HOUSTON -- Behind dominant pitching performances from Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole and a shutdown bullpen, the Astros have held the Indians to six hits in two victories in Houston in the American League Division Series, and they can punch a ticket to the AL Championship Series with a win
HOUSTON -- Behind dominant pitching performances from Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole and a shutdown bullpen, the Astros have held the Indians to six hits in two victories in Houston in the American League Division Series, and they can punch a ticket to the AL Championship Series with a win in today's Game 3 in Cleveland.
The Indians have managed only nine total bases and have struck out 24 times while drawing only four walks heading into a Game 3, in which they'll face former AL Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel, a lefty. The Astros have taken advantage of the Tribe's aggressiveness at the plate, but Keuchel pitches more to contact and feasts on ground balls.
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Meanwhile, the Indians have struck out the Astros only 10 times in two games, while allowing 39 total bases to Houston's offense. It will be up to right-hander Mike Clevinger to try to keep the defending champions from eliminating Cleveland.
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What do the starting lineups look like?
Astros:Brian McCann will start at catcher instead of Martin Maldonado, and Tony Kemp gets his first start in the outfield, facing another right-hander. Carlos Correa (0-for-7) stays in the lineup because of his defense with hopes that his bat will come around.
1. George Springer, CF
- Jose Altuve, 2B
- Alex Bregman, 3B
- Yuli Gurriel, 1B
- Marwin Gonzalez, LF
- Josh Reddick, RF
- Carlos Correa, SS
- Brian McCann, C
- Tony Kemp, DH
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Indians: With a lefty in Keuchel on the mound, the Indians will have both Brandon Guyer (124 OPS+ vs. left-handers) and Yandy Diaz (103 OPS+ vs. lefties) in the lineup. The rest of the Tribe's nine remain the same.
1. Francisco Lindor, SS
- Michael Brantley, LF
- Jose Ramirez, 2B
- Edwin Encarnacion, 1B
- Josh Donaldson, 3B
- Yandy Diaz, DH
- Brandon Guyer, RF
- Yan Gomes, C
- Jason Kipnis, CF
Who are the starting pitchers?
Astros: Keuchel (12-11, 3.74 ERA) put together a solid season following a slow start. He went 9-3 with a 3.23 ERA in his final 20 starts. This will be the 2015 AL Cy Young Award winner's eighth career playoff start. He's 4-2 with a 3.24 ERA in eight career playoff appearances, including one relief appearance against the Royals in 2015.
Keuchel is 4-1 with a 2.79 ERA in eight career games (seven starts) against the Indians, and he allowed 14 hits and six earned runs in 11 innings across two starts against them this year. He's 2-0 with a 2.57 ERA in four career starts at Progressive Field.
Indians: Clevinger (13-8, 3.02 ERA) will take the ball in Game 3, marking the first postseason start of his career. Clevinger finished the 2018 campaign with a career high in innings (200) and strikeouts (207), and he enjoyed a stellar second half. In 13 starts after the summer's intermission, the righty had a 2.31 ERA, which was the third-lowest mark in the AL in that span (minimum 60 innings).
Clevinger faced Houston twice this year, going 0-2 with a 6.17 ERA (eight earned runs in 11 2/3 innings) in back-to-back outings (May 18 and 24). In 17 starts this season at Progressive Field, the right-hander went 7-3 with a 3.14 ERA with 114 strikeouts vs. 29 walks in 106 innings.
How will the bullpens line up after the starter?
Astros:Thomas Pressly and Roberto Osuna pitched in the first two games of the series , and Lance McCullers went in Game 1. The Astros' other four relievers are well rested, and following Sunday's off-day, Pressly and Osuna should be ready to pitch again in Game 3.
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Indians: Cleveland leaned on righty Trevor Bauer in each of the first two games, and he will likely continue to be a leverage option for Game 3. With the Tribe in must-win mode, Bauer will likely be leaned on for multiple innings if Clevinger runs into trouble. With the exception of starters Carlos Carrasco and Corey Kluber, it will be all hands on deck.
Are there any relievers who are unavailable?
Indians: Between Sunday's off-day and the fact that the Indians have not overextended any relievers, expect everyone to be available for duty.
Any injuries of note?
Astros: Altuve appeared to tweak his sore right knee running to first base in the sixth inning of Game 2, but he said he'll be ready for today.
Who is hot and who is not?
Astros: Bregman is 3-for-6 with two walks and two homers in the first two games, and Gonzalez is 5-for-7. White is 3-for-5 with two intentional walks. Meanwhile, Correa and Gurriel (1-for-7) have gotten off to slow starts.
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Indians: After posting a .171 average and a .550 OPS in the ALDS a year go, Cleveland's lineup has gone cold once again (6-for-60) to start October. The middle of the Tribe's order (Ramirez, Encarnacion and Donaldson) has gone especially frigid, with a 1-for-22 showing through the first two games. Lindor tried to light an offensive fuse in Game 2 with a solo home run off Cole, but that was the extent of the lineup's output.
Anything else fans might want to know?
The Indians went 49-32 this season at home, averaging 5.47 runs per game on offense and posting a 3.82 ERA as a staff. Cleveland's 151 home victories over the 2016-18 seasons trail only the Red Sox and Yankees (152 apiece) in the AL. The Indians have won an AL-high 289 home games under manager Terry Francona from 2013-18.
The Astros went 57-24 on the road this season, marking the second-best road record in the Major Leagues since the schedule expanded to 162 games in 1961. They won 15 of their final 18 games on the road in the regular season and averaged 5.2 runs per game away from home this year (4.6 runs per game at home).
Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.