Astros-Indians Preview

CLEVELAND — The more the Cleveland Indians think they’re making progress in stabilizing their bullpen, the more unsettled the bullpen gets.

Saturday, a day after Cleveland’s two top relievers, closer Cody Allen and Andrew Miller combined to give up four runs in two innings while helping to turn a 2-0 Indians lead into an 11-2 loss, the Indians made four roster moves, all of them involving relief pitchers.

An unsettled bullpen is bad anytime, but it’s even more dangerous when a team is playing the defending World Series champions, which the Indians will be doing Sunday afternoon in the final game of their four-game series with the Houston Astros.

The most impactful of the four roster moves made by the Indians Saturday was placing Miller on the 10-day disabled list for the second time in a month.

Miller was on the DL from April 26 to May 10 with a strained left hamstring, and Saturday he went back on the DL with right knee inflammation. It’s the same injury that caused Miller to spend a month on the DL last season.

“It’s not allowing him to be himself,” said Indians manager Terry Francona. “I don’t know what the next step will be. There’s no timetable for his return. We’re going to have to put our heads together and figure this thing out. The only timetable is to get him right.”

Losing Miller is a big blow to an Indians bullpen that ranks a distant last in the American League with a 6.23 ERA, over a full run higher than the next closest team.

“Sometimes when it’s not convenient, you’ve still got to do the right thing,” said Francona of the decision to put Miller on the DL.

The Indians Saturday also designated reliever Oliver Drake for assignment and recalled relievers Ben Taylor and Evan Marshall from Triple-A Columbus.

Fortunately for the Indians and their underperforming bullpen, their starter for Sunday’s game is Trevor Bauer, one of the most dependable starters in the league. Bauer (4-3, 2.35) ranks seventh in the American League in ERA. His last start was a 10-1 win over the Cubs on May 22, in which he pitched six scoreless innings on seven hits, with six strikeouts and two walks.

Bauer is undefeated in seven career starts against the Astros. He’s 7-0 with a 2.89 ERA.

Houston on Sunday will send Gerrit Cole to the mound. Cole (5-1, 1.86) leads the league in strikeouts (101) and strikeouts per nine innings (13.4), and he’s second to teammate Justin Verlander in ERA and opponents’ batting average (.169).

Bauer and Cole also have a history as teammates in college at UCLA. In the 2011 June Draft, Cole was the first overall pick, by the Pirates, and Bauer was selected third overall by the Diamondbacks. Although teammates at UCLA, Bauer and Cole make no secret about their dislike for one another, which could add some extra juice to Sunday’s game.

“Obviously, playing the Indians, I’ll treat it like any other start or opponent,” Cole told MLB.com. “I’m fortunate to lock up against a fantastic pitcher, so you know you’re going to have to be on your game.”

Sunday will only be Cole’s second career start against the Indians. His other came for the Pirates on July 5, 2015, a 5-3 victory in which Cole pitched eight innings giving up three runs on five hits, with five strikeouts and one walk.