Cleveland Indians: Houston will be Cleveland’s toughest opponent yet

Bradley Zimmer #4 of the Cleveland Indians (Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images)
Bradley Zimmer #4 of the Cleveland Indians (Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images) /
Cleveland Indians, Harold Ramirez
Harold Ramirez #40 of the Cleveland Indians (Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images) /

The Houston Astros will be the Cleveland Indians toughest opponent yet

I originally set out to write this article with the intention of going the route of “three Houston Astros weaknesses that the Cleveland Indians can exploit.” While I knew that the Astros have been one of the better teams in baseball this season, it never occurred to me how great they’ve been. So great, in fact, that finding three weaknesses statistically was near impossible, not to mention making sense of it in a way that the Tribe could find an advantage.

While the Houston Astros will enter the series against Cleveland in third place in the American League, trailing the Boston Red Sox by two games, they are statistically one of the games’ most dominant clubs in 2021.

Of the 10 standard hitting stats – runs, hits, doubles, triples, home runs, RBI, walks, strikeouts, batting average and on-base percentage – the Astros are leading the league in more than half of them. Currently, Houston tops the charts in runs, hits, RBI, strikeouts, batting average and on-base percentage. They are also second in doubles, fifth in walks and tied for ninth in home runs.

The only main offensive stat that the Astros aren’t in the top 10 for is triples, where they are actually one of the worst teams in the game. However, saying they can’t hit triples seems far from a weakness considering all the other stats.

In terms of pitching, the story isn’t much different. Sure, they might not be leading the league in nearly as many categories, but there also isn’t a clear weakness with the unit either.

Entering July, the Astros have the ninth-best ERA at 3.68, the eighth-best WHIP at 1.18 and are 13 for strikeouts with 720. They’ve also allowed the 10th fewest hits and given up the 10th fewest runs. The only thing that might play to the favor of the Cleveland Indians is the 96 home runs that Houston has allowed this year. The only downside is that the Tribe’s pitching has allowed the same amount.

If stats aren’t enough to prove the point, then maybe the All-Star vote will be. Now into the second phase of the voting process, each position has been narrowed down to the top three vote-getters at each spot. For the American League, the Houston Astros lead the way with players still remaining, having seven players in the process.

Keep in mind that the vote is only for position players. While designated hitter still qualifies, only nine players will be selected from this group. And the Astros have a shot at seven of them. Every infielder on the Astros’ roster in addition to Michael Brantley in the outfield, Martin Maldonado behind the plate and Yordan Alvarez as the DH remain in the voting process.

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Now, this is a fan vote so it might not come as a huge surprise that a team with a strong fan base is doing so well. However, there are other fan bases that are just as strong, if not stronger, that aren’t seeing this type of success in the vote.

Between the AL and the NL there’s only three other teams that have five players left, let alone seven. In the American League, the Toronto Blue Jays have five while in the National League both the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Chicago Cubs have a handful remaining.

Now, there could be a hidden hope in all this. The Houston Astros have been struggling recently. The Cleveland Indians haven’t been world-beaters themselves, but they might be getting Houston at the right time.

The Astros finished off the month of June by losing five of their last six. No big deal, that happens. However, the last three were a sweep at the hands of the Baltimore Orioles and the other two losses were against the Detroit Tigers.

The Tribe aren’t exactly the team that should be talking about struggling against underperforming teams. Cleveland finished out the month with a 2-4 record against the Minnesota Twins and Detroit Tigers, including losing a double-header to Detroit to close the month by a combined score of 16-5.

Despite the recent struggles, the Houston Astros will still be the most difficult team the Cleveland Indians have faced so far this season. We could learn a lot about what might be ahead in July from just this series. If the Tribe can hold their own and escape without being swept, that might be enough to create a little momentum heading to the rest of the month’s tough schedule.

Next. Cleveland's five-point checklist for the month of July. dark