Cleveland will hope for far more productive results this time around as the Indians head to Houston for a 2018 ALDS rematch with the Astros, one swept by the host club a season ago.
The Indians (13-10) scuffled during their recent five-game homestand, dropping two of three against the Atlanta Braves before splitting a two-gamer with the Miami Marlins. The offense got off to a hot start at the beginning of the homestand, but a bullpen implosion late Saturday seemed to leave a lasting bitter taste in the mouths of those on the roster. The Indians come into the series trailing the Minnesota Twins by half a game in the American League Central and will look to improve upon a 6-6 mark on the road this season.
The Astros (15-9) are atop the American League West, holding a half-game lead over the surprise Seattle Mariners. They started their seven-game homestand on the right note, taking two of three from the Twins to improve to 8-1 at home on the year. Every game that they have played this season has come against teams with a record of .500 or better, which will continue this weekend against Cleveland. They are owners of the best team batting average in all of baseball, hitting .282 through their first 24 games. Their 41 homers are second-most in the league and their 173 strikeouts are the third-fewest in the AL.
PITCHING PROBABLES AND NOTES:
TV: Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio (4/25-27); ATT-SportsNet-SW (4/25-28); FS1 (4/27); ESPN (4/28)
Radio (all): Cleveland Indians Radio Network; BKME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2 (Houston)
TRANSACTIONS and INJURY NOTES:
Cody Anderson (P) – optioned to Triple-A Columbus (4/24)
Mike Clevinger (SP) – 60-day injured list (4/9) – right upper back/Teres major muscle strain
Tyler Clippard (RP) – contract purchased from Triple-A Columbus (4/25)
Cameron Maybin (OF) – traded to New York Yankees for cash considerations (4/25)
Jefry Rodriguez (SP) – optioned to Triple-A Columbus (4/25)
Danny Salazar (P) – 60-day injured list (3/24); right shoulder rehab
Bradley Zimmer (OF) – 10-day injured list (3/28); right shoulder rehab
Lance McCullers (SP) – 10-day injured list (3/28) – recovery from November 2018 Tommy John surgery
Joe Smith (RP) – 10-day injured list (3/28) – recovery from December 2018 left Achilles tendon surgery
ASTROS SUCCEEDING THROUGH TOUGH SCHEDULE
The Houston lineup is chock full of players seeing the ball and hitting the ball well, even after playing 24 consecutive games against teams with winning records.
It may be tough enough for the Tribe players to look across the diamond this weekend and see a dear old friend suited up in enemy colors, but such will be the case as Michael Brantley plays in his first career game against his former Cleveland club. And he will do so riding one of the longest active hitting streaks in the Majors right now.
Brantley has hit in ten straight games, three off of the pace of Colorado’s Trevor Story. During that stretch, Brantley has hit .359 with a .409 on-base percentage and a .641 slugging mark with 14 total hits (including three home runs and ten RBI). The hot streak from Brantley has actually been a season-long trend for the veteran left fielder, who has a .315/.373/.533 slash on the year with five doubles, five homers, and 18 RBI.
Outfielder Josh Reddick is also enjoying recent success at the plate. The veteran has hit safely in seven straight, posting a .536/.567/.893 slash with three homers and six runs batted in. It has boosted his season numbers to a team-leading .386 average with a .427 OBP and a .543 slugging in 19 games with two doubles, three homers, and six RBI.
George Springer gives the Astros three different outfielders riding hitting streaks of a half dozen games or better. During his six-game streak at the plate, he has hit .375 with a .483 on-base percentage with nine hits, including two homers, and has driven in six runs while scoring six times. Springer has seven homers on the year (second to Jose Altuve) and is tied with him with 20 RBI.
Not to be outdone, shortstop Carlos Correa and third baseman Alex Bregman have both hit safely in six straight. Correa is hitting .259 in that stretch with three homers and six RBI, but he has eight strikeouts in 27 at bats. Correa is hitting .268 on the year with eight doubles, five homers, and 13 RBI. Bregman has been better, hitting .400 with a .536 OBP with two homers, five RBI, five runs scored, and six walks. He is second on the club with a .316 average with five doubles, four homers, and 12 RBI while drawing more walks (15) than strikeouts (12).
BIGGEST TRIBE TEST TO DATE
While the Astros lineup is hitting the cover off of the ball (with five regulars riding hitting streaks of six or more), the Indians batting order has struggled to put up numbers consistently.
The Indians remain the worst hitting club in the AL. They own a .213 average, 14 points in back of Toronto. Their on-base percentage of .306 is marginally better, third-worst in the league, but the light-hitting club is dead-last in the league with a .326 slugging mark, 36 points behind Detroit.
Jose Ramirez’s three-hit game on Wednesday helped bolster his average over the last week. In his last five games, he is hitting .333 with a .478 on-base percentage with a double, a homer, five walks, and six RBI. In 23 games this season, Ramirez has a .184/.265/.299 line at the plate with four doubles, two homers, and nine RBI while going 6-for-6 stealing bases. He is sitting on 99 career stolen bases.
Jason Kipnis is hitting .333 over the last week in four games with a pair of runs batted in. He is second on the team in batting in the early going with a .308 mark for the season in his seven games.
Francisco Lindor has appeared four times since being activated from the injured list. He has four hits in 18 at bats with a homer and two runs batted in. He has yet to draw a walk since his activation.
Carlos Santana is hitless in his last three games, going 0-for-11 in that span. In his tenth big league season and his first back in Cleveland after a year in Philadelphia, he is hitting .338 in 22 games with five doubles, a homer, and 13 RBI. He is the team leader in doubles, walks, and RBI.
The Indians added the 34-year-old veteran right-hander Clippard to the bullpen after optioning Wednesday’s starter Rodriguez back to Columbus. Clippard was a spring invite with the Indians, but a right pectoral strain ended his chances of opening the season with the club. He appeared in just three games at the Triple-A level with Columbus while working his way back into shape, allowing a run on two hits with four strikeouts and no walks. It marked his first minor league appearances this decade – he last appeared on the farm in 2009.
BIENVENIDOS A MIAMI
The Indians will pack up from their trip to Houston and head to the southern portion of Florida for a two-game series with the Miami Marlins, beginning Tuesday night. The Astros will rematch the Twins, marking two straight weeks of opening against Minnesota. Their two-game set is scheduled for 7:40 PM starts from Target Field on Monday and Tuesday.
Photo: Bob Levey/Getty Images