Indians-Astros Preview

The Associated Press

The first-place Cleveland Indians witnessed the offensively challenged Houston Astros put a big number on the board during their latest contest, marking their worst performance since Derek Lowe took the mound earlier in the week.

Given the way Lowe has been pitching lately - especially against the National League - Houston's lineup could be in for another big day.

Lowe looks to snap out of a personal slump while helping the Indians bounce back in the finale of a three-game set with the Astros on Sunday at Minute Maid Park.

AL Central-leading Cleveland (37-33) had its four-game winning streak snapped in Saturday's 8-1 loss after a 2-0 win in the series opener. The Indians had outscored opponents 13-3 in their previous three games but had their worst offensive showing since a 7-1 loss at Cincinnati on June 12.

Cleveland hadn't given up that many runs since Monday, when Lowe had another disappointing performance.

Lowe (7-5, 4.30 ERA) has had his ERA increase more than two full runs over his last six starts, in which he's 1-4 with an 8.13 ERA. He allowed seven runs - the third time he's given up at least that many during that stretch - and 11 hits over five innings of Cleveland's 10-9 win over Cincinnati.

"I kept digging us hole after hole after hole," Lowe told the team's official website.

The right-hander, who had a 2.05 ERA after beating Minnesota on May 15, is 0-7 with a 7.75 ERA in his last eight starts versus the NL.

Lowe is 3-2 with a 5.14 ERA in his last six outings versus the Astros, and Carlos Lee is hitting .364 with two homers and four doubles lifetime against the veteran.

Lee doubled twice and drove in two runs while Jose Altuve, Jordan Schafer and J.D. Martinez all homered in Saturday's win for Houston (29-42), which had scored one run combined while dropping its previous three games.

Martinez, a .230 hitter on the season, is batting .333 over his last five.

''I just wanted to hit something hard and get the run in and get the lead for us,'' Martinez. ''It felt great. When I hit it, I knew it was gone right away.''

Houston shut down Cleveland's offense behind Dallas Keuchel, who tossed a six-hitter in his second major league start, and the Astros hope J.A. Happ can deliver another solid performance.

Happ (5-7, 5.15) ended a four-start losing streak by allowing two runs and a season-low four hits in six innings of a 9-7 win over Kansas City on Monday, bouncing back after giving up a career-worst eight runs in 3 1-3 innings of a loss to San Francisco on June 13 - the night of Matt Cain's perfect game.

The left-hander had pitched a combined eight innings over his previous two outings.

''He rebounded after the first inning, starting throwing some strikes and making pitches a little bit better,'' manager Brad Mills said. ''It was sure nice to see him work as late as he did into the game.''

Cleveland is hitting a major league-worst .216 against left-handers, with Shin-Soo Choo batting .183 versus southpaws after facing Keuchel on Saturday.

''I never really think about it, I just think about me,'' Choo said. ''It feels like we're getting better (against lefties).''

What to Read Next