Two former Cy Young Award winners who finished the regular season strong prepare to face dangerous lineups when the Cleveland Indians visit the Houston Astros on Friday for Game 1 of the American League Division Series. Cleveland's Corey Kluber was unbeaten in his last six starts and went 1-0 with a 1.35 ERA against Houston this year while Justin Verlander gave up four runs across 33 innings in September for the Astros.

The Indians eased to their third straight AL Central title, stringing three 90 plus-win seasons together (91 in 2018) for the first time since 1999-2001, and defending World Series champion Houston set a franchise record with 103 victories. "They have an outstanding ball club," Cleveland outfielder-second baseman Jason Kipnis told the Plain Dealer. ". ... I think it's going to be one of the most evenly matched series in the first round. In terms of pitching staffs, we line up with them. In terms of lineup we line up with them. It's going to be a lot of fun." Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor launched 38 homers in the regular season, but went 3-for-31 against the Astros, while Cleveland slugger Edwin Encarnacion was 9-for-26 versus Houston with two of his 32 blasts. Jose Altuve, who batted .300 for the fifth straight year (.315, 2018), was a robust 15-for-32 against the Indians during the regular season and Alex Bregman went 8-for-31 with two of his career-best 31 homers.

TV: 2:05 p.m. ET, TBS

PITCHING MATCHUP: Indians RH Corey Kluber (20-7, 2.89 ERA) vs. Astros RH Justin Verlander (16-9, 2.52)

Kluber did not pitch well in the playoffs last season, giving up nine runs over 6 1/3 innings, but was outstanding in 2016 during the Indians' run to the World Series (4-1, 1.83 ERA). The 32-year-old Alabama native won his final four decisions in the regular season, recording a 2.80 ERA during that six-game stretch to reach 20 victories for the first time and strike out at 200 for the fifth straight year (222, 2018). Marwin Gonzalez is 9-for-20 with a pair of homers versus Kluber, who is 6-3 with a 2.83 ERA in 10 career appearances (nine starts) against Houston.

Verlander went 3-0 with a 1.09 ERA in five September starts after struggling a bit in August while registering a 5.29 ERA in six outings. The 35-year-old Virginia native, who struck out a career high 290 batters this season without facing the Indians, went 4-1 with a 2.21 ERA during Houston's run to the World title in 2017 and is 11-6 with a 3.07 ERA lifetime in the postseason. Jose Ramirez is 11-for-27 with three doubles and two homers against Verlander, who is 4-7 with a 2.84 ERA at home this season while giving up 19 of his 28 homers at Minute Maid Park.

WALK-OFFS

1. Houston 1B Yuli Gurriel, who batted .291 this season overall, was 23-for-56 with 15 RBIs while hitting safely in 13 of his last 14 contests.

2. Cleveland LF Michael Brantley ended the regular season with a nine-game hitting streak and batted .341 in September to finish at .309 overall.

3. The Indians lost four of the first five in the season series this year - two of three at Houston - but scored 18 runs in winning the last two in late May.

PREDICTION: Indians 4, Astros 3  Bet Now

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Team Name

AWAY
Corey Kluber Pitching order:1
Adam Cimber Pitching order:2
Cody Allen Pitching order:3
Trevor Bauer Pitching order:4
Dan Otero Pitching order:5
Michael Brantley Batting order:2 Slot:1
Position: Left Outfield (LF)
Yan Gomes Batting order:8 Slot:1
Position: Catcher (C)
Jose Ramirez Batting order:3 Slot:1
Position: Second Base (2B)
Jason Kipnis Batting order:9 Slot:1
Position: Center Outfield (CF)
Melky Cabrera Batting order:7 Slot:1
Position: Right Outfield (RF)
Josh Donaldson Batting order:5 Slot:1
Position: Third Base (3B)
Francisco Lindor Batting order:1 Slot:1
Position: Shortstop (SS)
Yonder Alonso Batting order:6 Slot:1
Position: First Base (1B)
Edwin Encarnacion Batting order:4 Slot:1
Position: Designated Hitter (DH)

Team Name

HOME
Justin Verlander Pitching order:1
Ryan Pressly Pitching order:2
Lance McCullers Jr. Pitching order:3
Roberto Osuna Pitching order:4
Marwin Gonzalez Batting order:5 Slot:1
Position: Left Outfield (LF)
Martin Maldonado Batting order:9 Slot:1
Position: Catcher (C)
Jose Altuve Batting order:2 Slot:1
Position: Second Base (2B)
George Springer Batting order:1 Slot:1
Position: Center Outfield (CF)
2nd Position: (RF)
Jake Marisnick Batting order:5 Slot:2
Position: Center Outfield (CF)
Josh Reddick Batting order:8 Slot:1
Position: Right Outfield (RF)
2nd Position: (LF)
Alex Bregman Batting order:3 Slot:1
Position: Third Base (3B)
Carlos Correa Batting order:6 Slot:1
Position: Shortstop (SS)
Yuli Gurriel Batting order:4 Slot:1
Position: First Base (1B)
Myles Straw Batting order:7 Slot:2
Position: Pinch Runner (PR)
2nd Position: (DH)
Tyler White Batting order:7 Slot:1
Position: Designated Hitter (DH)

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