Houston Too Much for Cleveland in Series Opener

Doug Upstone

Friday, May 19, 2017 4:17 PM UTC

Friday, May. 19, 2017 4:17 PM UTC

After coming so close to winning the World Series last fall, almost anyone betting baseball figured where Houston currently is in the standings is where Cleveland would be by now.

Instead, the Astros are the best team in the majors, while the Indians are mired in third place in the AL Central, which has been a second-rate division all season long. Now would be a great time for Cleveland to flex its muscles, however. Houston is both confident and talented, and in the series opener, the MLB odds have the Astros as favorites.


Pitching Matchup: Bauer Vs. Morton

Trevor Bauer (3-4, 6.92 ERA) was a great college pitcher at UCLA and a first-round draft choice by Arizona. The 26-year-old has not been able to convert that ability to the big-league level as his 33-36 careeer record proves. Bauer does have his moments, like being 6-0 with a 2.61 ERA over six career starts against Houston; otherwise, he is maddeningly inconsistent and is being batted around for a .286 average this season. His inability to spot his pitches are wreaking havoc for him.

Charlie Morton (5-2, 3.97) has been a starting pitcher his entire career, yet at 33 only twice has he made as many as 26 starts in a season (2011, 2014). If there is an injury to be found Morton will find it, like blowing out his hamstring while running out a bunt in his fourth start with the Phillies last year, which ended his season. Now in the AL, Morton does not have to bunt, and he's shown a lively mid-90s fastball and nasty breaking pitches. Here is the really weird part: for his career, Morton averages 0.73 strikeouts per inning and this season he's at 1.2.


Indians' Offense Lagging, Astros' Offense Soaring

Last year Cleveland allowed 4.1 runs per game, which is exactly what the Tribe are giving up this season. Why, then, are they at 20-19 (-9.7 units)? The is not producing. In 2016, the Tribe averaged 4.8 runs per game and that was without Michael Brantley. This year, Cleveland has him and is at 4.3 as players like Carlos Santana, Jason Kipnis and free-agent pickup Edwin Encarnacion are nowhere close to career norms.

Houston has no such problem, as the Astros rank in the Top 5 in baseball in runs scored (5.1), batting average (.273), on-base percentage (.343) and slugging percentage (.445). This is a fully loaded batting order that can beat opposing teams with power or a combination of base hits.


Betting Odds, History & Bullpen Numbers

Houston was sent out as -140 favorite with total of 9 and most sportsbooks are now at or below -130 and 8.5. Cleveland won the earlier series at home this season and is 3-3 at Minute Maid Park the last couple years with the 'under' 4-1-1. The Astros are fifth in bullpen ERA in the AL; however, the Indians are the best in the majors at a sick 1.90 ERA.


The Winner Is ...

For MLB picks, it seems foolish to go against Houston at this time. The Astros are 17-5 when the money line is -100 to -150 this season, and the last three years Morton is 15-4 in the first half of the season. (Team's record)

Free MLB Pick: Astros -128Best Line Offered: Heritage

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