Tribe Travels to Texas to Take on MLB’s Hottest in Houston
Bob Toth | On 19, May 2017
While the Cleveland Indians were able to get that rare series opening home win this week in their matchup with Tampa Bay, the rest of the series was marred by poor starting pitching once again as the Indians fell twice to drop the set against their former friend, Kevin Cash, and his young Rays squad. Now, they return to the road for three in Houston against a very difficult Astros team in their final head-to-head already of 2017, at least within the regular season…
Houston (29-12) is not only the top team in the American League, it has the best record in all of baseball. They are winners of nine of their last ten and have not lost a series since dropping two of three to the Indians in Cleveland in the final week of April. The whole series was tightly contested, as the Astros won by two in the opener before dropping a pair of one-run decisions during one of the few times that they have lost consecutive games this season.
Cleveland (20-19) will need to overcome the lack of results from their starting pitching and will have to do it against one of the hottest teams in all of baseball while throwing the last three starters in their rotation. They will luck out to some degree to miss two of the top pitchers on the Houston staff in Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers, but they will still have their work cut out for them. They enter the series tied for second place in the American League Central Division, a full game in back of the Minnesota Twins and tied with the Detroit Tigers.
PITCHING PROBABLES and NOTES
Something about pitching in Texas brings out the best in Bauer, so that should certainly help the Tribe on Friday night. He has yet to allow a run in two starts at Minute Maid Park in his career, which included a near no-hitter several years ago. He is 6-0 lifetime against the Astros with a 2.61 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP, including one win earlier this season. He got back into the win column with his first win in May with six quality innings and seven strikeouts against the Minnesota Twins on Sunday.
Morton signed a free agent deal in the offseason with the Astros after making just four starts last season while a member of the Philadelphia Phillies organization. He has looked worth the money spent so far, winning five of his eight starts thus far. He does lead baseball with five batters hit by pitch, a stat he has twice led either his league or all of baseball in during his ten year career. He earned his fourth straight win his last time out while striking out ten batters in a game for the second time this season in defeating the New York Yankees. He has faced the Indians once in his career, taking a loss in six innings of work against them in 2015.
Clevinger made a spot start for the Indians against the Astros last season in a bullpen game for the club and was dealt the loss. He worked an inning and two-thirds and was charged with a run on two hits with two walks and three strikeouts. He will make his third start of the season and fourth overall appearance after working a third of an inning in relief with a strikeout on three pitches against the Rays during the week. He lost his last start, allowing three runs on three hits in four and one-third innings, but was hurt by five walks on the day.
Fiers is getting 5.66 runs of support per start, but his struggles to pitch deeper into ball games are costing him in the wins department. In seven starts, he has pitched six full innings just twice. He has given up a home run in every start this season and 15 in his last six outings, including four in his first start of May. He faced the Indians on April 27 and took a no-decision in a 4-3 Cleveland win as he allowed two runs on five hits with three walks, three strikeouts, and two home runs. He is 2-0 in three career starts against the Indians, with both victories coming last season when he allowed three runs on ten hits with four walks and eight strikeouts over 12 innings.
Salazar’s up-and-down season continued on Tuesday when he was tagged for four home runs, nearly matching the number of blasts he had given up in his first seven starts. He was charged with five runs in total on six hits with a pair of walks in five innings, yet struck out nine in taking his fourth loss of the season. He has faced Houston three times in his career, but despite a 1.47 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in those outings, he has yet to factor in a decision against them. He struck out ten against the Astros in five innings in his last start against them in 2016.
Musgrove will make his first career start against the Indians, or an AL Central opponent, in Sunday afternoon’s series finale. He has won back-to-back starts for Houston in May and is coming off of allowing just a run to Miami on Monday. It was just the second time this season that he kept the ball in the yard in a start, but he also allowed a season-high tying eight hits in the contest.
TV (all games) – Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio; ROOT SW; MLB Network (out-of-market, 5/19)
Radio (all games) – Cleveland Indians Radio Network; KBME 790, La Nueva 94.1 FM (Houston)
Abraham Almonte (OF) – 10-day disabled list (5/16) – right biceps strain
Shawn Armstrong (RP) – recalled from Triple-A Columbus (5/16)
Cody Anderson (SP) – 60-day disabled list (4/2) – right elbow surgery
Yandy Diaz (UTL) – optioned to Triple-A Columbus (5/16)
Carlos Frias (RP) – designated for assignment from Triple-A Columbus (5/16)
Brandon Guyer (OF) – 10-day disabled list (5/14) – left wrist sprain
Austin Jackson (OF) – 10-day disabled list (5/2) – left great toe hyperextension
Corey Kluber (SP) – 10-day disabled list (5/3) – lower back strain
Michael Martinez (UTL) – traded to Tampa Bay for PTBNL or cash considerations (5/18)
Bradley Zimmer (OF) – contract purchased from Triple-A Columbus (5/16)
AL CENTRAL STANDINGS
ASTROS BY THE NUMBERS
Jose Altuve in hitting .400 with a .483 on-base percentage over the last seven days with ten hits, including two doubles, two triples, a homer, and four RBI. He missed much of the two teams’ previous series against one another in April after a scary outfield collision with Teoscar Hernandez.
Brian McCann has seen Bauer more than any of the rest of his Houston teammates and has had some success against him. He owns a .294 average (5-for-17) lifetime off of the Tribe right-hander with a double, two homers, and six runs batted in. He is also 3-for-9 against Salazar with a pair of solo homers and two walks.
Nori Aoki is 5-for-15 off of Bauer with an RBI. He is 4-for-16 against Salazar with two doubles, a triple, a walk, and two RBI, but has struck out four times.
Evan Gattis is 2-for-9 against Bauer. The two hits have both been home runs and accounted for four RBI. The other seven at bats have all ended in strikeouts.
Carlos Beltran and Altuve have combined to go 5-for-27 against Bauer. Altuve has three hits and Beltran two, all of which have been singles.
Clevinger has faced seven different Astros hitters one time. He has allowed two hits – doubles by Altuve and Yuli Gurriel.
George Springer has faced Salazar three times, drawing a pair of walks and hitting a solo homer.
INDIANS IN DEPTH
The Indians have had limited success against Fiers in his career. Edwin Encarnacion is 2-for-10 with a double and a solo homer with three strikeouts. Carlos Santana is 1-for-8, Jason Kipnis is 1-for-7, and Francisco Lindor is 2-for-8.
Jose Ramirez is 4-for-8 off of Fiers with a double and a run batted in.
The only Indians player to face Musgrove is Encarnacion. He is 1-for-5 with a double, but has struck out three times.
Brantley is hitting .304 in the last week with two doubles, three walks, and one run batted in.
Three of Lonnie Chisenhall’s four hits this week have gone for extra bases. He has hit two homers and a double while driving in five. He has also drawn four walks during that span to produce a .391 on-base percentage.
Kipnis is hitting .280 in the last week and is thriving in the leadoff spot. He has contributed two doubles, two homers, and leads the club with six RBI in the last seven days.
BACK TO OHIO
The Indians will return to their home state of Ohio after the three-game series in the heart of Texas is completed, but they will not return all the way home as they will head to the Queen City to take on the Cincinnati Reds on Monday in the first two games of a four-game home-and-home series. The Astros will continue their three-team homestand from Minute Maid Park when they host the Detroit Tigers for four straight beginning Monday night.
Photo: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images