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Cleveland Indians: Breaking down the series against Houston

CLEVELAND, OH - AUGUST 01: Pitching coach Carl Willis #51 of the Cleveland Indians meets with pitcher Danny Salazar #31 on the mound in the fourth inning against the Houston Astros at Progressive Field on August 1, 2019 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by David Maxwell/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - AUGUST 01: Pitching coach Carl Willis #51 of the Cleveland Indians meets with pitcher Danny Salazar #31 on the mound in the fourth inning against the Houston Astros at Progressive Field on August 1, 2019 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by David Maxwell/Getty Images) /

The Cleveland Indians took only one game from the Houston Astros this week in Cleveland. It was a series that saw the team’s core change as they made an impactful trade at the deadline, gaining some offense but losing Trevor Bauer.

The Indians started a tough stretch of their schedule at a time when Minnesota started a weaker stretch. The Indians went head-to-head with Houston in an interesting series.

Cleveland’s upcoming series after Houston include the Angels and Rangers to close the home stand. They then go on the road to face Minnesota before a short three-game home bout with Boston, and then end a rough six-series stretch on the road with four games against the Yankees.

The Indians need to have a successful stretch in these games to stay close to Minnesota in the division. The series had its ups and downs and here are the three main takeaways from the three game battle with Houston.

Indians’ new offensive weapons debut in game three

The Indians made a huge trade on the eve of the 2019 trade deadline dealing away Trevor Bauer. They received back a combined 49 home runs in the form of two huge right-handed bats in Yasiel Puig and Franmil Reyes.

Puig was a member of the Reds where he hit 22 home runs and knocked in 61 runs through July 31st. His debut with Cleveland saw him rip a 107.9 MPH liner right at the center fielder but that just shows the pop in his bat and a big piece in the middle of the lineup.

Franmil Reyes also debuted in game three. Reyes hit 27 homers and drove in 46 runs in San Diego this season before coming to Cleveland. In his first at bat, he lined a single into left field. Jason Kipnis drilled an opposite field double off the wall but Reyes did not get a good read and was thrown out at home after being sent by Mike Sarbaugh.

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By the end of the game Puig finished 1-for-3 with a walk and a double while also stealing a base. Reyes finished up his debut 1-for-4 with a single and a strikeout.

Their debuts may have been spoiled in a 7-1 loss, but the Indians hope these two sluggers can help elevate their offense and propel them to a division win in 2019. The loss of Bauer will be easier to take if these two can accomplish that feat.

Houston spoils Salazar’s return to the majors

Danny Salazar, yes that Danny Salazar, returned to the bump for the first time in two years. It did not go well for him, but it could have been much, much worse.

Salazar began the game with what announcers thought was a breaking ball to George Springer. That breaking ball was actually an 85-MPH fastball. Two pitches later, Springer blasted a pitch over the left center wall for a leadoff homer.

Salazar inexplicably sat around 87-88 MPH on his fastball and, as a result, he was hit hard. Luckily for him only two of those balls went out of the yard and he gave up just two runs.

Salazar’s final line ended at just 4 IP 4 H 2 ER 3 BB 2 K with the two runs coming on solo shots by Springer and Alex Bregman. As I stated earlier, this line is nothing compared to what could have been with Salazar’s low velocity.

Salazar saw many of his pitches up in the zone and catching too much of the plate. Even balls that resulted in outs were being rocked and that spells trouble for him if he looks to be a part of the rotation going forward.

Offense overall goes cold

Despite a 10 run outburst that included three 3-run home runs in game two of the series, the Indians offense was otherwise stagnant. It is to be noted that game one was against Justin Verlander and game three was against Gerrit Cole with Jose Urquidy taking the game two loss.

Verlander out-dueled Shane Bieber in game one winning a 2-0 shutout and Cole shut them down in a 7-1 loss in game three. The offense hit a lesser pitcher in Urquidy but struggled against two of the most dominant pitchers in the game.

Game one was pre-Puig and Reyes and the offense had struggled against better pitchers. Game three was the first night the new additions were added to the lineup and the offense did not show out.

There is no reason to panic that the two sluggers didn’t automatically make the team score 10 runs in their first game but it was a very lackluster debut. Overall, I believe these new additions will impact this lineup for the better over the course of the next two months leading toward the postseason.

With the Twins loss on Thursday, the Indians deficit in the division stays at three games back. The Indians will need to pick up the offense in the next series and keep it going through the next several in a rough patch in the schedule.

Next. Remembering Trevor Bauer's Time in Cleveland. dark

The team will stay home for the weekend as they welcome the Los Angeles Angels to Progressive Field. Here’s to hoping the new pieces can help spark an uptick in the offensive production in the race to catch the Twins.