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Cleveland prepares to face Astros for second time in July

Health could prove to be the difference this time around

Cleveland Indians v Oakland Athletics Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

The Astros have struggled lately, dropping five of their last seven games, but Cleveland has proven to be a salve for struggling teams.

These two played to kick off July and the results for Cleveland were ... poor. Houston swept them out of their own stadium over four games. The good news is that only one game was decided by more than a three-run gap. The bad news, I mean, come on. They got swept.

Cleveland will be a little bit healthier this time around, with Franmil Reyes manning the DH role in all four games, Roberto Perez behind the plate, and Zach Plesac healthy and resting between starts — but there for moral support.

If momentum between games exists, Cleveland should benefit from that, as well. The Astros are coming off big back-to-back losses to the White Sox in which they were defeated by a combined score of 15-1. Cleveland, meanwhile, is coming off a competitive series against the A’s in which they took two of three and saw some promising steps forward for outfielders. Bradley Zimmer had a three-hit game in the series finale and Daniel Johnson finally hit a home run in the majors.

Unfortunately, Cleveland will be sending their three more inexperienced and inconsistent starters to the mound with J.C. Mejia, Triston McKenzie, and Eli Morgan all tapped for starts. Mejia has been rocked in three of his last four starts, including a six-run drubbing over four innings against these Astros. Morgan faired a bit better over his five innings of work against the Astros on July 3, allowing three earned runs and striking out three en route to a loss.

Team at a glance

  • Record: 56-38 (3rd in AL)
  • Runs Scored: 504 (1st in AL)
  • Run Differential: +129 (1st in AL)
  • Last 10: 5-5
  • Slash: .265/.340/.433
  • wOBA: .335 (2nd in AL)
  • wRC+: 117 (1st in AL)
  • ERA: 3.68 (3rd in AL)
  • SIERA: 4.10 (7th in AL)
  • K-BB%: 15.1% (7th in AL)

Projected starters

Monday, July 19, 8:10 p.m. ET: RHP Zack Greinke vs. J.C. Mejia
Cleveland faced Zack Greinke in their last series and managed to score three runs off of him in 7.2 innings. Greinke struck out eight in the no-decision (the Astros eventually won). He’s lasted at least seven innings in nine of his 19 starts this season.

Tuesday, July 20, 8:10 p.m. ET: RHP Luis Garcia vs. Triston McKenzie
Second-year pitcher Luis Garcia is doing his best to make sure his 12.1 excellent relief innings were not a fluke last year. Garcia bounced between the rotation and bullpen to start the season but was bumped to the permanent starting role on April 29. Since then, he has a 3.13 ERA and has struck out more than 10 batters per nine innings.

Wednesday, July 21, 8:10 p.m. ET: RHP Lance McCullers Jr. vs. Eli Morgan
Lance McCuller’s domination of the White Sox out of the All-Star break was his best start of the season. He allowed just one earned run in seven innings Friday, along with 10 strikeouts and two walks. That was his first double-digit strikeout game since July 29, 2018 against the Rangers. McCullers has been one of the best in the league at missing barrels this season, and his high-spinning curveball is as lethal as ever.

Hot hitters

OF, Kyle Tucker - Kyle Tucker had a career year in 2020, with a 126 wRC+ in his 58 games. This year he’s on pace to match that over a full 162-game season. He leads the Astros over the last two weeks with 10 hits, four doubles, and a pair of home runs.

OF, Michael Brantley - Old friend Michael Brantley isn’t setting the world on fire with only three hits over the weekend against the White Sox, but it’s hard to find many Astros batters that are right now. Still, Brantley added a double and a home run. And he’s Michael Brantley, so of course he’s being included here.


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