 19 games, he is hitting .324 with a .393 on-base percentage and is a perfect 7-for-7 stealing bases.
Cleveland, however, has managed to contain the 5’6” 26-year-old throughout his career. His batting average against the Indians (.256) is his lowest mark against any AL team.
RECENT TEAMMATES OPPOSE EACH OTHER AGAIN
Much has been made over the last couple of years about the rivalry that could develop between a pair of top shortstops in the American League, especially when the duo became teammates on Team Puerto Rico during the World Baseball Classic in March.
Carlos Correa is off to a slow start in the Houston lineup. He has just 12 hits in 61 at bats and only two of those knocks are for extra bases (both for home runs). He has driven in five runs while putting up a .197/.286/.295 slash at the plate.
He beat Francisco Lindor to the Majors in 2015 and put together a strong showing in his first season that year, appearing in 99 games while hitting .279 with 22 doubles, 22 homers, 14 stolen bases, and 68 RBI. He would edge out Lindor for the AL Rookie of the Year Award, but Lindor’s star may be shining a bit brighter since.
Last season, Correa appeared in 153 games for Houston, hitting .274 with a .361 OBP with 36 doubles, 20 homers, and 96 RBI while adding 13 stolen bases.
Lindor arrived on the big league scene on June 14, 2015, and has not looked back. He played in 99 games in 2015, hitting .313 with 22 doubles, four triples, and 12 homers and drove in 51 runs. His 13 sacrifices were tops in the league as he went on to finish second to Correa in the Rookie of the Year race.
He was an All-Star for the first time and became a recognizable face across the country as the Indians made their deep run through the postseason and on into the World Series. He appeared in all but three games for the club during the season, hitting .301 with a .358 OBP and .435 slugging mark with 30 doubles, three triples, 15 homers, and 78 RBI while stealing 19 bases and leading all of baseball with 15 sacrifice flies. Following the season, he took home more accolades when he was named the AL Gold Glove winner at shortstop and the league’s Platinum Glove winner as the its top defender.
Through 18 games in 2017, Lindor has a .315/.373/.616 line at the plate with five doubles, a triple, a team-leading five homers, and 12 RBI. He again leads baseball early on with a pair of sacrifice flies.
Michael Brantley will bring an eight-game hitting streak into Tuesday night’s game. In addition, he has hit safely in 12 of his 15 games played on the year.
In his current hot stretch at the plate, Dr. Smooth is hitting .382 with a .447 on-base percentage with two doubles, three homers, and six runs batted in. For the year, he is hitting .310 with a .385 OBP with eleven RBI in addition to three doubles, three homers, and three stolen bases.
BY THE NUMBERS
Tomlin has had some success against current members of the Astros, holding the five men to have faced him in his career (Evan Gattis, Aoki, Beltran, McCann, and Reddick) to a 6-for-34 (.176) effort at the plate with a double and four RBI.
Bauer has handled Correa with ease during the first two seasons of the young shortstop’s career, retiring him in all seven trips to the plate with four strikeouts. Correa has a single to his credit in eight at bats against Kluber with four strikeouts.
Marwin Gonzalez is one of the few Astros with success against Kluber in his career. The utility man has five hits in 13 plate appearances (.417 average) with a double, a homer, and five runs batted in.
Brandon Guyer’s lefty-mashing skills will likely be put to the test in the series opener against Keuchel. He is 6-for-10 in his career in 12 plate appearances against him with five singles, a double, a walk, one hit by pitch, and one RBI.
Edwin Encarnacion took McCullers deep in one of his two ABs against him. He has had next to no luck with Fiers, however, with just a double in ten trips with a hit by pitch and three strikeouts. The Indians as a whole have had few answers for Fiers, who has limited the eight Tribesmen that he has faced to a 7-for-38 (.184) mark at the plate with three doubles, four singles, and just one RBI.
Beltran, a veteran of 20 Major League seasons and several times linked to the Indians throughout his career, celebrated his 40th birthday on Monday by joining his family in New York. He is the second-oldest active position player in the Majors, trailing only Miami’s Ichiro Suzuki, and the second-oldest player overall in the AL, behind Toronto reliever Jason Grilli.
He returned to Houston for the second time in his career in the offseason when he signed a one-year, $16 million contract. He previously spent the last three months of his first All-Star season in 2004 with the club after a June trade from the Kansas City Royals.
POSITIVE PED TEST FOR DELABAR
Minor league reliever Steve Delabar, who had signed with the Indians in the offseason and had spent April on the temporarily inactive list with the Triple-A Columbus Clippers, has been suspended 80 games for a positive test for Ostarine.
The Indians will host their next contestant from the AL West as the Seattle Mariners make their lone trip to Cleveland this season when their three-game series begins on Friday night. The Astros will return home to Minute Maid Park to host a pair of division rivals as Oakland comes to town for three before Texas arrives for four straight.
Photo: Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images