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Series Preview: Cleveland Indians vs. Houston Astros

Now the real test begins

MLB: Texas Rangers at Houston Astros Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

You’ve probably heard a lot of folks on the internet talking about how the only reason that the Indians have cut the gap between them and the Twins is because the Indians have been facing the equivalent of minor league teams for the better part of a month. Whether you buy into that argument or not doesn’t really matter; the fact is, the Tribe has had a fairly light schedule recently and it gets a lot heavier today with the Houston Astros coming to town. You all remember the Astros, right? Great baseball team, sometimes known for cheating. They’re in town for the next three games.

A series win/sweep would go a long way in helping some non-believers see that the Tribe is for real and not just the beneficiary of an easy schedule.

Team in a box

2019 Houston Astros

Record 68-39
Record 68-39
Runs Scored 560
Runs Allowed 434
Run Differential +126
Last 10 8-2
AVG .270
OBP .346
SLG .477
OPS .823
wRC+ 120
K/9 10.13
BB/9 2.82

The Astros have the best offense in the league and one of the top pitching staffs in the league. There’s a reason why they are odds-on favorite to win the World Series (23.9%, according to FanGraphs). This will be a tough series for the Indians, make no mistake about it.

Projected starters

Tuesday, July 30 7:10 p.m. ET: RHP Justin Verlander (v. Shane Bieber)

Justin Verlander continues to defy Father Time and be an elite starting pitcher despite being in his 15th season and doing it at 36. But there’s no denying that he’s been exceptionally good yet again in 2019. Across 144.2 innings so far in 22 starts, Verlander has allowed just 46 earned runs while walking 31 and striking out 183 (ERA+ 156). He’s been good about keeping hitters off balance (5.6 H/9) and off the bases (0.836 WHIP), but one area where he has struggled has been the home run ball (1.7 HR/9, the highest mark of his career). Your best bet against Verlander is to just hit a home run because chances are you aren’t getting on base against him. He’s still got a great fastball (95 mph), but he’ll also throw out a slider (88 mph) and a curve (80 mph). His most recent start came on July 24 against the Oakland Athletics; in that game, Verlander went 6.0 innings and allowed no earned runs on 2 hits while walking 2 and striking out 11.

Wednesday, July 31 7:10 p.m. ET: RHP Jose Urquidy (v. Adam Plutko)

This is Jose Urquidy’s rookie season. He was called up and made his first start earlier this month (July 2) and has done well at the major league level in his limited time so far. Across 19.0 innings in 4 starts, Urquidy has allowed 9 earned runs while walking 3 and striking out 23 (ERA+ 107). He’ll use a fastball (94 mph) and, similar to Verlander, will throw in a slider (84 mph) and a curve (79 mph). He also has a change (84 mph) that he’ll use more frequently than Verlander. His most recent start came on July 26 against the St. Louis Cardinals; in that game, Urquidy went six innings and allowed one earned run on four hits while walking two and striking out six.

Thursday, August 1 7:10 p.m. ET: RHP Gerrit Cole (v. Zach Plesac)

Gerrit Cole is having another fantastic year after having one of his best seasons to date in 2018. Across 143.2 innings so far in 2019 in 23 starts, Cole has allowed just 47 earned runs while walking 37 and striking out 212 (ERA+ 152). He’s got a blistering fastball (97 mph) to highlight his pitching repertoire, but he’ll also mix in a slider (89 mph), a curve (82 mph), and a change (89 mph). He’s also got a sinker (96 mph) that he rarely uses, but what a silly pitch to just have in your back pocket for a rainy day. His most recent start came on July 27 against the Cardinals; in that game, Cole went seven innings and allowed one earned run on four hits while walking three and striking out seven.

Lineup highlights

CF/RF George Springer: George Springer is in the middle of the best season of his career. He’s known for destroying baseballs, and he’s doing that with greater authority than ever in 2019. Across 341 plate appearances, Springer is slashing .296/.381/.602 (wRC+ 158). He had 22 home runs last season in 140 games; this year, he’s got 24 through 74. Juiced baseballs or not, don’t make a mistake to George Springer or he’ll park on in the seats. He is still prone to the strikeout, however, with a 20.5 K%, so it’s not like he’s completely invincible at the plate.

3B Alex Bregman: Alex Bregman isn’t having quite the season he had in 2018, but he’s still been incredible at the plate so far in 2019. Across 460 plate appearances so far, Bregman is slashing .259/.393/.520 (wRC+ 145). He’s a bit like the opposite of Springer in that his eye at the plate is probably one of his best attributes (as evidenced by his 17.6 BB%). Don’t get me wrong, Bregman can still smash baseballs (he’s actually hit more home runs so far, 26, than Springer), but he’s also completely fine taking the free base if you give it to him.

LF Michael Brantley: .325/.386/.524 (wRC+ 144). For those keeping track at home, that’s a better wRC+ for Brantley then any year he was with Cleveland except one (2014). :(

Houston Astros roster

FanGraphs

Poll

How many games will the Indians win against the Astros?

This poll is closed

  • 5%
    3
    (13 votes)
  • 32%
    2
    (73 votes)
  • 39%
    1
    (90 votes)
  • 22%
    0
    (51 votes)
227 votes total Vote Now