CLEVELAND, Ohio – The Indians are going to need all the help they can get on Monday to beat Houston and avoid a three-game sweep in the ALDS.
The fact that Game 3 will be played at Progressive Field is a start. The Indians lost the first two games of the best-of-five series at Minute Maid Park in Houston. During the regular season they were a much better team at home (49-32) than on the road (42-39).
“They’re played pretty much perfect baseball up to this point.” said Tribe third baseman Josh Donaldson. “We’ve had a couple of mistakes in the first couple of games. Now it’s our time to respond. We get to play at home now in front of our fans and get something going early and often.”
The Astros certainly will have something to say about that. They won 103 games during the regular season and 57 of those wins came on the road. Their road record of 57-24 was the best in the big leagues.
When asked why the Astros played so well on the road, manager A.J. Hinch told reporters during Sunday’s workout at Progressive Field, “Because we’re good. Not to be cocky about it, but we’re a good team. . .We don’t care where we play. Pick a building anywhere in the country and I’ll bring this team and feel good about it.”
“Wearing the gray pants is good. We like hitting first. I don’t have an answer as to why. But I’ll take this team anywhere.”
Houston split a four-game series this season at Progressive Field.
Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor, in particular, liked hitting at Progressive Field this year. During the regular season he hit .304 (97-for-319) with 72 runs, 20 homers and 50 RBI at home. On the road, he hit .251 (86-for-342) with 18 homers and 42 RBI.
Lineup change: Houston will start lefty Dallas Keuchel against Mike Clevinger on Monday in Game 3 at 1:30 p.m.
Manager Terry Francona said he’ll start Yandy Diaz at DH, move Edwin Encarnacion to first and start Brandon Guyer in right field. The moves mean Melky Cabrera and Yonder Alonso will be on the bench. Alonso and Cabrera are a combined 1-for-12 in the series.
It will be the first starts of the series for Guyer and Diaz. Guyer hit .233 (24-for-103) with five homers and 17 RBI against lefties during the season. He’s hitting .400 (6-for-15) against Keuchel in his career.
Diaz is hitting .289 (13-for-45) with six RBI against lefties this year. He has never faced Keuchel.
Order of the day: Francona says the Indians, facing elimination if they lose Game 3, have a simple goal Monday.
“We need to figure out a way to beat Houston,” he said, “because the first two games, they’ve really kind of had their way with us. We need to change that.
“I’d rather be up 2-0 than down 2-0, but it’s still the first one to three wins. And I’d rather have a chance than no chance.”
He added that Monday “all hands will be on deck” in regard to pitching. Should the Indians force a Game 4, Francona said that Trevor Bauer or Shane Bieber would probably start.
“I know on Saturday, (Corey) Kluber asked if should go to the bullpen,” said Francona. “It’s that time of year where guys want to help.”
Kluber started and lost Game 1 on Friday.
Enjoy the ride: Michael Brantley, like several other Indians, will become a free agent after the World Series. He has spent his entire big-league career in Cleveland and has made a point to enjoy the season.
“When you go through, almost a two-year rehab, you don’t always know that you’re going to come back,” said Brantley. “Every day that I can be with my teammates, that I’m healthy enough to be in that lineup, where I can joke around and know that I’m going to be in left field, I’m very appreciative of that.
“I don’t take it for granted. You never know when it could be your last game or what can happen throughout the day.”
No secret: The Indians confirmed over the weekend that right-hander Julian Merryweather is the player to be named headed to Toronto to complete the Aug. 31st trade for Donaldson. Merryweather has been on the disabled list all season since undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow in spring training.
Merryweather was a fifth-round pick by the Indians in 2014.
Finally: Clevinger picked off six runners during the regular season. He ranked second in the AL. It’s the most pickoffs by a Tribe pitcher since Tom Candiotti and Greg Swindell had six each in 1989. . .This is the Indians 10th appearance in the ALDS, third most behind the Yankees (21) and Boston (13). They entered Game 2 with a 56-51 record in the postseason overall.