What to watch in the Tribe’s opening series vs. Houston
HOUSTON — The last time the Indians visited Minute Maid Park, Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco dominated the Astros as Cleveland took three of four in September to remain in postseason contention.
With higher expectations this time, the Tribe begin the season in Houston with the two right-handers headlining the rotation. Kluber gets his first Opening Day start on Monday and Carrasco takes the hill on Wednesday. Trevor Bauer will pitch the finale on Thursday afternoon.
Even though a lot of attention is being focused on the first two in the rotation, Kluber wants it to be on everyone.
"It’s not just Carlos and I. We feel good about the entire rotation and the entire team," said Kluber on Sunday after his five-year contract extension was made official. "I don’t think there’s reason it can’t be all five guys. We all have the ability to go out and be successful."
Kluber, who is 3-0 with a 1.65 ERA in three games against Houston, struck out 14 in a 4-2 win on Sept. 16. It was the first of two straight games where he fanned 14 en route to winning the Cy Young Award. The next night, Carrasco pitched a two-hit shutout and struck out 12.
According to Elias, it was just the fourth time in American League history that had a team has had consecutive starts of at least 12 strikeouts and two or fewer walks.
After being under the radar for most of last season, Kluber will not get the same luxury this time. That didn’t faze him at all during spring training as he had the same approach compared to the previous two seasons. As Indians general manager Chris Antonetti noted on Sunday, no one would have known that Kluber was involved in contract negotiations because his routine remained consistent.
"I think the lead up to Opening Day is the cool part but once the game starts it is just another one of a long season," Kluber said.
Kluber will be opposed by Dallas Keuchel, who is 1-0 with a 2.41 ERA in three games against the Indians.
In his 10 starts after rejoining the rotation last August, Carrasco was 5-3 with 78 strikeouts and led the majors in ERA (1.30). He struggled a bit with control in his last spring start but he missed a week after going back to Florida as his wife had their fourth child.
Carrasco threw a bullpen session on Sunday and overall was happy with how his spring went. He should be even happier sometime this week as his contract extension is expected to be announced.
This marks the first time that the Indians have opened a season in Houston. The Tribe took four of six from the Astros last season and are 11-3 since the Astros moved to the American League in 2013.
Among other things to watch in this series:
FOR STARTERS: The Indians are 2-0 in openers under Terry Francona, including a 2-0 victory last season in Oakland. The Tribe has also taken two out of three in the past two opening series.
HOMECOMING FOR BOURN: Michael Bourn, who played for the Astros and resides in Houston in the offseason, led the Indians in hits during spring training with 20 and batted .351. Bourn is a career .270 hitter at Minute Maid Park.
MOSS DEBUT: Brandon Moss makes his Indians’ debut after hitting five home runs in spring training. Of his 91 career homers, three have come at Minute Maid Park.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Reigning AL batting champion Jose Altuve, who was 10-for-31 against the Indians last season.