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Remember these Houston Astros? The ones that smack homers all over Minute Maid Park and abuse even the league’s best pitchers. Yeah, they’re back.
And Cleveland Indians ace Corey Kluber is their latest victim — though, that might be a familiar scene too, considering the way he was abused in last year’s playoffs.
The Astros hit back-to-back homers Friday afternoon off Kluber in Game 1 of the American League Division Series to take a 4-0 lead that would eventually become a 7-2 win. First was last year’s World Series MVP George Springer, next was last year’s league MVP Jose Altuve. That followed a fourth-inning homer from Alex Bregman.
Kluber was pulled by the Indians shortly after the back-to-back homers. He went 4.2 innings, allowing four runs and six hits. Perhaps the most discouraging fact: Kluber allowed more homers (three) than he had strikeouts (two).
“It just seemed like with his two-seamer,” Indians manager Terry Francona said after the game, “when he left it up, they made him pay.”
There’s something else to worry about here if you’re an Indians fan: The abundance of homers that Kluber has given up in his recent postseason starts. He certainly hasn’t been what he was during 2016, when he led the Indians to the World Series. Instead, he’s allowed nine homers in his last four postseason starts after allowing just one in his first five starts combined.
In two starts last October against the Yankees, Kluber’s numbers look far worse than his regular-season pedigree:
• He allowed six runs on seven hits in an ALDS Game 2 start, lasting just 2.2 innings. The Yankees hit two homers in that game.
• He allowed three runs on three hits (two of them homers) in that series’ decisive Game 5, which the Yankees won. In that contest, he was pulled after 3.2 innings.
You might also recall that Kluber lasted just four innings in Game 7 of the World Series in 2016, allowing four runs on six hits (two of them homers) against the Cubs.
Francona did emphasize to reporters: “Last year had nothing to do with today.”
Nonetheless, nine home runs in four starts won’t get it done in October, especially not against the monster teams in the AL playoff field this year. As the Astros proved in Game 1.
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