The wacky baseball schedulers are at it again this weekend, as one week after playing their first games against one another for the season, the Cleveland Indians and Houston Astros will reunite Thursday through Sunday for the final four games of their regular season matchups.
The Indians (24-23) return home after another tough rough trip. With a pair of wins at Wrigley Field against the Chicago Cubs, the team went 4-4 in the eight-game trip after starting off with a pair of 1-2 defeats against the Detroit Tigers and the Astros. Starting pitching has continued to carry the Tribe as far as it can go, but the offense has proven to be inconsistent and the bullpen has still allowed runs to sneak across the plate in the latter innings of contests. They come into the series with Houston with just a 9-11 mark in the month of May while holding a two-game lead in the AL Central.
The Astros (32-18) are having a different kind of month. They have scored almost twice as many runs as they have allowed and come in winners of three straight and six of their last seven, including their two wins in three chances last weekend against the Indians. They enjoyed an off-day Monday before handling the San Francisco Giants with ease, winning an 11-2 final on Tuesday in Houston before a 4-1 contest on Wednesday afternoon.
PITCHING PROBABLES and NOTES
Morton will be in the unusual position of making back-to-back starts against the same team as he faces the Indians for the second time this season. He remains one of the surprise stories of the year, riding a healthy 14-7 season and an impressive effort in the postseason last year into a strong start in 2018. The 34-year-old has won six decisions in nine starts this season and nine straight decisions dating back to the middle of last September. He struck out eight in his win against the Indians last Friday, slightly dropping his impressive and career-best strikeout per nine inning rate to 11.3.
Clevinger was dealt his first loss in a start since the 2017 trade deadline when he was defeated by the Astros last Friday. He made a quality start (6.1 IP, 3R/3ER, 8H, 6K, 4BB), but he matched a season high in walks allowed to earn his first loss of the season. He will make his tenth start of the season on Thursday and his sixth at home. He has fared far better on the road than at home, going 2-1 in four away starts with a 1.61 ERA and a 0.96 WHIP.
Kluber and Keuchel will renew their rivalry as former Cy Young winners. Keuchel, staring down free agency after the season, has not had much luck or support in his starts. He entered his last start with the Tribe on Saturday with a 4-0 lifetime record with a 2.21 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP, but was charged with four runs on six hits with two walks and three strikeouts in five innings to take his first loss against Cleveland. He has been given one run or less of support in five of his ten starts this season.
Kluber got the best of Keuchel and the Astros in that outing, working seven innings and allowing two runs on six hits with ten strikeouts for his league-leading seventh win of the season. The 32-year-old right-hander has made ten starts on the season and thrown ten consecutive quality starts. Home runs have quietly produced the bulk of the damage done against him offensively this season, as he has allowed eleven in 72 1/3 innings, including six in the month of May.
McCullers held the Indians in check to earn his sixth win of the season on Sunday, limiting the Tribe to just one hit over seven innings on a nationally televised game on ESPN. He struck out eight and walked a pair to even up his career record at 1-1 against Cleveland. It extended a strong stretch of play from the right-hander on the mound, as he has made quality starts in six of his last seven games (posting a 5-1 record in those outings).
Carrasco was on the wrong side of no run support on Sunday when he faced the Astros for the first time this season. He worked seven and two-thirds innings, giving up three runs on eight hits, but the Indians provided just one run against McCullers and the Astros bullpen. It was the first loss of his career pitching at Minute Maid Park and just the second of his career against the Astros overall.
The pitching matchup with the most noise made about it coming into the weekend has easily been the pairing of former UCLA Bruins aces Cole and Bauer. Much has been made about their no-love-lost non-friendship as former college teammates. The pair will forever be united as successful Bruins and top draft picks in the 2011 draft (Cole was selected first, while Bauer went third).
