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Pick: Astros to Win
Friday brings us the start of a critical series in both the AL West and the Wild Card race with the Los Angeles Angels visiting the Houston Astros. Both teams are fighting for their playoff lives right now, so they each are feeling pressure to get every win they can. This will be the final series between the Angels and Astros this season with Houston winning seven of the previous head-to-head meetings.
The Angels head to Houston with a little bit of momentum, having just won back-to-back games against the Giants earlier this week. However, those two wins came on the heels of a seven-game losing streak to open the month of August. In fact, the Halos needed those two wins just to get back to .500 on the season. Following some bold moves at the trade deadline, the Angels are struggling just to stay in the playoff race, sitting seven games out of a Wild Card spot.
As for the Astros, they failed to complete a sweep of the Orioles on Thursday. However, they have still won seven of their last 10 games. Yet, Houston still sits three games behind the Rangers in the AL West. With the Astros winning the AL West in five of the last six seasons, this is unfamiliar territory, putting some pressure on Houston heading down the stretch. The silver lining is that the Astros still have a firm hold on one of the Wild Card spots in the American League, although that could change if they hit a slump.
Given Houston’s dominance over the Angels this season, it’s not surprising to see the Astros listed as home favorites on Friday. DraftKings lists Houston’s moneyline as -192 while the Angels have a moneyline of +160. There is also an over/under of 8.5 runs.
Part of the reason the Angels are underdogs on Friday is because Reid Detmers is scheduled to get the start. The 24-year-old lefty hasn't been particularly reliable this year. He’s just 2-8 with a 4.78 ERA across 20 starts, taking a step back after posting a 3.77 ERA in 25 starts for the Angels last year. Los Angeles is just 7-13 in Detmers’ starts, including losses in four of his last five starts. In his last outing, Detmers gave up three home runs and got knocked around for seven runs on nine hits over four innings by the Mariners.
Another reason the Angels are underdogs on Friday is that their lineup has been unreliable lately. In their defense, both Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon are on the IL. But even after adding Randal Grichuk and C.J. Cron at the trade deadline, the Angels are averaging just 3.8 runs per game in August. Grichuk and Cron have both failed to make much of an impact during their first week with a new team. Meanwhile, Shohei Ohtani has hit a slump and has struggled to hit for much power over the last week. With Trout still sidelined, there is extra pressure on Ohtani to carry the offense, and he’s not been able to deliver lately.
The struggling Los Angeles lineup will have to face Justin Verlander, who will make the second start of his second stint with the Astros on Friday. The reigning American League Cy Young winner took the loss last weekend despite giving up two runs over seven innings against the Yankees. However, he’s allowed just four runs on 17 hits over his last 26.1 innings, including his last three starts with the Mets and his first start back with the Astros. While his 3.11 ERA is modest by his standards, Verlander posted a 1.69 ERA during the month of July while still with the Mets and is starting to look like the guy who won the Cy Young a year ago.
Friday will be Verlander’s first start at Minute Maid Park since last year. The fans should be excited to see him back while Verlander will be hoping to get some run support from the Houston offense. Over their last six games, the Astros have scored at least seven runs four times, so the lineup seems to be moving in the right direction. In those six games, Jose Altuve is batting .462 with five extra-base hits. He’s become a catalyst for the Astros since he and Yordan Alvarez returned from the IL in late July, putting the Houston lineup back to full strength. With both Verlander and the Houston lineup in a groove right now against an Angels team that’s undermanned at the moment, it’s a relatively safe bet that the Astros will win Friday’s series opener.
Both the Angels and Astros are right around the 50% mark this year with regard to the run total. However, the Astros hit the over a little more frequently at home while the Angels have the fifth-best road O/U record in the majors. That makes it tempting to skew things toward the over in this game. Of course, with the way Verlander has pitched lately, the Angels may not contribute much. However, in a hitter-friendly ballpark against a pitcher like Detmers who’s had a few rough starts in a row, the Astros could get close to scoring more than 8.5 runs on their own, so we’re going to lean toward the over in this game.
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Bryan Zarpentine is a 2008 graduate of Syracuse University and has been working as a freelance writer and editor since 2010. During that time, he has contributed to countless sites while covering baseball, soccer, the NFL, college football, and college basketball.More info on Bryan Zarpentine
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