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Cleveland Indians vs. Houston Astros series preview

The Indians return home for a four game set from the AL West leading Houston Astros.

Two of Houston's likely All-Stars, Jose Altuve and Dallas Keuchel
Two of Houston's likely All-Stars, Jose Altuve and Dallas Keuchel
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

What a difference half a season makes. When these teams met in the first series of the year, the Indians were preseason playoff darlings and the Houston Astros were hoping to reach 0.500 for the first time since 2008. Now, these teams are on opposite sides of that previous spectrum.

  • Monday 7:10 PM: Dallas Keuchel (L) vs. Carlos Carrasco (R)
  • Tuesday 7:10 PM: Vincent Velasquez (R) vs. Corey Kluber (R)
  • Wednesday 7:10 PM: Dan Straily (R) vs. Trevor Bauer (R)
  • Thursday 7:10 PM: Collin McHugh (R) vs. Cody Anderson (R)

The Upcoming Schedule: After the Astros depart, the season's nominal first half concludes with a visit from the Oakland Athletics. The early part of next week will be consumed by the All-Star festivities in Cincinnati. And the Tribe opens the second half of the season in Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati as well.

Division Watch: Rays at Royals, Orioles at Twins, Tigers at Mariners, Blue Jays at White Sox.

Team in a Box

Houston Astros

Offense

AL Rank

Pitching

AL Rank

2015 Record

48-36

Runs/Game

4.5

2nd

Runs/Game

3.8

4th

AL West

1st

OBP

309

10th

H/9

7.9

4th

Last 10

6-4

SLG

425

3rd

BB/9

2.7

8th

Last 30

14-16

Steals

66

1st

SO/9

7.7

5th

* All stats are thru Saturday's game except records.

After losing two of three to the Tribe to open the season, the Astros got hot in the month of April. They finished that month at 15-7. They have been in first place ever since. They have been pretty hot and cold lately. They had a seven game losing streak which was followed by a five game win streak two weeks ago. They just had another five game win streak (including a sweep of the Royals) but lost their last two in Boston over the weekend.

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Offensively, this team is very odd. They are twelfth in average, tenth in on base percentage, but third in runs scored because they are a superb slugging team. They lead the league in home runs and are second in doubles. They also lead the league in steals, but they are the worst in striking out too. A very all or nothing offense. The pitching staff is excellent though, basically top five in almost every category. Defensively they are pretty good too, right around the top third in the AL.

Projected Roster

Pos

Player

Bats

PA

BA

OPS

wRC+

C

Jason Castro

L

219

214

661

84

1B

Chris Carter

R

318

197

717

102

2B

Jose Altuve

R

328

302

769

111

3B

Luis Valbuena

L

306

201

721

101

SS

Carlos Correa

R

107

298

875

144

LF

Evan Gattis

R

309

242

719

95

CF

Jake Marisnick

R

200

245

674

86

RF

Preston Tucker

L

164

242

720

102

DH

Jon Singleton

L

21

158

449

28

OF

Colby Rasmus

L

221

244

794

121

IF

Marwin Gonzalez

S

179

266

663

82

C

Hank Conger

S

104

233

752

113

OF

Alex Presley

L

8

250

500

35

There have been a few changes since April. Top prospect Correa has taken over at short. Right fielder George Springer fractured his wrist last week, so there has been shuffling in the outfield. Alex Presley may actually get more playing time with Gattis shifting back to DH.

Gonzalez (1080 OPS) and Altuve (1038) have led the offense the past two weeks. Correa has three of the team's 13 homers in that time span. LGFT Valbuena also cranked two homers and has a 909 OPS over the last two weeks.

Both htiters from that beat up on the pitching staff in that opening series, Jed Lowrie and Springer are not currently on the active roster. In fatc, the Tribe pitchers only allowed one homer, to Lowrie in those first three games while holding the Astros to a 096/208/145 slash.

Projected Staff

Player

Throws

ERA

FIP

IP

WHIP

K/9

Dallas Keuchel

L

2.03

2.93

124.1

0.96

7.4

Collin McHugh

R

4.54

4.03

107.0

1.30

7.1

Lance McCullers

R

2.19

2.64

53.1

1.01

9.8

Vincent Velasquez

R

4.21

3.48

25.2

1.33

9.1

Dan Straily

R

7.71

4.80

4.2

1.93

13.5

Luke Gregerson

R

3.34

3.27

32.1

0.93

8.9

Will Harris

R

0.96

3.49

37.1

0.70

9.2

Pat Neshek

R

2.90

3,54

31.0

0.84

8.1

Tony Sipp

L

2.73

3.32

29.2

1.01

10.0

Joe Thatcher

L

2.04

2.01

17.2

1.25

10.2

Roberto Hernandez

R

4.46

4.49

82.2

1.38

4.5

Josh Fields

R

2.88

2.17

25.0

1.08

13.0

There has also been a huge turnover in the rotation with Scott Feldman landing on the DL, Asher Wojciechowski back in AAA and Roberto Hernandez in the bullpen. Releiver Chad Qualls also landed on the DL recently.

Keuchel is an excellent lefty who outdueled Kluber on opening day. He pitched a scoreless seven innings with just three hits, three walks and four strikeouts. He had a great June, 2.53 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 8.9 K/9, with only the Mariners having any real success against him. Velazquez is a rookie who made his debut against the White Sox on June 10. He had a decent start against the Royals last time out, but gave up four runs on just six baserunners.

Straily opened the season in Fresno (AAA) and just made his first 2015 start in Fenway. He didn't get out of the fifth inning but struck out seven. He has one career start, a loss, against the Indians back in 2013. McHugh didn't pitch in the opening series but has been pretty good in his past four starts, 2.96 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and 7.6 K/9. He had two great starts against the Indians in 2014.

On the Shelf

  • RF George Springer [15 day DL], possible late July return
  • SP Scott Feldman [15 day DL], possible late July return
  • RP Chad Qualls [15 day DL], possible late July return
  • SS Jed Lowrie [60 day DL], possible late July return
  • SP Brad Peacock [60 day DL], no timetable for return
  • RP Samuel Deduno 15 day DL], no timetable for return

Almanac

W

L

Pct

RS

RA

Pythag

2015

2

1

667

7

3

825

2014

5

2

714

16

14

561

Last 5*

12

5

706

63

47

631

Last 10*

12

5

706

63

47

631

All-Time

21

14

600

145

127

560

*Does not include 2015 stats

Prediction: Other than the opener against Keuchel, the Indians have the pitching edge in this series. They could take three of four, but I suspect a split is in order.