Opening Day Preview: Indians v. Astros

It’s finally here!  Opening Day!

The Indians open the season against a much improved Houston team.  The Astros in 2014 finished with a 70-92 record.  That record would seem to prove that this should be a pretty easy opening series for the Tribe, but the 2014 Astros improved by 19 wins from 2013 to 2014.  The Astros hoping for internel improvements made a bunch of moves in the offseason, in hopes of  contending in the future.  Jed Lowrie, Evan Gattis, Colby Rasmus, and Luis Valbuena were brought in to help give the Astros more depth in a lineup that already features Jose Altuve, Chris Carter, and George Springer.  The Astros will open up with a lineup that looks like this:

Jose Altuve, 2B
George Springer, RF
Luis Valbuena, 3B
Evan Gattis, DH
Chris Carter, 1B
Jason Castro, C
Jed Lowrie, SS
Colby Rasmus, LF
Jake Marisnick, CF

This Astros team will be able to hit a lot of home runs. Springer, Carter, and Gattis could all reach the 30-homer mark this season, but with all that power comes a bunch of strikeouts (those three guys struck out 393 times in 331 games).  That favors the Tribe pitching, as the 2014 Indians set the MLB record for most strikeouts in a single season; they fanned 1,450 batters.  On the mound for the Tribe on Opening Day is reigning Cy Young winner, Corey Kluber, who is fresh of signing a 5-year, $38.5 million extension.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see Kluber rack up the K’s in his first start.  Following Kluber will be Carlos Carrasco (also recently extended to a 3-year deal) in Wednesday, and Trevor Bauer on Thursday.

While the Astros made a plethora of moves this offseason, the Indians remain relatively quiet.  The Indians only big move was traded for former A’s slugger, Brandon Moss, who is coming off an All-star season that saw him hit 21 home runs before the break.  Moss showed no signs of having hip surgery in October, as he smashed 4 home runs this spring.  The Indians opening day lineup stacks up like this:

Michael Bourn, CF
Jason Kipnis, 2B
Michael Brantley, LF
Carlos Santana, 1BYan Gomes, C
Brandon Moss, RF
Ryan Raburn, DH
Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B
Jose Ramirez, SS

The Indians have a very balanced lineup, and will be looking for comeback seasons, from Michael Bourn and Jason Kipnis.  Facing the balanced Tribe lineup will be Dallas Keuchel, who in 2014, posted a surprising 12-9 record with a 2.93 ERA.  Following Keuchel in the rotation will be Scott Feldman and Asher Wojciecjowiski.  The Astros, also added some nice pieces to their bullpen this offseason, in Luke Gregerson and Pat Neshek.  So, while the Astros may have had a better offseaosn than the Indians, the Astros are still a team in rebuild mode.  The Indians have been picked by many to win the AL Central, and even win the World Series.  This series will be an important one for the Tribe, they need a fast start, especially after seeing David Price of the Tigers shutdown the Twins

— Chris Sladoje

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