Series Preview: Cleveland Indians vs. Houston Astros

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Pitching Matchups

Keuchel has been a stalwart of sorts for the Astros this season, this will be his 21st start. When you’re a bad team, pitchers like Keuchel are useful – they eat innings and occasionally go out there and give you a win. Dallas (a name that must frustrate ‘Stros fans) has a decent arsenal, three varieties of fastball all sitting in the low nineties along with a slider, curve and change. He walks 3.06 per nine innings and strikes out a tad over seven per nine, and at 24 he’s got room to grow. His last time out the Angels bopped him about, 5.2 innings of six run, 10 hit ball. That happens when you’re on the worst team in the league, Houston is probably hoping it doesn’t affect his psyche.

I read the weirdest comment online today – someone suggested that Ubaldo would be a great choice for starter in the event of a Wildcard game. Mindblowing when you think about what people thought of him just a few months ago. We’ve chronicled his turnaround, a sub-3 ERA since June began, and he hasn’t slowed down at all – his second half ERA is 1.83 with 10K/9 and 0.42 in three starts covering 21.1 innings in September. Is Mickey Calloway the pitcher whisperer? Have we found a new Dave Duncan? All signs point to yes. Ubaldo has seen something resembling the Astros back in April, where he lasted five innings giving up four runs. That pitcher is as different from this one as that Houston team is.

If you felt the need, you could call Olberholtzer the Houston ace. The rookie came over in the Michael Bourn deal from Atlanta and though he didn’t dominate the higher minor leagues with a 4.07 ERA in AA and 4.45 in AAA, over 60.2 innings in the majors he’s been pretty good and pretty lucky. He only strikes out 5.9 per nine but he doesn’t walk many either – 1.34 per nine. He hangs around 90 with his four- and two-seamer and his change has a decent bite to it. Long term, he’s a back end starter or a long relief guy unless something changes, and it could because he’s only 24. He’s never seen the Indians before, which usually bodes well for the rookie in that situation.

Zach was on point in Chicago last time out, going 6.2 innings with six hits and one earned run. As he should have, that Sox team is pretty punchless, right up there with, oh I don’t know, the Astros? What I’m saying is, I expect Zach to be that pitcher on Friday, and simply not allow Houston to do anything. Add to that the fact he’s never faced the ‘Stros, and he is all set up for a strong outing.

In case you were wondering, as I did when I somehow ended up at a White Sox-Astros game, no, he is not related to Roger Clemens. He was involved in the Bourn deal as well, and like Oberholtzer he doesn’t factor in as a top of the rotation guy. With his limited strikeout numbers (5.83/9) and a rather high walk rate (3.05/9) for a guy who can’t gun it, that doesn’t bode well for a long-term career. Kind of reminds you of David Huff or any other of those woefully underwhelming pitchers the Indians trotted out there the last few years. Over his last three starts he’s got a 3.24 ERA in 16.2 innings, with four strikeouts. He has hit 97 with his fastball and sits around 93, but plainly, either location or pitch selection is a problem. I’d rather like for Cleveland to feast.

Since that scoreless outing of 12 K’s, Kaz has a 7 ERA in two starts. Thanks, Both outings were against those pesky Kansas City Royals though, so even if they were potentially important games you just have to shrug. The Astros can’t hit like those four guys who can hit in the Royals lineup can hit, and they’ve set an AL record in strikeouts this year so hopefully Kazmir can get it cooking. He saw them way back in April, but at this point even 3.1 innings of six run misery don’t matter. He’s got this.

Until I sat behind the visitors bullpen at US Cellular, I’d forgotten Bedard was still in baseball. He’s on his way out, bad teams have a way of preserving careers for a bit. Bedard’s K rate is down from previous years, 7.8 per nine, in no small part because he’s lost a bit from his fastball and also because his shoulder just hates him now. Opponents are hitting .294 on his four-seamer compared to .227 for his career though he’s mixed in a two-seamer and a cutter the last year or so, emboldening his skills. He’s still walking a career high 4.7 per nine, and there the Indians will be his undoing.

Since Kluber returned from the DL, he’s got a 4.30 ERA and only nine K’s in 14.2 innings. For a guy who’s had the strikeout pitch working all year, this would be troubling, but again he just came back from the disabled list. If he can get into the sixth inning as he hasn’t since returning, I’ll feel better, and by all rights he should against this team. The only guy who has faced Kluber on the Astros is Chris Carter, who went 1-for-4 when he was an Athletic a year ago. Like all the other matchups, I feel good about this one, but that’s why they play the game.

This is a crucial series so make sure you grab some Indians tickets to cheer on the Tribe this weekend.  Tickets are available for as low as $35.

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