After dropping a series to the Astros last week, the Indians went to Wrigley Field to sweep the Cubs in a quick two-game set. Now they’re back in Cleveland to face Houston againm this time in a four-game set.
The Indians will host Houston this weekend before welcoming the Chicago White Sox to Progressive Field for three games. The Tribe will then travel to Minnesota to take on the Twins for four games to end May and begin June. The Astros, on the other hand, will finish up the weekend here with the Tribe and will then head to New York to face the Yankees for three games followed by the Red Sox for four games back in Houston.
Pitching matchups (some of these may look familiar)
Thursday, May 24 6:10 p.m. ET: Charlie Morton (RHP) v. Mike Clevinger (RHP)
Charlie Morton is still on pace to have his best MLB season by a wide margin. He’s allowing fewer than a base runner per inning and he’s striking out 11.3 hitters per 9. He’s got multiple pitches that can get batters to either swing and miss or ground out, including his top 3 pitches (4-seam, sinker, and curve). Both his 4-seam and his sinker sit in the upper-90s while his curve sits in the upper-70s/low-80s. So far in 2018, Morton has pitched in 55.2 innings and has allowed 12 earned runs while walking 18 and striking out 70 (which translates to an ERA+ of 200). His most recent start came on May 18 against the Tribe; in that game, Morton went 7.0 innings and allowed 1 earned run on 4 hits while walking 1 and striking out 8.
Mike Clevinger continues to be consistently excellent for the Tribe this season. Outside of a couple of games, he’s been lights out for the Tribe in each one of his starts. So far this season, Clevinger has thrown 59.2 innings and has allowed 19 earned runs while walking 18 and striking out 50 (which translates to an ERA+ of 157). His most recent start came on May 18 against the Astros; in that game, Clevinger went 6.1 innings and allowed 3 earned runs on 8 hits while walking 4 (whoops) and striking out 6.
Friday, May 25 7:10 p.m. ET: Dallas Keuchel (LHP) v. Corey Kluber (RHP)
Back in 2015, Dallas Keuchel was the best pitcher in the AL when he won his first Cy Young Award; now, he’s not even the best pitcher on the Astros (again, I direct you to one Justin Verlander). He continues to use a multitude of different pitches (his sinker and change-up, for example) to get hitters to ground out, so be wary of double play balls against Keuchel. So far in 2018, Keuchel has pitched in 63.0 innings and has allowed 24 earned runs while walking 17 and striking out 48 (which translates to an ERA+ of 113; yeah, he’s still good). His most recent start came on May 19 against Cleveland; in that game, Keuchel went 5.0 innings and allowed 4 earned runs on 6 hits while walking 2 and striking out 3.
Corey Kluber is still one of the best pitchers in the American League and has continued his dominance in the month of May. So far in 2018, Kluber has pitched in 72.1 innings and has allowed just 19 earned runs while walking 10 and striking out 71 (which translates to an ERA+ of 190). His most recent start came on May 19 against the Astros; in that game, Kluber went 7.0 innings and allowed 2 earned runs on 6 hits while walking 0 and striking out 10.
Saturday, May 26 7:15 p.m. ET: Lance McCullers Jr. (RHP) v. Carlos Carrasco (RHP)
Lance McCullers Jr. is still the “worst” starter on the Astros this season, but he’s still been solid. Without having the data to back this claim up, I’d wager that he’s one of, if not the best, “#5 starters” in baseball this season. He’s what we all wish Josh Tomlin could be, except Tomlin has now morphed into Adam Plutko, so I guess that’s okay. He throws hard with his mid-90s 4-seam and sinker and his upper-80s change and curve. So far this season, McCullers has thrown in 59.0 innings and has allowed 21 earned runs while walking 23 and striking out 66 (which translates to an ERA+ of 121). His last start came on May 20 against the Indians; in that game, McCullers went 7.0 innings and allowed 0 earned runs on 1 hit while walking 2 and striking out 8.
The MLB CO-leader in complete games (thanks, James Paxton) pitches on Saturday this week against Houston. Carlos Carrasco is the “2” in the 1-2 punch that features Corey Kluber. In 66.2 innings this season, Cookie has allowed 27 earned runs while walking 14 and striking out 63 (which translates to an ERA+ of 124 [this didn’t even change at all]). His most recent start came on May 20 against the former Houston Colt .45s; in that game, Carrasco went 7.2 innings and allowed 3 earned runs on 8 hits while walking 1 and striking out 6.
