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Series preview: Cleveland Indians at Houston Astros

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The Indians are not allowed to play every game at home, unfortunately.

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Indians are coming off of their first great back-to-back series of the season, going 5-1 in their last six games against the Detroit Tigers and the Kansas City Royals. The Houston Astros are coming off of a similar resurgence, having won four of their last seven games. Overall, though, the 'Stros have been a major disappointment this season: Can the Indians capitalize on it and continue to climb up the American League standings?

The two teams will play a pair of 8:10 p.m. ET games before a 2:10 p.m. matinee on Wednesday.

Matchups

  • Monday, 8:10 p.m. ET: Corey Kluber (RHP) vs. Mike Fiers (RHP)
  • Tuesday, 8:10 p.m. ET: Trevor Bauer (RHP) vs. Chris Devenski (RHP)
  • Wednesday, 2:10 p.m. ET: Danny Salazar (RHP) vs. Doug Fister (RHP)

Rookie pitcher Chris Devinski has only made two starts this season, but he has already made an impression on the struggling Astros rotation. He currently leads the team in ERA as a starter (2.45) and he has yet to allow a home run in his 11.0 innings as a starting pitcher. If the Indians get good Bauer and not middle-innings collapse Bauer, it could still be a matchup advantage for the Tribe, however.

The other two games look like easy advantages for the Indians, with Corey Kluber taking on the struggling Mike Fiers and Danny Salazar bringing his 1.91 ERA (5th best in AL) against Doug Fister. The same Fister, who I discovered earlier today, is basically all the bad parts of Josh Tomlin without any of the luck.

Upcoming schedule: The Indians will return home following this three-game set in Houston. They will then face the Minnesota Twins and Cincinnati Reds before heading on the road again to face the Boston Red Sox for the first time since the season-opening series.

Team in a Box

Houston Astros

Offense

AL Rank

Pitching

AL Rank

Record

12-20

R/G

4.12

7th

ERA

4.57

14th

AL West

5th

OBP

.317

4th

HR/9

1.31

15th

Last 10

3-7

SLG

.421

3rd

BB/9

2.69

3rd

Streak

W1

Steals

27

1st

SO/9

7.61

1th

The Astros are a team with major issues right now, most of which revolve around their pitching staff. Behind Dallas Keuchel, they have virtually no one, and even he is not looking great this season. The one positive aspect of the Astros staff is that they do not walk a lot of batters, but if any team can put that skill to the test, it's the Indians.

Offensively, Houston is a solid team, thanks in large part to the trio of Jose Altuve, Colby Rasmus and Carlos Correa. Combined, those three have been worth 4.1 fWAR on the season. That's more than the entire offense of 19 MLB teams.

Astros position players

  • C: Jason Castro
  • 1B: Tyler White
  • 2B: Jose Altuve
  • SS: Carlos Correa
  • 3B: Luis Valbuena
  • LF: Colby Rasmus
  • CF: Carlos Gomez
  • RF: George Spring
  • DH: Evan Gattis

Astros bench

  • C: Erik Kratz
  • OF: Preston Tucker
  • SS: Marwin Gonzalez
  • OF: Jake Marisnick

As previously mentioned, a huge chunk of the Astros offense comes from Altuve, Rasmus, and Correa. Altuve has been especially effective this season, slashing .325/.415/.659 with a team-high nine home runs. The problem with Houston is the steep drop-off after those three.

George Springer is not the offense player he was last season -- not yet, at least -- and designated hitter Evan Gattis is off to a horrible start, slashing .203/.257/.313. Carlos Gomez is equally disappointing in the early goings of 2016; he does not have a single home run to his name and he has just 20 hits to 34 strikeouts in his 103 plate appearances.

Astros starting rotation

  • LHP: Dallas Keuchel
  • RHP: Collin McHugh
  • RHP: Mike Fiers
  • RHP: Chrs Devenski
  • RHP: Doug Fister

Astros bullpen

  • RHP: Luke Gregerson
  • RHP: Ken Giles
  • RHP: Pat Neshek
  • LHP: Tony Sipp
  • RHP: Will Harris
  • RHP: Josh Fields
  • RHP: Scott Feldman
  • RHP: Michael Feliz

With Lance McCullers still on the disabled list, the Astros have struggled to put together a solid rotation behind Dallas Keuchel. Keuchel himself has a disappointing 4.70 ERA, but his 3.53 FIP suggests there could be some regression coming, especially with the number of ground balls he induces (56.5% in 2016).

Righty Will Harris currently leads the bullpen with a 0.61 ERA in his team-high 14.2 innings of work out of the 'pen.

Collin McHugh was able to go 7.0 innings on Sunday, so the Astros bullpen should be relatively fresh coming into Monday's game.

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