HOUSTON — Scribbles in my notebook after the Indians lost 7-2 in Houston. They are down 0-1 in the best-of-five American League Division Series:
1. After the game, the Tribe’s Francisco Lindor talked about how the Indians were up 2-0 on the Yankees in last year’s ALDS…and lost the series in five games. He mentioned the Indians being up 3-1 in the 2016 World Series…and losing the next three games to the Cubs. His point was no reason to panic when down 0-1 in a best-of-five series.
2. OK, we’ll go with that. But the Indians better win Saturday’s Game 2 in Houston. If the defending World Series champion Astros come to Cleveland with a 2-0 lead, you can imagine the pressure the players will be feeling.
3. The problem with Lindor’s discussion of how a series can change is that the Indians were on the wrong side of both of those examples.
4. I know, if the Indians win Game 2, what happened in the opener loses its sting for the Tribe and the fans. But the poor performance by Corey Kluber is a concern. Catcher Yan Gomes and Kluber both insisted the problem was getting a pitches up in the strike zone that turned into three solo home runs.
5. Houston star Alex Bregman was one of three Astros who homered off Kluber: “He’s had a dominant career. He lives on the edges of the plate…we were able to hit some pitches over the middle of the plate…some mistakes…and you don’t get a lot of mistakes.”
6. Houston Manager A.J. Hinch added: “I can’t say enough positive things about our at bats against Kluber and others. We had great at bats…and a great game plan going in.”
7. All of that may be true, but when Kluber is the two-time Cy Young winning Kluber, no game plan is very effective against him. Houston starter Justin Verlander out-pitched Kluber, and that set the tone. Verlander held the Tribe to a pair of runs in 5 1/3 innings.
8. Kluber insisted his struggles in last season’s playoffs (12.79 ERA) had nothing to no impact when facing the Astros: “It had no bearing on today.” Manager Terry Francona gave almost the same answer after the game.
9. If I’m Francona and Kluber, I’m making the same kind of statements. I don’t want to make pitching in the post-season even harder by adding the burden of history. But Francona and Kluber both know the last four post-season starts have been poor — a 10.20 ERA.
10. This was Yonder Alonso first appearance in the post-season and he was almost helpless at the plate. Three at bats, three strikeouts. There were a lot of slow, upper-cut swings.
11. Jose Ramirez hit two soft grounders to first base. He is seeing breaking ball after breaking ball, with changeups in-between. That is what happened after the All-Star break. For a long time, Ramirez was savaging fastballs. But he also a short-sweet swing that helped him hit the ball more to center field. He came into the game batting .407 against Verlander, but he didn’t have a good swing all day and went 0-for-3.
12. The Indians had only three hits. Keep in mind, most playoff games tend to be low-scoring. Playoff teams usually have strong pitching staff, and you see the best of those staffs in these games.
13. The Indians were 3-for-30. All the hits were singles: Michael Brantley, Lindor and Gomes. Lindor had the ball hard two other times. But it was a lame showing at the plate.
14. Francona said he wanted to get Trevor Bauer into the game “to get some rust off.” He added Bauer “could probably pitch every game” if needed.
15. Carlos Carrasco starts for the Tribe in Game 2. He is 4-2 with a 3.45 ERA in his career vs. Houston. Carrascio usually is very good, but occasionally has a stinker for a start. That can’t happen Saturday.
16. Cody Allen pitched in relief, and he gave up a homer. That was his 12th of the season. Jayson Stark of the Athletic tweeted that only Neil Ramirez (13) has allowed more HR this season among relievers. Ramirez also is with the Tribe, but not on the playoff roster.
17. The struggles of Allen (4-6, 4.70 ERA) and Andrew Miller (2-4, 4.24) are why Bauer is in the bullpen for this series. But the starters need to pitch well enough so that strategy matters.