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May 8, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros right fielder George Springer (4) celebrates with second baseman Jose Altuve (27) after scoring a run during the seventh inning against the Seattle Mariners at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
May 8, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros right fielder George Springer (4) celebrates with second baseman Jose Altuve (27) after scoring a run during the seventh inning against the Seattle Mariners at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports /
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Astros versus Indians Game 1

The month of May has seen a much better Houston Astros team than the disastrous April showing. This month the Astros have gone 5-3 and are now 11-19 on the year.  Do get back in the division race, and the Astros don’t need to reel off a 10-game winning streak, although that would be more than welcome.  The Astros simply need to win continually or split series and avoid any extended losing streak.

Houston’s pitching has been much improved as of late.  In May, Astros pitching has a 3.45 ERA and 1.14 WHIP, while in April, a 4.97 ERA and 1.45 WHIP.  Strong starting pitching outings from Doug Fister, Chris Devenski, and Mike Fiers have partially made up for the inconsistent performances of Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh.  Encouragingly, both Keuchel and McHugh pitched well in their last starts against Seattle, with McHugh again receiving good run support to help earn him a win. 

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The Astros bats are starting to string some hits together, and most importantly are getting hits with runners on base.  Some key players who are starting to turn it around in May (with only May stats listed) are C Jason Castro (.292, 2 HR), SS Carlos Correa (.333, 2 HR), and Jose Altuve is accelerating his MVP-caliber season by hitting .360 and already three home runs this month.

The Astros will now welcome the 14-13 Cleveland Indians to town, who took five of seven games against Houston last season.

GAME 1: Corey Kluber (2-3, 3.35) vs. Mike Fiers (2-1, 5.35)

Cleveland’s ace has dominated the Astros in his career, going 4-1 with a 1.48 ERA, and he is coming into this series hot off a complete game shutout against Detroit.  In that game, Kluber allowed only five hits and two walks while fanning seven Tigers, and in his last three starts combined has only given up three earned runs.  Right-handed batters are hitting a measly .185 against him, and lefties only .250.  So far the only weak spot for Kluber this season has been pitching with runners in scoring position, as opposing hitters have accrued a .423 RISP batting average against him.

Current Astros are hitting a cumulative .196 with only three players having more than three plate appearances against Kluber.  Marwin Gonzales is one of those players, and is 3/8 lifetime, and Altuve is .231 in 13 at bats.  This aims to be a very tough matchup for the Astros lineup, and will be a true test to see if they can continue.

Fiers suddenly has found himself in a competition to remain in the starting rotation.  Since teammate Chris Devenski’s impressive arrival, the Astros will soon have to decide who goes to the bullpen once Lance McCullers returns from injury, which could be this weekend in Boston.  Fiers might just be the odd man out unless he can deliver a stellar performance against Cleveland with Kluber on the mound.  Fiers has been inconsistent this season and has only had two quality starts in six outings.

Next: Astros Rotation: Next Three Games Could Decide Who Stays In

He has also given up a home run in all but one games this year, allowing a total of eight on the season. Besides eliminating the long ball, Fiers could also help himself by working harder on the leadoff hitter each inning as thus far leadoff hitters are batting .429 against him.  This will be Fiers’ first career appearance versus Cleveland.

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***Stats from Baseball-Reference***

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