The Houston Astros close out a 6-game road trip Wednesday in Chicago where the White Sox are just a win away from their first MLB odds series sweep in nearly a month.
Astros vs. White Sox Game 3
By: Willie Bee
Suddenly, the Houston Astros look like the team we've come to know and ridicule the past few seasons. Mired in a season-high 6-game losing streak and their lead in the AL West shaved to just two games, they'll turn to a rookie to try and close the road trip on a high note and avoid being swept by the Chicago White Sox.
The clubs close out their regular season schedule against each other with another 8:10 PM (ET) start at US Cellular Field. Houston will introduce Vincent Velasquez to the big leagues while Chicago turns to Jose Quintana in the initial mound duel, and the opening MLB odds have tightened up a bit with the White Sox listed as -125 chalk at Bookmaker. The same shop is showing an 8½ run total priced -120 to the low side.
Astros Set To Face 3rd-Straight ChiSox Lefty
Velasquez becomes the second Houston player to make his major league debut in this series, following shortstop Carlos Correa who was called up on Monday. A 2nd-round pick by the Astros in 2010 out of Garey HS in California, Velasquez has been slowly making the climb through the farm ranks, beginning this season at Double-A Corpus Christi where he was 3-0 with a 1.37 ERA in five starts, striking out 37 in just over 36 innings. He missed all of 2011 due to elbow surgery, and brings a fastball clocked as high as 96.
Quintana becomes the third consecutive lefthander Chicago manager, Robin Ventura has thrown against Houston, the Astros 11-11on the season when facing southpaws after Wednesday's setback. Chicago is 2-3 when the Colombian starts at home, Quintana earning no-decisions in both victories while all three losses were added to his personal ledger.
He's got seven quality starts among his 11 assignments, one of those coming a couple of weeks ago in Houston (6.1 IP, 1 ER). Alas, the White Sox couldn't back him with any offense, leaving him 1-1 in five career starts vs. the Astros -- Chicago 4-1 -- with a 3.13 ERA.
Umpire Notes, Mother Nature & A Free Pick
Playing the visitors and the 'under' has been a winning combination for baseball bettors when Toby Basner is calling balls and strikes, which he is expected to do for the series finale. The 30-year-old field arbiter began the year 2-0-2 O/U/P, but seven consecutive 'unders' have since been added to his record while home teams are 4-7 in 2015, and 3-5 when favored.
It's a very similar forecast to the one we've seen the past couple of days, afternoon showers lingering into the early evening but no real threat to the game. Houston shouldn't be much of a threat right now either, which is why my free MLB pick is on Chicago to complete the broom job.
MLB pick: White Sox -125 at Bookmaker
Astros vs. White Sox Game 2
By: Willie Bee
Right on cue, the strikeout machine that is the Houston Astros ran into a K artist from the Chicago White Sox in the series opener on Monday. Chris Sale fanned 14 Houston hitters in his eight frames, and an early homer by Avisail Garcia provided anyone backing Chicago on the baseball betting board with all the offense they needed in a 3-1 White Sox triumph.
Houston now turns to Dallas Keuchel in hopes of evening the set in Tuesday's 8:10 PM (ET) tilt at US Cellular Field. It's an all-lefty initial mound duel as Chicago counters with rookie Carlos Rodon. After the MLB odds started with the Astros slight favorites around -120, that number has risen to -130 at sports books such as Wagerweb.
Walks Have Been An Issue For Rookie Rodon
Despite the Astros dropping two of his last three starts, Keuchel continues to perform at a Cy Young-caliber pace. Houston has won nine of his dozen assignments, good enough for about 4.5 units of profit vs. the baseball odds, and the southpaw has twice tossed nine scoreless innings this year to leave him third in the AL with a 1.85 ERA.
One of those blank jobs came about a week-&-a-half ago in Houston against these White Sox, Keuchel stifling their lineup on four hits while whiffing a season-high 11. He lost his only appearance at US Cellular Field just about 11 months ago, allowing a dozen hits and three earned runs in five innings of work.
Rodon is making his sixth consecutive start after beginning his major league career in the Chicago bullpen, and has gone 6+ innings while allowing only one earned run in each of his last three assignments. The only one of those the ChiSox won came in Houston on May 29, Rodon relieved one out into the seventh of a 6-3 decision. The former NC State star has had control issues with 22 free passes in nearly 35 innings, but Astros hitters failed to draw a single walk off Rodon in that contest.
