Houston Astros vs. Cleveland Indians Series Preview
By Jason Burke
Yes the Houston Astros don’t play until tomorrow, but we’re a little antsy. To kick off the 2015 campaign, the ‘Stros will welcome the Cleveland Indians to Minute Maid Park. We’ll try and take it easy on them. Dallas Keuchel is slated to take the ball for Houston on Monday, and none other than reigning Cy Young Corey Kluber will be on the hill for the Tribe. I rescind that smack talk.
Last season Cleveland went 85-77, finishing three games out of the second wild card, and just five back in the AL Central. While their division has improved, it’s looking as though the Indians will be in contention again this season, and have a good chance of taking the division away from Detroit for the first time since the machines took over.
With Kluber being signed to an extension yesterday, he’ll be in Cleveland for at least the next five years and Monday night at Minute Maid Park will be his first opportunity to make good on that deal. Outfielder Michael Brantley put up MVP-type numbers last season, finishing third in the balloting, giving Cleveland some talent on both sides.
For a little more insight, we asked Katrina Putnam of Wahoo’s on First some questions about her team.
Corey Kluber was dominant last season. How do you think he’ll fare this year?
I’ve been on the Corey Kluber bandwagon since he first came to Cleveland, so I think he’s only going to continue to get better. He struck out almost 30 percent of batters last season, and I think he repeats that in 2015. He might not take home two consecutive Cy Young awards, but he’s not going to regress as much as the projections say he will, and he’s going to pitch in the first game of the playoffs.
More from Climbing Tal's Hill
- Just how much better is the Houston Astros playoff rotation than the rest?
- Houston Astros: A Lineup Change to Spark Offense
- Astros prospect Hunter Brown throws 6 shutout innings in debut
- Always faithful Astros World Series champion Josh Reddick defends the title
- Michael Conforto declines Astros’ 2-year, $30 million offer
Who will be the Indians MVP at the end of the season?
This winter, the Tribe picked up Brandon Moss from Oakland in exchange for second base semi-prospect Joey Wendle. The A’s may have sold themselves short because this spring, Moss looked like the hip injury that plagued him last season was a thing of the past. I predict he’ll have an All-Star season, with 30 home runs. His bat will be the thing that pushes the Tribe into the postseason.
Which Jason Kipnis should we expect this season? The 2013 All-Star, or the 2014 version?
Kipnis is a bit of a mystery. He dropped from 17 home runs and an .818 OPS in 2013 to just six homers and a lowly .640 OPS last season. He also played in 20 fewer games, had an oblique injury, and struggled with the pressure of living up to his first big contract. 2015 will be a year where he rebounds, but don’t expect him to return to his All-Star form just yet. He had injury issues this spring, and it’s hard to imagine that won’t continue throughout the season.
When can we expect to see Francisco Lindor?
It’s wishful thinking, but hopefully not until September. Lindor is exciting, but the Indians have a stellar defensive shortstop in Jose Ramirez, in addition to Kipnis at second. If Lindor is up earlier, it means that either Kipnis is hurt or Ramirez is struggling at the plate, and both of those scenarios are bad for the team. Of course, last season Ramirez hit just .265, so the reality is that Lindor will probably get a shot in June when the Tribe’s lineup desperately needs a more potent bat.
Finally, Andy Brown wanted to know if Kluber’s arm fell off 10 minutes before game time, who’s your next man up? Manziel, LeBron, or notable Cleveland native Halle Berry?
LeBron would need waaaay more than 10 minutes to decide whether he’s interested in playing for Cleveland, so he’s out by default. You can’t plan a TV special on that kind of time. Manziel was a baseball star before his quarterback days, but if he starts flashing the money sign after strikeouts, it will lead the Indians into a hit-by-pitch war that can only end with a bench-clearing brawl. I guess that leaves Halle Berry, who can use the stealthiness she learned as Catwoman to deceive hitters. Maybe she’ll turn out to be an even more valuable player than ex-husband and ex-Indian David Justice.
Phew. We were hoping you didn’t go with Manziel, because we all saw him play last season–yikes.
The pitching match ups for the series are as follows:
Monday- Corey Kluber vs. Dallas Keuchel
Tuesday- Off day
Wednesday- Carlos Carrasco vs. Scott Feldman
Thursday- Trevor Bauer vs. Asher Wojciechowski
Each game will be at 7:05 CST.
Last year Carrasco was impressive with the Indians, accumulating a 2.55 ERA in 134 innings. The stat that stands out the most for him is his WHIP, which was just below one at 0.99. He doesn’t walk a ton of batters (1.9 per nine), but he does strike out more than one an inning (9.4 per nine). Last year, 54% of his outs came on the ground, which doesn’t necessarily work with the Astros’ long ball mentality. Luckily Trevor Bauer recorded 63% of his outs through the air in 2014, so Thursday could be a big day offensively for the Houston Astros.
Series Prediction: The Indians take the series 2-1. Don’t fret, the Astros have a series with the lowly Rangers over the weekend!
Bold Prediction: Wojo goes five in his first big-league start, giving up five hits and two runs, but the bullpen helps him earn his first win as a member of the Houston Astros.