ALDS Game 1
The Cleveland Indians and Houston Astros are set to face off in game 1 of the ALDS today at 1:05 CT. This game has the potential to be the best of the entire postseason, with two Cy Young candidates going head to head. The Astros will send out their ace Justin Verlander to take on the Indians ace Corey Kluber.
The Indians come into this years postseason with the lowest win total of all the teams on the American League side. Despite winning the Central, they are regarded by many as the weakest team in the AL this postseason. However, they have two perennial MVP candidates, a 20 game winner and four pitchers with ERA’s between 2.21 and 3.38.
The two MVP candidates are Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez. Lindor, along with his Gold Glove defense at short, hit .277/.352/.519 this year. He also popped 38 homers, 42 doubles, drove in 92 runs and stole 25 bases. Ramirez had very similar numbers this season. He slashed .270/.387/.552, while hitting 38 doubles, 39 homers, driving in 105 and stealing 34 bases. Not many teams, if any, have one guy with that combination of speed, power, average and defense. The Indians have two.
All that doesn’t even mention Edwin Encarnacion. He led the team in RBI this season with 107, hit 32 homers and put up an OPS of .810. Behind him, Cleveland also has Yonder Alonso who hit 23 homers, Jason Kipnis who had 18, Michael Brantley who had 17 and hit .309 and Yan Gomes who hit 16. Their offense may be overshadowed by that of the Red Sox and Yankees, but it’s nothing to dismiss.
Aside from the offense, the Indians also have a very good rotation. No, it’s not Astros good, but it’s as good as anyone else’s. A big part of that is because no one else has Corey Kluber.
Kluber went 20-7 this season with a 2.89 ERA, 0.991 WHIP, 3.12 FIP and 222 strikeouts over 215 innings pitched. He may not win the Cy Young this year, but with those numbers, he’ll be in the conversation. Those numbers are also what garnered him the game 1 start against the Astros.
Against the Astros
For his career, Kluber is 6-3 with a 2.83 ERA over 60.1 innings in nine starts against the Astros. Two of those starts came back to back earlier this season, on May 19 and 25. In the first game, he went seven innings, allowed just two runs and struck out 10, picking up the win. The second game he went 6.1 innings, didn’t allow a run, struck out seven and took a no-decision.
In the postseason, Kluber’s numbers aren’t as impressive. He’s got a 4-2 record with a 3.54 ERA over 40.2 innings in eight starts. However, if you take away two bad division series starts against the Yankees last season, he’s gone 4-1 with a 1.47 ERA. That’s the guy the Indians are going to need if they want to take down the Astros in game one.
The reigning World Champion Houston Astros are heading into this postseason with another 100 win season under their belt. They took the West division crown again this season behind a solid offense and the best pitching rotation in the game.
That rotation is going to be their biggest strength throughout the playoffs too. The Stros have three guys with 15 or more wins and the other two have 12 and 10. Dallas Keuchel has the highest ERA of the bunch at 3.74, while Justin Verlander has a team-best 2.52 on the low end. Gerrit Cole is also under 3.00, though, at 2.88. As a combined staff they struck out 1,062 hitters in 2018. They have three starters that went over 200 strikeouts this year.
When the pitching is that good, it tends to overshadow a good offense. Really, pitching that good might overshadow the Yankees’ offense, which means it has definitely outshined the Astros’. Though not as impressive as the Indians lineup, Houston has a solid 1-9 in their own right. They had some guys underperform this year, like Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and George Springer, but underperforming for them is still over-performing for the average player, and they had other guys step up. Alex Bregman came into his own this year and led the charge with 51 doubles, 31 homers, 103 RBI, a .286 average and an OPS of .926. Evan Gattis also picked up some of the slack by hitting 25 home runs himself.
The Astros, like the Indians, are turning to their ace in game one, and he also just happens to be a real contender for the Cy Young. Of course, this is Justin Verlander.
Verlander had an incredible 2018, going 16-9 with a 2.52 ERA, a 0.902 WHIP, 2.78 FIP and a league-best 290 strikeouts over 214 innings pitched. It’s easy to see why, on a staff full of aces, Verlander is the real deal.
Against the Indians
Since he had spent most of his career with the Tigers, Verlander has plenty of experience against the Indians. It hasn’t gone as you’d probably expect though. In 52 starts, he’s gone 20-24 with a 4.71 ERA and 341 strikeouts over 324.2 innings. In his last start against Cleveland, back in 2017, Justin went 6.2 innings and only allowed one run. The time before that though, in his previous start, the Indians lit him up for seven earned in just 3.1 innings. It will be interesting to see how Verlander handles the Indians later today.
The biggest reason the Astros acquired Verlander last season was for their postseason run. He made them look like geniuses too, by going 4-1 with a 2.48 ERA and even taking the ALCS MVP award for his incredible performances. Houston had good reason to think he was capable of those numbers in October. Verlander is no stranger to the postseason, pitching there in six different years, going to the ALCS five times and the World Series three. Overall, he’s gone 11-6 with a 3.07 ERA and 135 innings pitched in 21 postseason starts. The Astros are hoping he can continue that success, starting today, and carry them to another World Series.
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