We came up just a bit short yesterday when we backed the Cleveland Indians as big underdogs against the Houston Astros. I knew that Justin Verlander would be great and that the Astros are mighty tough at home, but I just couldn’t pass up on being able to back Corey Kluber as such a big underdog. In the end, Kluber got roughed up as he lasted just four and two-thirds of an inning and gave up four runs. That certainly wasn’t the type of performance I was hoping for when I backed him.
Verlander had a no-hitter going through five innings, but then the wheels fell off for him to open the sixth inning as he allowed two runs and was quickly pulled from the game. The Indians showed some signs of life as they tightened the game up at 4-2, but the Astros played add-on late, adding runs in the seventh and eighth innings to pull away and lock up the 7-2 win and take the series lead.
Both teams were forced to show their cards a bit earlier in this series as the Indians used starter Trevor Bauer out of the bullpen and the Astros used starter Lance McCullers out of the ‘pen as well. There was some speculation coming into the series as to just how those guys will be used, and now we know. For today’s pick, we will stay right here in Houston and take a look at game two of this American League Divisional Series.
The Cleveland Indians are in Houston Saturday for game two of a best of five series with the Astros. The Astros took game one last night and are looking to extend their series lead and protect their home field advantage tonight. Cleveland must win tonight if they want the ability to close out the series at home as the series shifts to Cleveland for games three and four following tonight’s action.
Starting for the Astros is Gerrit Cole (15-5 2.88 ERA), and for the Indians, it is Carlos Carrasco (17-10 3.38 ERA). The Astros are -157 home favorites. The game total over-under is set at seven and a half runs. First pitch is scheduled for 1:37 PM PST from Minute Maid Park in Houston.
Gerrit Cole was a good pitcher in his first several MLB season with the Pittsburgh Pirates. But I don’t think anybody envisioned what he has been able to do with the Houston Astros this season. Cole was near the top of virtually every pitching category this season for Houston. He threw 200 innings and struck out a career-high 276 batters. That was good for the highest K/9 ratio in the American League at 12.4, and the 276 punchouts were second behind only teammate Justin Verlander for the most in the AL.
Cole also ranked in the top ten in the American League in WHIP, ERA, wins, and WAR. New school stats, old school stats, it doesn’t matter how you look at it, Cole was one of the absolute best in all of baseball this season. Cole has really turned it on down the stretch as well as he has won his last five decisions and the Astros have won his last six starts. He has just one start against the Indians this year, and it came way back May. In that game, he made a quality start as he threw seven innings of work and gave up three runs and earned a no decision.
Not to be outdone, the Indians Carlos Carrasco has had his share of success this season as well. Carrasco finished the season fourth in the AL in wins, and top ten in ERA, WHIP, walks/9, strikeouts, and innings pitched. Carrasco was part of this Indians rotation that was the first in MLB history to feature four starters that all struck out at least 200 batters. Carrasco has two starts against the Astros this year, both coming in May, and they were two of his worst starts of the year.
In a combined thirteen and two-thirds of an inning pitched he allowed eight earned runs. Carrasco has also struggled a bit down the stretch as he went 1-3 in September and the Indians lost four out of his last six starts.
Carlos Carrasco is great. He is likely much better than most people realize as he has to spend most of his time getting overshadowed by Corey Kluber. But that being said, he is not on the level of Gerrit Cole right now. Cole is sitting guys down at an astounding rate, and he just doesn’t seem to ever lose. In a series that features a lot of elite starting pitching, Cole stands out as a guy that can single-handedly shut you down, and that is what I think happens tonight.
I don’t expect the Astros to sweep in this series like many other people do. I see this as a much more competitive series than most. But with Gerrit Cole on the mound today, I have no choice but to side with the home team. It is always going to be tough to win on the road in the playoffs, and with this guy on the mound, it may very well be impossible. And if there were ever a time to get after Carrasco it would be right now as the Indians lost four games he started in September, more than any other month of the season.
So, I will lay a little more wood than I would like to tonight and back the Houston Astros. I think they take care of business at home and head to Cleveland with a two games to none lead in the series. But as I said earlier, I think this series is far from over no matter what happens in this game tonight so don’t be shocked to see this series head back to Houston for a game five. Give me the Houston Astros at home at -157 in game two!