Pitching Will be the Deciding Factor in the 2018 ALDS

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2018 ALDS
BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 29: Starting pitcher Justin Verlander #35 of the Houston Astros pitches in the first inning against the Baltimore Orioles during Game One of a doubleheader at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 29, 2018 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

The two best rotations in baseball will face off on Friday as the Houston Astros and Cleveland Indians will play game one of the American League Division Series at Minute Maid Park.

Pitching will be the Deciding Factor in the 2018 ALDS

Both teams are favorites to win the fall classic, with Houston looking to overcome a World Series hangover. This series could end up being one of the best of the entire postseason considering how incredibly talented both of these teams are. Expect pitching to be the biggest factor that will decide the fate of both of these teams in this series.

Houston

The Astros had the best team ERA in the majors this season at 3.11, and it stands to reason. Their rotation is absolutely stacked with one of the best 1-2 punches in the bigs with Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole. Both righties were second and third respectively in the entire major leagues with 290 and 276 strikeouts each. Verlander had a spectacular 2.52 ERA while holding opposing lineups to a dismal .200 average. Cole held lineups to a .198 average on his way to a 2.88 ERA. These two are the most important pieces of their pitching staff, with Charlie Morton, Dallas Keuchel, and Lance McCullers right behind.

Adding guys like Roberto Osuna and Ryan Pressly to their bullpen will absolutely help. They have five starters who can all pitch deep into ballgames but also have quality arms in their pen. Collin McHugh, Brad Peacock, and Will Harris have all been outstanding in relief for the Astros this year and will look to continue that trend against one very tough opponent in the Cleveland Indians.

Four out of the five last World Series champions failed to make the playoffs in the following year, but Houston broke that trend when they won the AL West this season. They know exactly what it feels like to hoist the trophy and will be hungry to start their quest back to a World Series. With a very strong pitching staff filled with power arms and a young, poised lineup from one through nine, the Astros have a very good chance of getting past the Indians if they can play up to their potential in the ALDS.

Cleveland

From one lights-out pitching staff to another, Cleveland has thrown the ball extremely well all season on their way to an AL Central title for the second straight year. Led by Corey Kluber, the Indians had a team ERA of 3.77 this season, which landed them ninth in the big leagues. Kluber has been stellar this year with a 20-7 record to go along with a 2.89 ERA. The former Cy Young winner has been their ace all year and will be their go-to guy in GameĀ 1 on Friday as he takes on Verlander.

Carlos Carrasco and Mike Clevinger have also impressed this year in the Cleveland rotation, both flaunting sub-three ERA’s. Take note that Kluber, Carrasco, and Clevinger have all thrown 200 innings or close to it. All three have shown the ability to pitch deep into games and give their team a chance to win every time they take the mound. This is a very good sign as they will look to hold a strong Astros lineup to minimal runs in this series.

Mysteriously, Trevor Bauer, who was an early candidate for the AL Cy Young, was announced as a bullpen arm who will come into games in “high leverage” situations, the Indians announced today. Bauer has been dominant all year, tossing 175 innings and striking out 221 hitters in that span. He also has a 2.21 ERA. Cleveland did say he could start game four if necessary.

If that is the case, and he does end up coming out of the pen, it could be a good or bad idea for Cleveland. He’s not used to coming into games in relief because he’s been a starter. You have a different mentality as a starter. But there is also the chance he could thrive with this opportunity and run with it. Only time will tell. If he does pitch in long relief though, expect to see lefty Shane Bieber start game four.

Cleveland’s bullpen hasn’t been as good as Houston’s this year, but they have shown brilliance at times. Their starters have done such a good job of pitching deep into games, so they really haven’t gotten into games very early. Their most reliable arms this year have been Cody Allen as their closer, Andrew Miller as a setup man, while Dan Otero and Oliver Perez have been specialists. All-Star Brad Hand has been good in high-pressure situations this season for the Indians.

Allen and Miller have struggled at times this year, but they are both familiar with the postseason and will look to clutch up when it matters most in the playoffs. As a whole, their bullpen has an ERA around four, which isn’t anything to write home about. Their rotation, however, has been so good all year that the bullpen struggles haven’t hurt them too much. Add in their powerful lineup that can score lots of runs and the lack of productivity in the pen has been overlooked at times.

Pitching will determine who advances

This could end up being one of the best series we see all postseason. You’re witnessing two of the most powerful lineups and two of the best pitching rotations going toe to toe. It’s very hard to predict who will advance to the ALCS, but if the Astros can knock the Indians starters out of the game early and get to their bullpen and do some damage, they could win this series. There are lots of scenarios that could determine who will advance, but either way, it will be a very entertaining series, full of quality pitching and young stars.

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