HOUSTON a This version of the ALDS is not a series in which there will be much talk about “openers” when it comes to pitching. The Indians and Astros have the two best starting rotations in the league, pitchers with the reputations of working deep into games, so an opener probably won’t be needed.
It was the case in Game 1 on Friday when Corey Kluber faced Houston’s Justin Verlander and the situation will be the same in Game 2 Saturday when the Indians will start Carlos Carrasco against Gerrit Cole.
Carrasco (17-10, 3.38) will be making the second appearance of his postseason career. Last year he threw 5 2/3 scoreless innings against the Yankees in Game 3 of the ALDS. The Indians lost that game, 1-0.
Cole (15-5, 2.88), acquired from the Pirates before the start of the season, will be making his fourth postseason start. He started the Pirates’ 2015 wild-card game against the Cubs. In 2013, he made two starts in the NLDS for Pittsburgh against St. Louis.
Carrasco has a good array of pitches, relying mostly on a four-seam fastball that’s slightly above the MLB average at 93.6 mph. His pitch breakdown, according to Fangraphs.com, is 52.8 percent fastballs, 18.7 percent sliders, 16.5 percent changeups and 12 percent curveballs. His changeup can be a wipeout pitch.
In his last seven appearances, including six starts, Carrasco went 2-3 with a 2.80 ERA. He struck out 64 in 45 innings.
The Astros are hitting .283 (15-for-53) with three homers and seven RBI against Carrasco this season in two starts. Jose Altuve leads the way with a .714 (5-for-7) batting average with one homer and two RBI.
Cole throws harder than Carrasco. His four-seam fastball, according to Statcast.com, averages 96.5 mph. The breakdown of his pitches, according to fangraphs.com, is 56.3 percent fastballs, 19.9 percent slider, 19.9 percent curveballs and 4.5 percent changeups.
In his last seven appearances this year, Cole went 4-0 with a 3.57 ERA. The Indians are hitting .185 (5-for-27) against Cole in one start this season.
Carrasco went on the disabled list on June 16 after being hit on the right elbow by a Joe Mauer line drive. He returned on July 6 and went 7-1 in his next nine starts.
“Carlos has always been good, but it seemed like his ERA probably dropped a full point after he came off the DL,” said manager Terry Francona. “He’s been good the last three months.”
Cole went 10-2 with a 2.52 ERA in the first half and 5-3 with a 3.50 ERA in the second half. He struck out 272 batters, second in the AL to teammate Justin Verlander’s 290. He also held left-handed hitters to a .162 (56-for-346) batting average.
“Gerrit was a perfect fit for us,” said Houston manager A.J. Hinch, “and certainly one of the best additions imaginable for our team. I’m just so impressed with how he goes about it. … He has the mind of someone who wants to be perfect with his pitches.”