CLEVELAND — The Houston Astros, who have dominated the Cleveland Indians in the first two games of their American League Division Series, will attempt to complete a three-game sweep Monday afternoon at Progressive Field.
The first two games were mismatches.
Houston won 7-2 and 3-1, thanks to dominating pitching, and lots of big hits from its stars.
In the first two games Houston’s pitchers held Cleveland’s hitters to a team batting average of .100. Indians hitters were 6-for-60, and five of the six hits were singles.
Francisco Lindor, who homered in Game 2, is 2-for-8 in the two games while all the other Cleveland hitters are 4-for-52 (.077).
“Hats off to them. Their pitchers have done a tremendous job,” Lindor said. “But we’ve got really good hitters on this side. We’ll be fine.”
The Indians, who blew a 2-0 lead over the Yankees by losing three straight games in last year’s ALDS, are in danger of losing three in a row to Houston in this year’s ALDS.
“We need to find a way to win on Monday. We’re going to show up and play for our baseball lives,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “Nobody wants to go home, so we’re going to try to keep this thing going.”
The Indians will try to keep their postseason hopes alive by sending to the mound a pitcher that has never started a postseason game.
Right-hander Mike Clevinger was 13-8 with a 3.02 ERA this year, including 200 innings pitched and 207 strikeouts. But in his three-year career he has never started a postseason game.
Clevinger has made six relief appearances in the postseason and has a 6.43 ERA in those games. In a total of seven innings as a reliever he has given up six runs, five earned, five hits, including two home runs, with nine walks and six strikeouts.
In two starts against the Astros this year Clevinger was 0-2 with a 6.17 ERA. In four career starts against the Astros he is 1-3 with a 3.98 ERA.
“Our backs are against the wall,” Clevinger said. “We know that this could be our last game if we don’t show up.”
Houston will send left-hander Dallas Keuchel to the mound in Game 3.
Keuchel has a tough act to follow. In the first two games, Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole combined to go 2-0 with a 2.19 ERA, 19 strikeouts and two walks in 12 1/3 innings, while holding Indians hitters to a .119 batting average.
“They have a very good ballclub. They have a lot of ways to beat you,” Francona said. “They’re always pushing. They put the heat on you all the time.”
Keuchel (12-11, 3.74) was 0-1 with a 4.91 ERA in two starts against Cleveland this year. His last start against the Indians was on May 25, when he received a no-decision, pitching six innings, allowing two runs and eight hits, with five strikeouts and one walk. In eight career appearances against Cleveland Keuchel is 4-1 with a 2.79 ERA.
Clevinger will have to deal with Houston’s two hottest hitters in the first two games, Alex Bregman who is 3-for-6 with two homers and three RBIs, and Marwin Gonzalez, who is 5-for-7, with a double and two RBIs.
Although they are up 2-0 and one win away from advancing to the ALCS, the Astros are not taking anything for granted.
“This is not our first playoff series. We know it’s not over,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said.