Series Preview #51: Houston Astros (51-101) at Cleveland Indians (82-70)

After a 5-2 road trip through Chicago and Kansas City, the Cleveland Indians return home for their final homestand of the season, beginning Thursday with a four-game set with the Houston Astros.

This week, the Astros (51-101) successfully completed their third consecutive 100-loss season when they were swept at home by the Cincinnati Reds. They will play their first series in Cleveland this weekend since joining the American League West. They will finish out their season with three games in Texas against the Rangers and in the Big Apple with three against the New York Yankees.

The Indians (82-70) remain a half game in back of the American League Wild Card race after dropping two of three to the Kansas City Royals during the week. Cleveland will play ten more games on the season – all against teams with records below the .500 mark. They will finish up their home schedule with two more games against Chicago before moving on to Minnesota for four to end the season against the Twins.

Ubaldo Jimenez (12-9, 3.49 ERA) will make the 7:05 PM ET first pitch in Thursday’s game against Dallas Keuchel (6-9, 5.17). Jimenez has an AL-leading 1.83 ERA since the All-Star break. The lefty Keuchel won his first start in a month and a half, despite allowing six runs on ten hits in five and two-thirds innings against the Los Angeles Angels.

Zach McAllister (8-9, 3.96) will take the ball for the Tribe on Friday night, as Brett Oberholtzer (4-3, 2.98) counters in the 7:05 PM ET start. McAllister bounced back in his last start, a win against the Chicago White Sox, after three consecutive rough outings of five innings or less. Oberholtzer has a 4-3 record in eight starts with a 2.38 ERA, as opposed to no record with a 7.36 ERA in three relief appearances to begin his season.

At 6:05 PM ET on Saturday, Scott Kazmir (8-9, 4.34) and Paul Clemens (4-5, 5.54) will square up. The Indians lefty has dropped each of his last two games, allowing seven earned runs on 16 hits in nine innings. Clemens had pitched primarily out of the bullpen until returning from Triple-A at the end of August. This will be his fourth start of the season.

Corey Kluber (9-5, 3.62) and Erik Bedard (4-11, 4.60) will take the mound in Sunday’s 1:05 PM ET start. Kluber was hit with a no-decision his last time out after winning each of his previous two starts. Bedard, the third lefty scheduled to throw in the series for the Astros, will make his second start since returning to the Houston rotation after two bullpen appearances.

Each of the four games can be seen on Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio and Comcast SportsNet. Radio broadcasts will be available on the affiliates of the Cleveland Indians Radio Network and the Astros Radio Network.

The Astros eclipsed the 100-loss mark with a sweep at the hands of the Reds.

Cincinnati defeated Bedard by a 6-1 final on Monday. Zack Cozart drove in four for the Reds, including two on a second inning home run. Jose Altuve led the way for the Astros at the plate with two hits. Bedard allowed four runs on four hits, struck out six, and walked a pair in four innings.

Mike Leake and the Reds shut out Houston 10-0 on Tuesday. Jordan Lyles allowed nine runs, seven earned, on eight hits in three and one-third innings. Leake pitched eight for the Indians’ cross-state rivals and allowed just five hits. Jay Bruce hit his 30th home run of the year for the Reds, and his five RBI gave him 100 on the season.

The Reds completed the sweep with a 13-inning, 6-5 victory on Wednesday night. Matt Dominguez had three hits and Chris Carter, L.J. Hoes, and Altuve added two each. Brad Peacock allowed four runs on six hits in five and two-thirds innings in the start for Houston. A two-run double in the 13th by Bruce scored a pair to give Cincinnati a 6-4 lead. Houston scored a run in the bottom of the inning on a Trevor Crowe RBI-groundout against Aroldis Chapman, but was unable to do any more damage.

Center fielder Robbie Grossman leads Houston with a .322 batting average in the second half. He is hitting .329 on the season versus right-handed pitching.

Dominguez has had a breakout season in his first full season in the Majors with Houston. The third baseman is batting just .244, but has 20 home runs and 75 RBI.

Carter leads the team with 27 home runs on the season and 77 RBI.

The Astros have struck out 124 times more than any other team in baseball. Their pitching staff has the worst ERA and WHIP in the entire MLB with a 4.82 ERA and 1.50 WHIP this season.

The Indians dropped two of three against the Royals in Kansas City during the week.

Cleveland, for the second straight week, could not figure out James Shields as the K.C. ace limited the Indians to one run in six innings while striking out 10 on the way to a 7-1 victory on Monday. Kazmir allowed four runs on seven hits in five innings on the game and the bullpen surrendered three more. Lonnie Chisenhall drove in the Indians’ lone run in the fifth with a solo home run. The Indians struck out 17 times in the ball game.

Five runs from the sixth inning on by the Indians helped to spoil the impressive Major League debut of rookie Yordano Ventura, as the Indians defeated the Royals , 5-3, on Tuesday. An RBI-single by Michael Brantley got the Indians on the board in the sixth. Michael Bourn drove in a run in the seventh with a triple, then scored on a sacrifice fly by Nick Swisher. Asdrubal Cabrera gave Cleveland the lead in the eighth with an RBI-double, and Bourn gave the club some insurance with a solo homer in the ninth. Kluber was lifted after four and two-thirds innings. Ventura was charged with one earned run in five and two-thirds innings and struck out three.

Three early runs off of Danny Salazar paced the Royals to a 7-2 victory in Wednesday night’s finale. Salazar (1-3) was charged with four earned runs in the loss after he allowed three in the first. His three strikeouts matched the fewest he has had in one outing this season. Bruce Chen allowed two runs on four hits in five innings for his eighth win of the season. Brantley had a single and a double in the loss. Bourn was active, with a single, stolen base, sacrifice fly, and one run batted in.

Carlos Santana had his twelve game hitting streak snapped in Wednesday’s loss. He batted .390 during the hitting streak with one home run, one double, and seven runs batted in. He walked ten times while striking out eight. He is tied with Miguel Cabrera for second in the American League with 87 walks on the season. He is second on the Indians with 18 home runs this season.

Jason Kipnis was hitless in the series with the Royals after batting .400 in the previous series against Chicago. He is batting just .204 in the last 30 days.

The Indians pitching staff has totaled 1,259 strikeouts this season, second-best in the Majors behind the Detroit Tigers. They have walked the second-most batters in all of baseball, trailing only the Astros entering the series.

Photo: Ed Zurga/Getty Images

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