This capper has been expecting the Astros to fade for a while now, but they just keep plugging along. Still, we believe the fade is the pick as Houston opens a four-game series with Tampa tonight.
Rays-Astros Monday Odds
As of this writing the best price we could find on Houston with Scott Kazmir was the -165 offered at BetOnline, while Tampa and Erasmo Ramirez could be found getting +159 at 5Dimes. Also, Bookmaker was listing the Astros are -185 to win this series, with the Rays getting +160.
Houston just took two of three games at home from Detroit over the weekend, winning Sunday 6-5 on a walk-off base hit in the bottom of the ninth. But coming into that series the Astros had lost seven of their previous nine games. Still, at 64-54 Houston now leads the AL West by 3.5 games over the struggling Angels.
Tampa, meanwhile, just got swept three games at Texas, losing Sunday 5-3. But going into that series the Rays had won four in a row. At 58-59 Tampa trails first-place New York by 6.5 games in the AL East, but only sits 2.5 games behind Baltimore in the battle for the second American League wild-card spot.
This is the second series between these teams this season; back in July the Rays swept three games from the Astros at the Trop, with two of those games playing UNDER, as the teams combined to score just 14 runs over the three games.
Must Read: National & American League Betting Outlook
Monday's Mound Match-Up
Kazmir (6-7, 2.12), by our tough standards, is 12-for-24 on quality starts this season, two-for-four since joining Houston in that deadline trade with Oakland. Last Tuesday he gave up three runs – two earned – in 5 2/3 innings against San Francisco, and since becoming an Astro he's allowed seven runs – just three earned – through 26 innings. On the season the former Ray has only permitted 84 hits through 110 innings, walked 35 and struck out 101.
The A's went 8-10 in Kazmir's starts, while Houston is 2-2, with the totals leaning toward the UNDERS by a 12-9 margin.
In his most recent outing against his former team, back in May with Oakland, Kazmir gave up three runs – two earned – on eight hits and three walks through 5 2/3 innings of a 5-2 defeat.
Ramirez (9-4, 3.59) is only six-for-18 on quality starts this season, but that ratio is a bit misleading, thanks to a short leash. However, he's also been a bit inconsistent as of late. Twice in his last four starts he's allowed five runs. Last time out, though, last Tuesday, he threw seven scoreless innings against Atlanta, walking none while striking out four. On the season Ramirez has allowed just 89 hits through 110 innings, walked 30 and struck out 85.
The Rays are 12-6 in Ramirez' starts, with the UNDERS going 10-6.
In three career starts against Houston, the first two while with Seattle, the most recent in a quality outing back in July, Ramirez has allowed six runs through 17 2/3 innings; his teams won two of those games, and all three games played UNDER.
Monday's Batting Splits
Tampa ranks 13th in the Majors this season against left-handed pitching with a .257 team batting average, and ninth with a .327 team on-base percentage.
Houston, on the other hand, ranks 24th against right-handed pitching with a .244 team batting average and 23rd with a .307 team OBP.
Ballpark Totals Factor
Games played at Minute Maid Park this season are 30-27 on the UNDERS, averaging 7.9 runs per, which ranks right about in the middle among ML ballparks.
Rays-Astros Monday Free Picks
We'll call the pitching match-up a wash, and while we give the Astros an edge in the bullpen, Tampa owns an edge with the sticks. So our view is the betting value on tonight's game resides with the Rays. Also, these two starters are a combined 22-15 on the UNDERS this season, and we like that lean to continue.
MLB Picks: Tampa & UNDER 7.5 runs (-103) at Pinnacle