Astros & McHugh Are The MLB Pick As Underdogs vs. Cardinals

Wednesday, June 15, 2016 6:00 PM GMT

In a matchup of two disappointing pitchers, Collin McHugh and the Astros appear to hold the MLB pick value as underdogs visiting Adam Wainwright and the Cardinals.

In a matchup of two pitchers that have been disappointing this season, the road starter may hold more upside as an underdog Wednesday night when Collin McHugh and the Houston Astros (31-35, 14-21 away) pay a visit to fellow right-hander Adam Wainwright and the St. Louis Cardinals (35-29, 15-17 home) in the second game of a brief two-game interleague series from Busch Stadium in St. Louis, MO at 7:05 ET in a game available on FOX Sports - Midwest.

The posted money line at Heritage Sports has Houston as a road underdog for this contest at current MLB Odds of +121.

Astros Going for Sweep
The Astros were the clear favorites to win the American League West prior to the season and some predicted Houston would win the World Series, but the starting rotation has not yet performed as well as expected and the Astros are four games under .500 while in third place, 9½ games behind Texas. However, Houston took the series opener here in St. Louis last night 5-2 and completing the sweep could be a nice springboard with a six-game home stand up next.

The Cardinals had been the winning MLB Pick in five straight games while scoring 37 runs in those five wins before being cooled off by Doug Fister, who worked 7.1 innings, and three Houston relievers who finished the job last night. Thus, St. Louis remains a relatively distant second in the National League Central, trailing the team with the best record in baseball the Chicago Cubs by 9½ games, although the Cardinals do holds a wild card spot at this early stage.


McHugh Capable of Better
McHugh is coming off of two excellent seasons for the Astros, as first he nearly won the American League ERA title in 2014 at 2.73 while going 11-9 for what was then a poor Houston team and he then followed that up by going 19-7 while getting better run support last year and then adding another win in the ALDS over the eventual World Series Champion Kansas City Royals.

However, it has been a struggle for McHugh this season at 5-5 with a bloated 5.22 ERA and 1.50 WHIP. With that being said, the news is not all bad however as Collin has maintained his customarily great ratio of 67 strikeouts vs. 18 walks in 70.2 innings, with that strikeout rate of 8.53 per nine innings actually being nearly one full strikeout higher than the 7.56 last year and the walk rate of 2.29 being right in line with last season's 2.34.

Furthermore, a deeper look reveals that McHugh has a reasonable hard contact rate of 26.0 percent, so you can expect convergence of his very unlucky .358 BABIP allowed to the mean the rest of the year and for his mainstream stats to fall in line accordingly, making him undervalued in our minds for the time being.

Wainwright Not the Same
Wainwright was one of the most dominant pitchers in the league for a quite a while, but he has just not been the same coming back from Tommy John surgery last season. “Waino” is 5-4 this year but with a 5.21 ERA we are not accustomed to seeing from the former annual All-Star as the average velocity of his fastball has been right at 90.0 MPH, a speed that Major League batters can easily handle.

Granted, Wainwright comes off of a very encouraging start last Thursday where he allowed two runs on just two hits in six innings with a season-high nine strikeouts vs. one walk, but keep in mind that was vs. the offensively challenged Cincinnati Reds. And while his xFIP is lower than his ERA, it still stands at a mediocre-at-best 4.27, so we are not quite ready to proclaim Wainwright being “back” yet and sadly he may possibly never be as he turns 35 in August.

Best Interleague Team
Finally, the Astros have the best interleague record in all of baseball since the beginning of last season at a gaudy 21-7 following the win last night. The Astros are also 17-7 in McHugh's last 24 starts vs. teams with winning records, while the Cardinals have slumped to just 15-17 here at Busch Stadium this season after being one of the best home teams in the majors in recent years.

Look for those trends to continue and go with the underdog value with McHugh expected to start pitching to his fine peripheral stats, so take Houston in the finale of a brief two-game set at St Louis on Wednesday.

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Free MLB Pick: Astros +124
Best Line Offered: at Bovada
MLB Record: 40-35-2, +7.51