HOUSTON -- Having clinched their third postseason berth in four seasons, the Astros are almost certain to face the Indians in the American League Division Series in two weeks in a matchup between the two previous AL pennant winners.
The Indians, having wrapped up the AL Central title earlier this week, will play the AL West champion, which is the Astros' to lose. The defending World Series champions entered the weekend with a 3 1/2-game lead over the second-place A's with 10 games remaining in the division (magic number is six following Friday's 11-3 win over the Angels).
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Because they have a better overall record, the Astros would have home-field advantage for a best-of-five ALDS against Cleveland. Games 1 and 2 would be at Minute Maid Park on Oct. 5 and 6, Games 3 and 4 would be at Progressive Field on Oct. 8 and 9, and a Game 5 would take place on Oct. 11 in Houston.
The Astros went 4-3 against the Indians this season, with all seven meetings coming in a 10-day span in May. Houston won two of three at home on May 18-20 and split a four-game series in Cleveland on May 24-27. The Astros blew an 8-3 lead after eight innings in a 10-9 loss in 14 innings on May 27.
Houston hit .293 with 45 runs scored in seven games against the Indians, averaging 6.4 runs per game. The Astros had a team ERA of 3.95 in seven games against the Indians, allowing 29 runs (4.1 runs per game).
Jose Altuve feasted on Indians pitching this year, hitting .469 (15-for-32), with Yuli Gurriel (.355) and George Springer (.323) also raking against the Tribe. Marwin Gonzalez (5-for-22) and Carlos Correa (7-for-30) scuffled against the Indians. On the mound, Charlie Morton is 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA in two starts, while Dallas Keuchel made two starts against Cleveland this year, going 0-1 with a 4.91 ERA.
Justin Verlander, the Astros' likely Game 1 starter, didn't face the Indians in the regular season, but he has tons of experience against them from his 13 years in Detroit. He has nine more losses in his career against the Tribe than any other team, going 20-24 with a 4.71 ERA in 52 starts.
The Indians are second in the big leagues in stolen-base attempts, which means controlling the running game will be a key. Strong-armed catcher Martin Maldonado was acquired in July with perhaps this matchup in mind, along with the speedy Red Sox.
The Astros have a much better pitching rotation on paper, but an Indians rotation that includes Corey Kluber, Mike Clevinger, Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer will be a challenge. Bauer is 7-0 with a 3.18 ERA in eight career starts against Houston, striking out 68 batters in 51 innings. Kluber is 6-3 with a 2.84 ERA.
Edwin Encarnacion is hitting .346 against the Astros this year, but Houston has held Jose Ramirez (.259) and Francisco Lindor (3-for-31) in check.