ST. LOUIS, MO - JULY 28: Jose Altuve #27 of the Houston Astros throws to first base against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on July 28, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Finally, Interleague play is coming to an end, and the opponent the Indians will face in this last series is a team that will be in the AL next season.
Team in a Box (click to enlarge)
The Astros have a decent offense, but one of the worst pitching staffs in the league. This is a rebuilding club (the first and only non-contender the Indians will be playing in Interleague play) and although the Astros have done a great job acquiring or developing young offensive talent, their rotation (aside from Wandy Rodriguez) is a mess, and undoubtedly when they dangle Carlos Lee (and perhaps Rodriguez) on the trade market next month, they'll be asking for starting pitching.
Houston has quickly turned over their lineup, and have several spots set with young core players. Jose Altuve is in the midst of a breakout season at age 22, and the Astros struck gold when they acquired Jed Lowrie from Boston for Mark Melancon last winter. Lee is in the last year of his contract, and he'll almost certainly be traded by the July 31st deadline, though because of his limited no-trade clause (preventing trades to most AL clubs), the Astros won't have the type of bidding war they could have had.
|June 22||Lucas Harrell||5.07||81.2||4.4||3.1||9.6|
|June 23||Dallas Keuchel||1.80||5.0||3.6||7.2||7.2|
|June 24||J.A. Happ||5.15||78.2||10.0||3.5||9.4|
The Indians will miss Wandy Rodriguez, by far the Astros' best starter, but will face two left-handers. Keucel, one of the two southpaws, will be making his second major-league appearance; he replaced Bud Norris in the rotation. Of the three starters they're facing, the Indians have only faced Lucas Harrell, and that was in one appearance in 2010 as a member of the White Sox.
The Astros have a good but thin back end of the bullpen if they have a lead to protect. Both Brandon Lyon (free agent) and Brett Myers (vesting option) are going to be brought up in trade rumors as the deadline approaches. I doubt the Indians would be in on Myers, but I could see them going after Lyon to help give their bullpen more depth.
If the Indians knock out the starter early, they'll have a good chance of blowing the game open, as like the Indians, the Astros don't have a deep bullpen. The Astros are currently missing Wilton Lopez, who went on the DL this past week.
On the Shelf
- RHP Wilton Lopez (elbow) - 15-day DL
- RF Fernando Martinez (concussion) - 7-day DL
- LF Travis Buck (achilles) - 15-day DL
- LHP Sergio Escalona (Tommy John surgery) - Out for 2012 season
- SS Marwin Gonzalez (heel) - 15-day DL
- CF Justin Maxwell (ankle) - day-to-day
- RHP Bud Norris (knee) - 15-day DL
- RHP Kyle Weiland (shoulder) - 15-day DL
Maxwell may have to go on the DL for the ankle injury, although he's been playing with it for a month. LGFT Travis Buck and Fernando Martinez have also recently gone on the DL, so Houston is really thin in the outfield. Bud Norris would have started against the Indians had he not been on the DL.
|All-Time Record||7-8 (.467)|
|Pythagorean Win %||.488|
|Best Record||2-1||1997, 2000|
Because of a quirk in the schedule, the Indians haven't played the Astros since 2001. But they'll be playing every year from now on because the Astros will be moving the AL in 2013.