Series Preview: Indians at Astros 4/19-21

 

Cleveland Indians (5-9) at Houston Astros (4-11
Series 6, Games 15, 16 and 17
Minute Maid Park, Houston: 0.883*, Pitchers park
 
Series Overview
The Astros are probably the worst team in the American League, maybe in all of baseball. The organization, led by new general manager Jeff Luhnow and assistant GM David Stearns, trimmed the payroll to $26.1 million for the 2013 season, by far, the lowest in Major League Baseball. This is an obvious rebuilding campaign in which leadership has its eyes set on 2015 and beyond. For the rest of the American League, espeically the West, they are a welcome addition (to beat up on) for the next several seasons. Recently, the Athletics have had a taste of what it is like: sweeping them in three games. According to Elias, the A's scored six runs in the first inning and held on for a 7-5 win over the Astros on Wednesday afternoon. Oakland rode a six-run first inning to beat Houston in the first game of their three-game series on Monday night. Over the last 60 seasons, only four other teams have scored at least six runs in the first inning multiple times against an opponent in a single series: Houston vs. Cincinnati in July 2003, Detroit vs. Texas in July 2000, Florida vs. the Cubs in March/April 1998 and Milwaukee vs. Toronto in April 1982. Prior to their series against the Astros, the A's had scored at least six runs in the first inning only once over the previous three seasons combined (8 runs against the Angels on July 17, 2011). So even for a bad hitting team in the A's, even they had no problems with the Astros pitching staff.
 
The Astros have some good young talent, including former Athletic Chris Carter in left field and Jose Altuve at second base, but the starting pitching is awful. Hopefully, this is the series the Indians get the bats going on a consistant basis. If not, it could be a long season in Cleveland.

Friday, April 19 8:10 EDT (STO)
Brett Myers (0-2, 8.82 ERA)  vs. Lucas Harrell (0-2, 5.63 ERA)
 
Formally a member of the Chicago White Sox, Harrell secured the #2 spot in the rotation in spring training, behind Bud Norris. Harrell throws his fastball around 92-93 MPH and touches 95. He leans heavily on his two-seamer, particularly against right-handed batters. The pitch has good sinking arm-side run and generates a lot of ground balls. His best strikeout pitch is a mid to upper 80′s slider that he commands well on the glove side of the zone. He also throws a solid 82-84 MPH curveball and an average 81-84 MPH changeup. Harrell commands all of his pitches pretty well and does a good job of keeping the ball downstairs, which could cause the Indians hitters trouble because they tend to anticipate balls up in the zone to drive. Overall, he does not miss many bats at all, but he keeps the ball on the ground and does not walk many hitters. He is a bad matchup for the Tribe, but hopefully they can score enough runs to beat him. As for Myers, he made one real mistake Sunday against the White Sox, giving up a two-run homer to Paul Konerko, enough to give him the loss. He gave up just those two runs on six hits and a walk, striking out four. This was a far cry from Myers' previous two outings, one of which was an odd relief appearance after Carlos Carrasco got ejected from a game. Minute Made Park is pitchers friendly, so let's hope this propels Myers to another good start.
 
Saturday, April 20, 7:10EDT (STO)
Scott Kazmir (0-0, 0.00 ERA, first start of 2013) vs. Philip Humbar (0-3, 2.89 ERA)
 
This will be the first start of the year for Kazmir after coming off the 15-day disabled list with a strained right ribcage muscle. It will be interesting to see how the injury to his "side" will effect his pitching mechanics, which have never really been polished. He saw improved command in the spring over his previous three seasons, so we will keep an eye out to see if that trend continues on Saturday. In Humbar's three starts so far this season, Houston's offense has provided only one run, with his line reading 0-3 with a 2.89 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, and 8:4 K:BB ratio over 18.2 innings. There is a guy who will be sitting in the other dugout that knows his pain: Justin Masterson. If one takes away the win-loss record of Humbar, we have the makings of a classic contact pitcher who should find his won-loss record improve over time, possibly this season.  According to ESPN Stats and Info, the Indians have bashed him in seven career appearances – an 8.74 ERA and 22:11 K:BB ratio in 22.2 innings. Although many of the current Indians have not had a lot of at-bats against him (Asdrubal Cabrera and Jason Kipnis both have ten at-bats against him), this lineup matches up well against Humbar.


Sunday, April 21, 2:10EDT (STO)
"Where Is?" Ubaldo Jimenez(0-2, 11.25 ERA) vs. Eric Bedard (L) (0-1, 7.04 ERA)

First off, this game has the potential to be the best little league game you watch this season. You know, the ones where the pitchers can't throw strikes, the fielders can't catch the ball and the lineup bats through a few times before it reaches the limit? Why?
 
Bedard's first start of the year was a relative success, but his second one could be compared to how Ubaldo Jimenez pitched against the Red Sox, maybe even worse. He walked four batters, let a run score on a wild pitch, and was finally taken out of the game after Nate Freiman blasted a three-run homer to extend the A's early lead to 6-0. Bedard will try to get back on track on Sunday afternoon against the Indians. If he turns in another performance like Monday's, the Astros will have to consider dropping him from the rotation, even if the team lacks a suitable replacement, which they certainly do.  If you are an avid prospect follower, you associate Bedard with a lot of talent in your head when he was with the Baltimore Orioles, and a lot of that talent’s still in there, even after all the injuries he has faced in his career. Bedard’s 2012 season numbers were just fine for a back-of-the-rotation starting pitcher, even with the limited stamina. Where this starts to make a little more sense is in considering what Bedard has done lately, and in considering that he hasn’t reached 130 innings since 2007.
 
What I just wrote about Bedard can also be written about Jimenez; especially the former.
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