Cleveland Indians: 91-71, American League Central Division champions
Houston Astros: 103-59, American League West Division champions
Game 1: October 5, 2:07 p.m., Houston, Texas
Game 2: October 6, 4:37 p.m., Houston Texas
Game 3: October 8, 1:30 p.m. Cleveland, Ohio
Game 4: October 9, 4:35 p.m.. Cleveland, Ohio
Game 5: October 11, 4:07 p.m., Houston, Texas
Game 1: Corey Kluber (CLE) vs Justin Verlander (HOU)
Game 2: Carlos Carrasco (CLE) vs Gerrit Cole (HOU)
Game 3: Dallas Keuchel (HOU) vs Mike Clevinger (CLE)
Games 4 & 5: TBA
Regular Season Results (Houston 4, Cleveland 3)
May 18: HOU def. CLE 4-1
May 19: CLE def. HOU 5-4
May 20: HOU def. CLE 3-1
May 24: HOU def. CLE 8-2
May 25: HOU def. CLE 11-2
May 26: CLE def. HOU 8-6
May 27: CLE def. HOU 10-9 (14 innings)
This series is very interesting on both sides as this series is being overshadowed by the Red Sox/Yankees series on the other side of the American League. Houston is looking to defend their World Series championship while the Indians are trying to win their first World Series since 1948.
Both teams have strong pitching rotations with Houston leading the majors with a 3.16 ERA while Cleveland had the third best at 3.39. Game 1 should be a thriller with two of the best pitchers in baseball in Kluber and Verlander will go head to head.
Kluber faced Houston twice in the regular season going 1-0 with a 1.35 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 13.1 innings pitched. Verlander didn’t face the Indians this season but over his career facing Cleveland, he’s 20-24 with a 4.71 ERA in 52 games.
When it comes to the pitching for Cleveland, everyone is wondering the plan is for Trevor Bauer and Shane Bieber. As it stands with Carrasco and Clevinger starting Game 2 and 3, it looks like Bauer and Bieber will be available in the bullpen if needed. If the series goes to 4 or 5 games, one would think one of those pitchers will start in Game 4 with Kluber being on a five-day rest for a Game 5.
The Indians bullpen will also be something to watch as Andrew Miller and Cody Allen will be counted on to close out games if the Indians have a lead. Both struggled with either injuries or just performance during the year. However, the Indians have Brad Hand and Oliver Perez to fall back on if needed and to not fully rely Miller and Allen like the team did during the 2016 run.
Behind Verlander, Houston has Dallas Keuchel, Gerrit Cole, Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers in their rotation as well as a strong bullpen led by Hector Rondon, Collin McHugh, former Indian Tony Sipp and Roberto Osuna. Much like Cleveland, if the starters can give Houston at least 5 innings, the bullpen can close out the last four innings if needed.
Offensively, both teams are have stacked lineups scoring around 5 runs per game and both ranked in the top 5 in the American League in batting average and runs scored but also were first and second in strikeouts.
For the Indians, it goes through Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez who are both MVP candidates but have also disappeared at times during the postseason. Last year during the ALDS against the Yankees, Lindor and Ramirez hit .111 and .100 respectively. If the Indians are going to advance, they both need to have big series against the Astros pitching.
Edwin Encarnacion is the X-Factor to watch for the Indians. This season he drove in 107 runs (3rd in AL) and when he went down with an ankle injury in Game 2 against New York last year, it stalled the Indians offense who lost the series after going up 2-0. If he gets up to bat with runners in scoring position, he needs to deliver in clutch situations.
For Houston, it goes through Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman. The duo combined for 339 hits, 44 home runs and 169 runs batted in this season. Both made clutch hits during the postseason last year to help lead the Astros to the championship despite having difficult postseasons in total. Much like I said above, they’ll need to get it together against the Indians pitching to advance to the ALCS.
The X-Factor for Houston is George Springer. The 2017 World Series MVP had a down 2018 season going from .283 to .265 and 34 home runs to 22 in the same amount of games played (140). However, last postseason one was for the record books hitting .291 with six home runs including five in the World Series. If he can get his bat hot which it’s been down the stretch hitting .322 in his last 30 games, Houston will have a great chance.
I feel like a lot of people are sleeping on the Cleveland Indians and I can understand why. They played in a poor division and cruised to the division championship but only won 91 games while the other AL teams won 100 or more games each.
Cleveland is a great team and I think they will prove it starting out against Houston. It’s a great test going against the defending champions who are just as good as they were a year ago. The Indians will have to bring it all nine innings in each game and have to bring their best effort for every pitch they throw and every pitch they see.
The series can go either way and I won’t be shocked if the Indians bats go silent to Houston’s pitching or vice versa but I think the Indians like being the underdog and not really be given a chance. It happened two years ago and they took it to the brink of a World Series championship.
This series goes the full five games and the Indians will make it back to the ALCS.
Indians in five