The Cleveland Indians dropped a big opportunity over the weekend with a chance to gain significant ground in the divisional and Wild Card races when they were swept by the Detroit Tigers. If any of their playoff hopes are to remain, they will need a big series in the state where everything is bigger as they take on the Houston Astros in Texas for four straight at Minute Maid Park beginning Monday night.
The Indians (76-72) had an opportunity again against the Tigers and watched leads fade away in the late innings over the weekend. On Friday night, the Martinez combo of Victor and J.D. pummeled the Indians into submission, as the two combined for five of the seven Tigers runs in a 7-2 Tribe loss. Alex Avila took Bryan Shaw deep for a pair of runs in the bottom of the eighth inning on Saturday to give the Tigers a 5-4 win. Shaw was tagged again on Sunday, as Ian Kinsler’s two-run shot in the seventh put Detroit up for good in a 6-4 win.
The sweep at the paws of the Tigers put Detroit back in the driver’s seat in the American League Central and knocked the Indians six and a half games off the pace in the division. They trail the second AL Wild Card team, the Kansas City Royals, by five games with 14 to play.
The Astros (66-83) ended the Los Angeles Angels’ ten-game winning streak over the weekend. The Angels won 11-3 on Friday night, paced by a seven-run fifth inning. Three runs in the seventh pushed the Halos past the Astros 5-2 on Saturday. A homer and a pair of run-scoring singles gave the Astros a 6-1 win on Sunday to avoid the series sweep at the hands of the team with the best record in the MLB.
Collin McHugh (9-9, 2.79 ERA) will make Monday night’s 8:10 PM ET first pitch for Houston. He replaces Brad Peacock, who was originally scheduled to start but is dealing with lower back soreness. Zach McAllister (3-6, 5.97) will get the spot start for the Indians, who needed an extra starter after last Wednesday’s rainout. He is winless with a 7.89 ERA in his last ten starts for the Indians, but was solid in Columbus in August, posting a 1.93 ERA that month. He was 5-0 in six starts over June and July at Triple-A.
Nick Tropeano (1-0, 3.60) and Corey Kluber (15-9, 2.45) will square off in Tuesday’s 8:10 PM ET start. Tropeano earned his first win with five innings of work in his Major League debut last Wednesday against Seattle. Kluber became the Indians’ first 15-game winner in his last start since Cliff Lee won 22 in 2008.
Brett Oberholtzer (5-11, 4.51) will be the first man to the mound in Wednesday’s game for Houston. He allowed three runs on ten hits in six and two-thirds innings in a loss in Cleveland earlier this season. Carlos Carrasco (7-5, 2.86) will counter for Cleveland. He allowed four earned runs in his last start, more than the three that he had surrendered in his first six starts back in the rotation, in his last outing against Detroit. First pitch is scheduled for 8:10 PM ET.
The series will conclude on Thursday with another 8:10 PM ET start. Scott Feldman (8-11, 3.95) has allowed three earned runs or less in each of his last five starts for Houston, earning a 2-2 record in that stretch. Danny Salazar (6-7, 4.22) has allowed nine earned runs in 10 1/3 innings since his complete game shutout of Detroit two starts ago.
Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio and Comcast SportsNet will air all four contests. The affiliates of the Cleveland Indians Radio Network and the Houston Astros Radio Network will provide radio coverage for the series.
The Indians own a 16-12 record against the Astros all-time. The clubs first met in the regular season in 1997 when the Indians took two of three from the Astros in Houston. The Tribe took two of three from Houston earlier this season in Cleveland, despite being outscored 8-7. Cody Allen factored in all three games, earning one loss, one win, and one save.
The Astros hold an 8-7 advantage against the Indians in Houston.
Indians first baseman Nick Swisher (knee surgeries) is out for the season.
Ryan Raburn’s season may have come to an end with a knee injury over the weekend. The hyperextended left knee has him currently considered day-to-day.
In addition to the injury to Peacock, Houston reliever Chad Qualls is considered day-to-day with a right hip injury that has sidelined him since September 6th. Outfielder George Springer could return from the disabled list this week. He has been out with a right quad strain.
Four of their pitchers are done for the season, including former Indians reliever Matt Albers (right shoulder tendinitis), Jose Cisnero (May Tommy John surgery), Jesse Crain (2013 biceps surgery), and Josh Zeid (bilateral sesamoiditis).
CRUNCHING THE NUMBERS
Michael Brantley is second in all of baseball with 180 hits on the season, 26 off the pace of the MLB leader. He has hit in five straight games (including four two-hit games), 17 of his last 18, and 19 of 21. He was just 1-for-8 against the Astros when the two clubs last met during one of his few slumps this season.
Jose Ramirez was on fire against them, registering seven hits in 13 at bats (.538 average) with a pair of doubles and two runs batted in. He has hits in three straight games and five out of his last six. He is hitting .297 over his last ten games.
Carlos Santana has hits in 14 of his last 17 games. After hitting .208 in August, he has hit .280 in 14 September starts. He leads the club with 27 home runs and his 79 RBI trail just Brantley’s 94. Both stats have tied his previous career highs. His 102 walks lead all of baseball.
Houston hitters have batted just .160 in their three games against Cleveland this season. Jake Marisnick was 4-for-10 with four singles in the three games. Jon Singleton was 2-for-7 with a home run and four runs batted in, but struck out in half of his eight plate appearances.
Jose Altuve is baseball’s leading hitter, both in total hits (206) and batting average (.339). He has put together four consecutive two-hit games while going against the Seattle Mariners and the Angels. He has hit .325 in his last ten games. He was an All-Star this season for the second time in his career and again was named the Astros’ winner of the MLBPAA Heart and Hustle Award. He is just the second Astros player in club history with 200 hits in a season. He needs just four to tie Craig Biggio’s single-season team record of 210, set in 1998.
Chris Carter, who bounced around a bit before finally finding a home in Houston, has been a pleasant surprise for the young ball club. The designated hitter is near the top of the American League leaderboard in home runs (36) and runs batted in (85). Both totals are new career highs. He struck out four times in nine plate appearances against Cleveland earlier this year.
Indians bench coach and outfield instructor Brad Mills made his managerial debut with the Houston Astros and was the club’s skipper from 2010 to 2012.
Mills is in his 36th season in professional baseball. He spent parts of four seasons in the Majors as a player, playing parts of four years with the Montreal Expos from 1980 to 1983 as a utility infielder. He then spent 1984 to 1986 at the Triple-A levels for Montreal, Houston, and the Chicago Cubs.
Following his playing career, he spent ten seasons as a minor league manager for the Cubs and Colorado Rockies organizations from 1987 to 1996. From 1997 to 2000, he reunited with his former Expos teammate, Terry Francona, as a bench coach with the Philadelphia Phillies. The two were on the Montreal roster together when Francona reached the Majors with the club in 1981 and they spent parts of three years together at the MLB level.
Mills returned to managerial work with the Las Vegas 51s of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2002 before coming back to the Bigs in 2003 with the Expos as a bench coach on Frank Robinson’s staff. When Francona took over in Boston, he rejoined Tito there from 2004 to 2009 before getting the opportunity to lead Houston’s club.
Mills reunited with Francona again as part of Tito’s coaching staff in Cleveland in 2013. He was utilized as the Tribe’s third base coach and outfield coach last season before moving back into the dugout next to Francona.
Cleveland will head north to the Twin Cities to play their final series with the Minnesota Twins from Target Field starting on Friday night. Houston will host Seattle for three games this coming weekend to end their final homestand of the season.
Photo: AP Photo/Carlos Osorio