Last time the Cleveland Indians made a trip to Houston, it was during the season in which both the Tirbe and the Stros would finish at the top of their respective divisions. But that was almost 11 years ago, when Minute Maid Park was called Enron Field and Kenny Lofton was still hitting home runs.
On Friday, Cleveland boasts a three game winning streak after a redemptive series sweep against the Astros' NL Central division nemesis Cincinnati Reds. This is is after struggling with the Pirates and Reds in matchups previous to that series. The Indians are on a roll and the Astros... well, not so much.
They've only defeated the White Sox more than once this month, dropping five out of six series in June. An expectation of the Astros taking more than one game against the Indians this weekend would be a simple act of faith.
Do you have it?
Here's the breakdown:
Lucas Harrell has a good chance to get the Stros off to a good start in this series... Despite the fact that he hasn't been very good recently. In his last start, an 8-3 loss to the Rangers last Saturday, Harrell gave up five earned runs on seven hits in 7 1/3 innings of work.
Actually, in Harrell's last four outings he's given up 23 runs (22 earned) and 31 hits, but two of those games the Astros won. That's because they were able to score 11 runs against the Philip Humber (Nacogdoches native) led White Sox and then nine runs against the Cardinals on a night that now seems all too similar to the only game Houston won against Kansas City.
Here's the lesson we learned from the Royals series, though. Or at least this is what could be viewed as silver lining of having Lucas Harrell on the mound facing an Indians team that leads its division with a winning road record to its cred as well:
Harrell's never faced the Indians. This could mean nothing. The Tribe could enter Minute Maid Park with its mediocre .250 batting average, just barely better than the Stros, but still light Harrell up the way the last four teams essentially have.
Or the unfamiliarity could work in his favor, the same way it did for Luke Hochevar when he led KC to a shutout on Tuesday.Hochevar still hasn't faced an Astros hitter in more than seven at-bats.
Harrell opens this series against Cleveland with Johnny Damon as the only Indians hitter he's seen more than once. What's most important for Houston, though, is for Harrell to be able to pitch deep into the game, considering the Astros' bullpen struggles are reflected in a 7.27 ERA (63 earned runs in 78 innings pitched) since May 26, resulting in a 6-18 record in that date.
Can the Stros score more than one run, more than one time?
Houston won't face any standouts on the mound this weekend in what will likely be Jimenez, Derek Lowe (4.30 ERA) and Josh Tomlin.
All three of Cleveland's probable starters for this series have ERAs higher than 4, and the league average is right around 3.97.
So Astros fans wonder: In this hitter friendly park we have here, can the Astros score anywhere close to four runs a game against the Indians? Probably not, but if they have to rely on their starting pitching to be a little better than it actually is, some added offense would certainly be helpful.
As for the first game's matchup with Jimenez, despite his impressive numbers against the Astros, and 1-0 with a 1.93 ERA in three starts at Minute Maid Park, only Carlos Lee, Jordan Schafer and Chris Snyder have faced him out of all the Houston players. Which means Cleveland could benefit from Houston's unfamiliarity with Jimenez, too.
Should be rather interesting.