The American League prepares for battle as the Indians take on the Astros in the ALDS. With so many games already taking place in the National League, it seems as though the Indians and Astros have not played in ages. This is looking to be one of the best matchups in the entire Divisional Series as it has all the elements needed to make it a classic.
The highly anticipated series gets started with one of the best pitching matchups we will see in the entire playoffs as Justin Verlander takes on Corey Kluber in Game 1. The baseball world was reminded how great Verlander is as a pitcher and he added an exclamation to that reminder this season. While his 2.52 ERA and 290 strikeouts over the course of the season are impressive, he was incredible in the month of September. In 6 games in September, Verlander struck out 50 batters compared to 5 walks in 33 innings while posting a 1.09 ERA. Kluber on the other hand struggled in his 5 starts in September. In 28.1 innings, Kluber struck out 42 batters compared to 7 walks and posted a 3.49 ERA.
Game 2 pits Carlos Carrasco (Indians) vs Gerrit Cole (Astros). Although Cleveland has yet to announce their Game 3 starter, my money would be on Mike Clevinger as Trevor Bauer sees time out of the bullpen during this series. The Astros have already named Dallas Keuchel as their starter for Game 3. Both Cole and Carrasco have concerns with consistency as they have games of brilliance allowing just 1 run followed by a game in which they allow 3+ runs. Keuchel is a similar story, a far cry from where he was last season, Keuchel’s ERA soared to a 3.74 this year and was a 5.76 in his final 5 starts of the season.
As good as the pitching matchups are in this series, the batting is just as good. In Cleveland they have home run power with Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, and Edwin Encarnacion each hitting over 30 homers this season. Lindor and Ramirez are also threats on basepath while Brantley leads the way with a .309 batting average.
Houston’s lineup doesn’t look as good on paper, with just Alex Bregman and Evan Gattis hitting over 25 home runs this year. They have no true base stealing threats and Altuve is the only one to bat over .300 this year. However, as a team they worked together this season to drive in the 5th most RBI in the MLB. They are also the best fielding team, leading all teams in fielding percentage, committing the fewest errors in baseball this season and allowing the fewest stolen bases.
Game 1 will be the best pitching matchup of the entire Divisional Series and will not disappoint. Both offenses will be shut down through the first half of the game, before the Astros scratch out a run against Kluber. Kluber will get into some trouble in the next inning before leaving it to the bullpen. They will allow another run or two to score leaving the Astros bullpen with a lead. Brantley will begin a rally lat in the game, but will be left stranded as the Astros bullpen closes it out for the win.
Game 2 will not be as much of a rubber match as Game 1, as both pitchers will get hit early before settling in. Cole will give up 2 runs before going into the 5th inning and then get into trouble in the 6th causing the bullpen to come in to bail him out. Carlos Correa will play a big role for the Astros as he shows glimpses of his All Star ability from a year ago. Francisco Lindor will help the Indians take the lead late in the game leaving it to the bullpen to close it out for the win.
Game 3 will see the Indians attempt to right the ship as they send out either Trevor Bauer or Mike Clevinger. Either way will be good news for Indian fans as they put on a strong performance. With Bauer, it will be an extended bullpen session that could get dicey for the Indians as the bullpen has struggled and will give up a key run. With Clevinger, he will go into the 6th with a lead and less opportunity for the bullpen to blow it. In either case, Dallas Keuchel will struggle to keep the Indians hitters at bay, getting into trouble multiple times in his 5 innings, though he will come out of it with just 3 or 4 runs to show for it. The game will stay close into the 8th inning to make things interesting, but Bregman will get a big hit to help the Astros take the lead and the win.
Game 1 – Astros win
Game 2 – Indians win
Game 3 – Astros win