Verlander starts G1; Cole, Keuchel to follow
HOUSTON -- The Astros have set their pitching rotation for the first three games of the best-of-five American League Division Series against the Indians, with right-hander Justin Verlander (16-9, 2.52 ERA) taking the ball in Game 1 on Friday at Minute Maid Park against Cleveland right-hander Corey Kluber (20-7. 2.89) in a matchup for former AL Cy Young Award winners.
Right-hander Gerrit Cole (15-5, 2.88) will start Saturday's 3:37 p.m. CT Game 2 at Minute Maid Park against Indians right-hander Carlos Carrasco (17-10, 3.38), and left-hander Dallas Keuchel (12-11, 3.74) will start Game 3 in Cleveland on Monday against right-hander Mike Clevinger (13-8, 3.02).
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Verlander recorded a career-high 290 strikeouts in 34 starts in the regular season, posting career-best WHIP (0.90), which led the Majors. He has nine more losses in his career against the Indians than any other team, though, going 20-24 with a 4.71 ERA in 52 starts.
The 35-year-old right-hander was acquired last August to pitch in games of significance, and he posted a 2.21 ERA over six postseason outings (five starts) in 2017, including a memorable, seven-shutout-inning masterpiece in Game 6 of the AL Championship Series that helped him earn ALCS MVP Award honors. In Verlander's postseason career, he's 11-6 with a 3.07 ERA in 22 games (21 starts).
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"Having been through this experience multiple times in the past, I know what to prepare for and what to expect," said Verlander, who went 3-0 with a 1.09 ERA in five September starts. "Whether that helps me or not, who knows? It's a funny game. I know the extra adrenaline, I know the atmosphere, I know the intensity. Nothing is going to catch me by surprise. It's just a matter of preparing and going out and continuing to execute pitches like I have this last month of the season."
Cole will get his first crack at the playoffs since starting the 2015 National League Wild Card Game for the Pirates, when he gave up four earned runs in five innings as Pittsburgh fell to the Cubs at PNC Park. Cole also made two starts in the '13 NLDS against the Cardinals, and in his three postseason outings, the righty is 1-2 with a 3.94 ERA over 16 innings.
In his first season with the Astros, Cole was second in the AL in strikeouts (276) and opponents' average (.198), third in opponents' OPS (.600), fourth in WHIP (1.03) and opponents' on-base percentage (.269), tied for fourth in quality starts (20) and fifth in innings pitched (200 1/3). His 12.4 strikeouts per nine innings led the Majors.
"I thought it was a great body of work," Cole said Friday after his final start of the regular season. "I thought a lot of the personal numbers reflected how well we played as a team this year, certainly the innings mark for sure. You're never going to get there if you don't play good defense and if you don't prepare as a catching staff. A lot of credits goes to the other guys. I just kind of reaped the benefits of being on a quality team."
Keuchel -- the 2015 AL Cy Young Award winner -- rebounded from a slow start to the season, going 9-3 with a 3.23 ERA in his final 20 starts of the season. This will be his eighth career postseason start. Keuchel is 4-2 with a 3.24 ERA in nine postseason outings, including one relief appearance against the Royals in 2015.
"I bounced back from being injured parts of the season and being fully healthy and taking the ball," said Keuchel, who is 2-0 with a 2.57 ERA in his carer at Progressive Field.