The Astros have a lot less connections to the Indians, besides their elimination of Cleveland from the playoffs in 2018. That said, they aren’t the Yankees, so that may be enough for Indians fans to get behind.
One player on Houston is Dr. Smooth himself, Michael Brantley. Brantley was acquired by Cleveland in the trade that sent CC Sabathia to Milwaukee. Brantley received a standing ovation in his return to Cleveland during the All-Star Game this past year in Cleveland.
During the Indians reduction of payroll, Brantley was the biggest fan favorite to depart in 2019. He ended up signing a relatively team-friendly deal given his production, and with a healthy 2019 season he’s showing the league what Cleveland has known for years, and that he is just smooth. This season he’s hitting .311 with 22 home runs and 90 RBIs for Houston.
While he may not be as big a name as Michael Brantley, Astros RP Joe Smith played a big role during this most recent Indians postseason success. The side-winding right hander pitched for the Indians for five seasons in 2009-2013 helping establish the foundation of the Francona bullpen. He would help the Cubs defeat the Indians in 2016, only to return via trade in 2017 to help the Indians reach the playoffs again.
Smith may not be a household name but he did establish the strategy for Cleveland’s bullpen, which is offering opponents multiple angles and styles from each member who may emerge. His sidearm style is now carried on by Adam Cimber.
Pending Free Agents to Watch: The Astros don’t have a lot of potential future Indians if only looking at unrestricted free agents. One name I will keep an eye on is RP Chris Devenski. Devenski may not be on their ALCS roster, but he has an affordable club option for Houston to consider.
In each of the past four seasons Devenski’s ERA has increased, starting at 2.16 in 2016, and up to 4.83 in 2019. He’s clinging to a positive WAR this season at 0.04. All that to say, the Astro may desire to move on. The Indians are fantastic at finding players who’ve struggled, who then find it again in Cleveland. Devenski fits the mold of a Dan Otero who seemed all but done before re-finding himself in Cleveland.
The Yankees have the 1-0 series lead, but there is plenty of baseball to be played. Who will you be watching or cheering for?