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Radio (all): Cleveland Indians Radio Network (CLE); KBME 790
TRANSACTIONS and INJURY NOTES
Cody Anderson (P) – 60-day disabled list (2/25) – recovery from April 2017 UCL surgery
Lonnie Chisenhall (RF) – 10-day disabled list (4/8) – right calf strain; on rehab assignment
Nick Goody (RP) – 10-day disabled list (5/3) – right elbow inflammation
Brandon Guyer (OF) – 10-day disabled list (5/20) – left cervical strain
Ryan Merritt (P) – 60-day disabled list (3/26) – left knee sprain
Tyler Naquin (OF) – 10-day disabled list (5/12) – left hamstring strain
Danny Salazar (P) – 60-day disabled list (3/26) – right shoulder rotator cuff tendonitis; shut down
Bradley Zimmer (CF) – 10-day disabled list (5/12) – left rib contusion
Eddie Butler (RP) – 10-day disabled list (4/20) – right groin strain
Jake Marisnick (OF) – recalled from Triple-A Fresno (5/23)
Josh Reddick (OF) – 10-day disabled list (5/23) – leg infection
Randy Rosario (P) – optioned to Triple-A Iowa (5/20)
Drew Smyly (SP) – 60-day disabled list (2/16) – recovery from July 2017 UCL surgery
ASTROS STATS AND NOTES
Jose Altuve’s seven-game hitting streak came to an end during the week with an 0-for-3 performance against the San Francisco Giants on Wednesday. His average had climbed to .318 during the streak. He went 5-for-12 against the Indians during the three-game series in Houston last weekend to help continue the streak, hitting four singles and a double in that span with a pair of strikeouts.
Outfielder George Springer had a good series against the Indians last weekend, getting four hits in eleven at bats against the Tribe. He hit a big home run and drove in a pair in the series opener, aiding in the 4-1 win. He enters the final series with the Indians this season hitting .294 with a .353 on-base percentage and a .500 slugging mark with ten doubles, ten homers, and 31 RBI. It has continued a hot May for the slugger, who has hit .338 in his first 18 games of the month with two doubles, four homers, and 12 RBI.
Tony Kemp busted out a career-game on Tuesday against the Giants. He was 2-for-2 at the plate and drove in five runs, adding a sacrifice bunt and a sacrifice fly during his time at the plate. He has hit .400 since being recalled from Triple-A Fresno in six games, including a 3-for-9 stretch in three games against the Indians last weekend.
TRIBE BRINGS THE BACON
The Cleveland Indians announced on Wednesday the addition of a new mascot, one that will join the Sugardale Hot Dogs. Bacon will join the trio, who help long-time mascot Slider with in-game crowd engagement. The new mascot is set to debut during the series and will get its first chance to run in the daily Sugardale Hot Dog Derby.
TRIBE BY THE NUMBERS
Michael Brantley has continued his All-Star caliber first half for the Tribe with a 12-game hitting streak that he will bring into play against Houston on Thursday. His hitting tear has included a .365/.411/.635 slash at the plate with two doubles, four homers, and 13 RBI. He remains among the top hitters in the American League this season, using a .329 average with six doubles, five homers, and 22 RBI (tops on the club) in May to produce a .338/.374/.563 slash for the season. His 32 RBI are second-most on the club for the season.
Jose Ramirez, who leads the club with 34 RBI, also leads the team in homers (14). He is hitting .296 on the year and is near the top of the league’s leaderboard in doubles, homers, walks, slugging, and OPS.
Francisco Lindor got back on track with a pair of two-hit games against the Chicago Cubs during the week, going 4-for-8 with two doubles and two walks in the pair of wins. It boosted his May average to .384. His incredible month has included ten doubles, eight homers, 16 RBI, and a pair of player of the week awards. He is second on the club in hitting with a .306 average for the year and leads the team with 17 doubles.
BRING ON THE SOX
For the first time this season, the Indians will welcome the Chicago White Sox to town for their first games of 19 against the southsiders this season. The Astros will continue their road trip with a series in the Big Apple where they will face the New York Yankees in a rematch of the American League Championship Series from last October.
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