Sunday, May 27 1:10 p.m. ET: Gerrit Cole (RHP) v. Trevor Bauer (RHP)
Hey look, a pitching matchup that we didn’t see last weekend!
I’m not sure what’s gotten into Gerrit Cole this season, but he’s pitching like a Cy Young candidate, and a strong one at that. He’s overshadowed a bit by Justin Verlander, but he is absolutely an ace on this Houston staff this season. All of his pitches are thrown extremely fast; his fourseam and sinker sit in the mid-90s while his change and slider are in the upper-80s and his curveball sits in the mid-80s. He uses a combination of these five pitches to get a lot of swings and misses or weak contact, and it’s worked extremely well this season. In 2018, Cole has pitched in 67.2 innings and has allowed just 14 earned runs while walking 17 and striking out 101 (which translates to an ERA+ of 208). His most recent start came on May 22 against the San Francisco Giants; in that game, Cole went 6.0 innings and allowed 2 earned runs on 4 hits while walking 3 and striking out 8.
Speaking of pitchers who are pitching like a Cy Young candidate, Trevor Bauer. Bauer is likely one of the most divisive pitchers in baseball thanks in large part to his social media presence and his off the field (and, as of his last start, on the field) actions. But when you strip all of the extraneous stuff away, you’re left with a dominant right handed starter pitching for the good guys. So far in 2018, Bauer has pitched 65.0 innings and has allowed 17 earned runs while walking 23 and striking out 73 (which translates to an ERA+ of 191). His most recent start came on May 22 against the Chicago Cubs; in that game, Bauer went 6.0 innings and allowed 0 earned runs on 7 hits while walking 2 and striking out 6.
Players to watch Who’s been hot this week
- Alex Bregman - On the season as a whole, Bregman has been great in the Houston lineup, slashing .272/.388/.428 over 214 plate appearances (which translates to a wRC+ of 132). He’s been absolutely on fire for the past week, however; over his last five games (including three against Cleveland), Bregman is rocking a slash line of .389/.476/.667. Last weekend, he had at least one hit in all three games against Cleveland, including a home run.
- George Springer - I didn’t want to repeat anyone who was featured last weekend, but it’s hard to leave the guy off the list who has had an OPS of 1.031 over the last week. His season stats are still fantastic (.294/.353/.500 over 215 plate appearances, wRC+ of 136), but over Springer’s last five games, he has a phenomenal slash line of .350/.381/.650. The Tribe was able to keep him quiet in the final game of that series, but he was a menace in the other two when he got 2 hits in each game, including a home run on May 18 that gave Houston an early lead.
- Brad Peacock - We didn’t actually see Peacock last weekend, but don’t be fooled; he’s a weapon out of the Houston bullpen that can easily stop an opposing lineup. He’s pitched in 19.2 innings this year and has given up just 4 earned runs. He’s got excellent control (BB/9 of 1.8), and he also strikes everyone out (a total of 26 so far this season, or a K/9 of 11.9). He’s been primarily used anytime from the 7th inning onward, but don’t be surprised if he’s brought into a game in the 5th or 6th to neutralize a threat.
Pitching Matchups 2: Electric Boogaloo
As you may have noticed, a lot of the pitching matchup info is eerily similar to last weekend because the first three games are all repeats of the exact same pitching matchups from the last series. Both teams will have just seen these starters recently, so it will be interesting to watch how they adjust to one another.
The Return of Andrew Miller
One key difference for the Indians this weekend is Andrew Miller. Miller was dealing with back tightness last weekend and did not pitch at all in the series against the Astros. However, he’s since recovered and has been pitching like vintage Andrew Miller. Take the last game against the Cubs, for example; 1.2 innings, 1 hit, 0 runs, 2 strikeouts. Now that the Indians have a healthy, functional back-end of the bullpen, maybe some late leads will be safe this weekend.
Is Yonder Alonso heating up?
Yonder Alonso has struggled this season. The man he replaced, Carlos Santana, has also been struggling in 2018, but it still hasn’t been pretty for the new guy in Cleveland. Alonso has a .227/.294/.435 slash line overall this season, but he’s looked better as of later. Over his most recent 35 plate appearances, he’s slashing .267/.371/.433 with a pair of doubles and a home run. As the weather heats up, the hope is that Yonder Alonso will follow suit.
Houston Astros roster
How many games will the Indians win against the Astros?
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