Umpire Notes, Mother Nature & A Free Pick
Wagerweb is also offering baseball bettors a 7½ run total that is priced -115 on the high side. Neither the 'over' nor the 'under' has been favored by expected home plate umpire Larry Vanover, totals splitting 5-5 O/U in his first 10 games of the season. The Kentucky native favored the 'over' slightly a year ago, including 7-3 O/U on 7½ run tallies.
It's going to be a little clearer and a little warmer this evening than Monday night, the thermometer expected to still be in the low-80s at first pitch with a slight breeze from the south (in from right). With Houston in a rut right now, I'm going with the White Sox +120 for my free MLB pick.
MLB Pick: White Sox +120 at Wagerweb
Monday's Series Opener
By: Willie Bee
It still seems strange that a World Series rematch during the regular season isn't an interleague series. But that's the case to begin the 10th week on the 2015 MLB betting schedule when the Houston Astros travel to Chicago to take on the White Sox.
Chicago's Chris Sale will get the series opened with an 8:10 PM (ET) first pitch Monday, the White Sox carrying a -150 moneyline. Houston sends rookie Lance McCullers to the bump with both 7 and 7½ run totals showing up on SBR's live baseball odds.
Monday begins the 13th regular season series between the two clubs, and concludes their slate against each other for 2015. The White Sox took two of three in Houston just a couple of weeks ago, the only Astros victory a complete game shutout by Dallas Keuchel and 'under' bettors also coming out ahead in two of the contests.
Chicago leads the all-time series 23-18, including the '05 Fall Classic sweep. The White Sox won two of three at The Cell last year, and have taken four of the last five played on this diamond. All four Chicago victories fell short of the scoreboard hurdle.
McCullers Coming Off 1st Career Complete Game
Since starting strong and unexpectedly taking the lead in the AL West, fans and bettors alike have been waiting for Houston (34-24, +8.6 units) to fall off the early pace. The Astros may be hitting that bump right now dragging a season high 4-game losing streak to Chicago where they end a 6-game roadie. They were swept in Toronto over the weekend, blowing a lead in the ninth on Sunday to see their lead in the division to 3½ games on the charging Texas Rangers, and are calling up top prospect Carlos Correa to make his MLB debut.
The late meltdown was uncharacteristic of the Houston bullpen which ranks second in the American League with a 2.45 ERA and had blown just five saves before Sunday. As has been the case the past few seasons, strikeouts continue to plague the lineup with an AL-high 523 -- 60 more than the next team. Still, the offense has made up for that by leading the Junior Circuit with 78 home runs and 48 steals.
McCullers was called up nearly three weeks ago for a spot start, and impressed manager AJ Hinch enough to stick around and take over in the rotation for Scott Feldman (knee). Often working deep into the count early on had the 21-year-old exiting games early, such as his May 29 start vs. the ChiSox that saw him hit the showers just one out into the fifth. He bounced back from that last Wednesday with a gem Wednesday at home, McCullers going the full nine and struck out 11 Orioles without a walk in a 3-1 decision.
Pale Hose Trying To Climb Out Of Division Cellar
Chicago (25-30, -6.7 units) dropped its second consecutive series to begin June this past weekend, losing the final two games of a set to Detroit after the same results at Texas to open the month. They'll begin this week in the AL Central basement, 7½ games behind the division-leading Minnesota Twins.
The only Chicago win in Texas last week was the one Sale pitched, a 9-2 triumph in which the southpaw blanked the Rangers over seven frames with 13 strikeouts. It was his 3rd-straight start with double-digit K's to leave Sale fifth in the AL for the season (79), and White Sox backers are 7-3 with +2.5 units against the MLB odds when it's his turn to pitch. Sale didn't see the Astros in Houston a couple of weeks back, but is 2-1 against them since they became part of the AL, allowing just one earned run and striking out 33 in 24 innings.
The umpires might have to dance this game around some raindrops with a 20%-50% shot of precipitation this evening along with the low-70s on the thermometer and a light NW breeze (out to center). Sale's strikeout run and Houston's penchant for whiffing has me all over the White Sox with a run line play (-1½, +150) for my free MLB pick.
MLB Picks: White Sox -1.5 +150 at BetOnline
Season: 44-35-2 (+8.95)