A pair of steady arms square off tonight at Minute Maid Park when Brett Myers and the Houston Astros take on knuckler R.A. Dickey and the New York Mets in Game 3.

There are obvious and inherent differences between Queens, NY, and Houston, Texas.  The latter is a sprawling city of nearly 600 square miles that is tied together by hundreds of miles of freeways sitting on what was once marsh land and rice farms.  The former is much smaller, about 175 square miles, tied to surrounding areas by a train system and built on top of solid rock where glaciers used to come and go.

RA DickeyThe two things the areas have in common?  The populations (counting only Houston proper) are nearly identical according to the 2009 census stats, and their two baseball clubs, the New York Mets and Houston Astros, will not be advancing to the MLB postseason.

Houston and New York will, however, continue playing ball on Wednesday as their four-game series reconvenes for Game 3.  An interesting pitching matchup opened as a virtual pick 'em at the baseball betting window with the Astros getting just 10 cents or so of home field juice.  BetJamaica
set its total at an even seven with the 'over' priced at minus 120.

New York opened the series Monday night with a 3-1 win as 115 underdogs, scoring two in the ninth off Houston closer Matt Lindstrom to secure the victory.  That final stopped a four-game streak of 'overs' between the two clubs when playing in Houston.

Game 2 saw New York and Johan Santana carry a minus 160 line into a matchup against former Met Nelson Figueroa who was making his first start as an Astro.  Hunter Pence spoiled the party for the New York chalk eaters with a pair of homers in Houston's 4-3 win.  And that brings us to Game 3.

Brett Myers (14-10, 3.13) has become the ace of the Houston staff with Roy Oswalt gone, and earned the distinction with some amazing consistency over the entire season.  He's gone at least six innings in all 24 of his starts and ventured to the seventh and beyond 14 times.  The Astros have won six of his last eight trips to the hill while Myers owns a 2.22 ERA in that stretch (56 2/3 IP).

It's been nearly two years since Myers last saw the Mets as a starting pitcher, Sept. 5, 2008 to be exact.  On the road at Citi Field against Mike Pelfrey, Myers blanked New York over eight frames in a 3-0 Phillies win carrying small underdog odds.

My vote for the Comeback Player of the Year in the majors is a no-brainer.  R.A. Dickey (9-8, 2.43) has been as consistent as Myers this season with 13 quality starts in 17 games and his 2.43 ERA is fifth in the big leagues.

Dickey is coming off a one-hit, 1-0 shutout victory over the Phillies last Friday back home in Citi Field.  According to one report after the game, 102 of his 105 pitches were knucklers.  Even if that stat was a bit off, Dickey's arm shouldn't be too taxed.  Then win moved the Mets' record to 7-6 when the former Tennessee Vol is installed as an underdog.

Crew chief Joe West will man the plate for the contest.  The 32-year veteran umpire brings a level mark of 12-12-2 on his season totals betting line into the game, but a lopsided 6-3-1 record to the 'over' in games with totals of eight or less.

West also has a 20-6 record in favor of the home team. That includes a 15-5 mark when the local squad was favored up to minus 140.

This four-game series closes Thursday evening when Houston sends Bud Norris (8-10, 5.42) to the mound against Pat Misch (0-1, 1.50).  The Astros will then take off for a 10-game tour through the NL East beginning with a weekend set in Florida against the Marlins.  The Mets will continue their road trip with three in Pittsburgh starting Friday.

NOTE: W-L records displayed for starting pitchers are team records in games the pitchers start.