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Desperate Indians face Astros Sunday night
By: Sam Chase - StatFox
Published: 5/19/2018  at  3:10:00 AM
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CLEVELAND INDIANS at HOUSTON ASTROS

A weak AL Central is giving the struggling Indians plenty of margin for error.

Sunday, 8:00 p.m. ET
Carlos Carrasco (5-2) vs. Lance McCullers Jr. (5-2)

It hasn't been a pretty start to the year for the Cleveland Indians. Despite boasting a season-long a run differential of plus-19, the Tribe sat at 21-22 after a 4-1 series-opening loss to the Astros on Friday night. Cleveland's undoing has been its bullpen, which has squandered more than a few late-game leads this campaign. But a sub-.500 record after the loss still had Cleveland at the top of the standings in the putrid AL Central. Houston is in the opposite position: They improved to 29-17, but are in the position of fending off three other above-.500 division rivals in Seattle, Los Angeles and Oakland. Nonetheless, the reigning champs are an overwhelming favorite to win the division.

After a Saturday afternoon game, the Indians and Astros close out the series as this week's featured matchup on Sunday Night Baseball, and each squad will trot out a mid-rotation starter. Cleveland's Carlos Carrasco pitched a complete game at Milwaukee on May 9, striking out 14 batters in the process. But he suffered his second loss of the season this past week against Detroit, despite turning in a decent outing with of three earned runs in 6.2 innings. McCullers also dropped to 5-2 this past week in a 2-1 loss to the Angels, a game in which he only gave up four hits and two runs across six innings.

There have been few problems at the plate in Cleveland, where Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor have been absolutely raking. Entering Saturday's games, they were third and fourth in the AL, respectively, with WARs of 2.9 and 2.8. Of course, Houston's lineup is one of the best in the league, as Carlos Correa (11), Jose Altuve (16), George Springer (17) and Josh Reddick (23) are all in the AL's top 25 for WAR.

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