Cody Anderson won’t be able to set a record for the lowest ERA through four starts, though what he is doing is quite impressive.
The rookie right-hander has been mowing down major league hitters and faces the team with baseball’s most homers for the first time in Thursday night’s home contest against the Houston Astros.
Anderson (1-1, 0.76 ERA) is the first pitcher to throw at least 7 2-3 innings in each of his first three starts since Pittsburgh’s Tim Wakefield did it in 1992. He’s the first to pitch at least seven innings in three in a row since Oakland’s Rich Harden in 2003.
"I’m just going out focusing on what I have to do to help our team win," Anderson said. "I’m just trying to do the best I can and then use tomorrow to get better."
A shutout Thursday would lower his ERA to 0.56. The lowest mark in the majors for a pitcher in his first four starts since 1914 is shared by Detroit’s Bernie Boland, the New York Yankees’ Cliff Markle and the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Fernando Valenzuela at 0.25.
Anderson went the distance for the first time Saturday as he threw a six-hitter in a 1-0 loss at Pittsburgh. He is limiting hitters to a .171 average.
Cleveland pitchers have recorded 780 strikeouts – 31 in this series – to lead baseball while Houston (49-38) hitters have struck out 816 times to top the majors.
"These guys have good pitching," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "Our guys, we haven’t been able to scratch out enough."
The Astros, though, also have a major league-best 121 homers and look to add to that total and split this four-game set. They opened it with Monday’s 9-4 victory before totaling two runs the next two nights.
Houston could have Luis Valbuena back in the lineup after the third baseman missed the last three games with a sprained big toe. Valbuena, who leads the team with 19 homers, is fourth-worst in the majors with a .203 average.
This would mark Valbuena’s first game in Cleveland since he played for the Indians from 2009-11.
Teammate Chris Carter is second-worst with a .190 average and mired in a 3-for-39 slide in his last 10 road games while failing to go deep. He’s also hitless in his last 12 at-bats.
Evan Gattis matched Carter with his 15th homer in Wednesday’s 4-2 defeat. Gattis is batting .371 during a nine-game hitting streak.
Cleveland (40-44) has captured seven of 10. Michael Brantley is 4 for 7 with a homer and four runs scored in his last two games.
The Astros will recall Brett Oberholtzer (2-1, 4.32) from Triple-A Fresno – his seventh call-up from Triple-A not including rehab stints since 2013 – to start. He was sent there after allowing six runs over 1 1-3 innings in a 9-6 loss to the New York Yankees on June 27 in which he did not get a decision.
The left-hander is 0-3 with a 2.21 ERA in three starts against the Indians in which the Astros have totaled two runs. Lefty-swinging Michael Bourn is 1 for 11 against him and could be rested for this game while Mike Aviles is 2 for 10 in this matchup.