MLB Picks: Astros Calling Up Lance McCullers from AA to Pitch vs. Pomeranz & Athletics

Mark Lathrop

Monday, May 18, 2015 4:04 PM GMT

Monday, May. 18, 2015 4:04 PM GMT

Houston is reaching deep within its organization for a spot starter on Monday night versus the Oakland A's. Our handicapper breaks down the game and gives his MLB Pick.

Athletics vs. Astros
Two teams trending in different directions meet on Monday night as the Houston Astros, owners of a five game winning streak, play the Oakland Athletics who have lost four games in a row. Their respective records are also polar opposites – The A’s are 13-25 and Houston is 25-13. It was common knowledge that the Astros would be an up-and-coming club, but I don’t think anyone could have predicted this hot of a start for the young Houston Astros team. For tonight’s game the opening lines have the home team Astros favored on the money line at -116, with the O/U total sitting at 8.5.

Drew Pomeranz takes the mound for the Athletics coming off of a 7-inning winning performance against the Boston Red Sox. It was the first win for Pomeranz since his first game, a seven-inning shutout performance on April 10th versus the Seattle Mariners. It’s not that Pomeranz has been pitching terribly as he has yet to get tagged for more than four earned runs this year; more that he has had a mix of terrible run support and a bullpen blowing games wide open after he retires. Pomeranz has also been the victim of suspect defense as his fielding independent ERA of 3.80 is much lower than his realized ERA of 4.42. Although these statistics foretell a possible bounce back game against the Astros, recent history against them suggests otherwise. In particular, Pomeranz has a career 6.28 ERA at Minute Maid Park in Houston. This record includes innings pitched in the last few years of which Houston has had an anemic offense. Most pitchers have stuff that results in a spray chart of hits to one part of the ballpark. In the case of Pomeranz , this spray chart combined with Minute Maid Park gets the left-hander in trouble.

In a surprising move, the Astros are calling up Lance McCullers from AA to fill in for Brett Oberholtzer, who is suffering from a blister. A top prospect in the Houston organization since 2012, McCullers was recently promoted to AAA, but had yet to make a start there. He was killing it in AA in an absolute breakout season, sporting a 0.62 ERA, 94% left-on-base rate (better than Felix), and 13.34 K/9 ratio. This will be McCullers first major league experience although his father, Lance McCullers, pitched in the big leagues for seven years. Hitting 95 MPH on the radar gun in his sophomore year in high school, McCullers was tagged to get drafted early and will be just 21 years old tonight. If he sticks, Houston has yet another cost effective young player on their roster of players with nobody over 29 years old. I thought they were a year away at the start of the season, but to the surprise of the AL West, the future is now.

 

Baseball Betting Verdict
It’s hard taking a rookie on his first start although McCullens has excellent stuff. Jitters and a few walks here and there and Oakland could easily tag the newbie for a few runs. Pomeranz is also hard to trust in this game as his record at Minute Maid Park couldn't be any worse. Since I find no value in taking a side here (Ok, slight lean on the Astros) I’m looking at the total for action on this game. An interesting tidbit is that in all of Pomeranz’s starts only one of them has resulted in a total of less than 11 runs. It could be that his starts haven’t lasted long and the horrible Oakland bullpen gets called out to play. Whatever the reason, I like the trend, and will be taking over 8.5 runs on Monday night in this game as my MLB pick.

MLB Picks: Over 8.5 runs at Pinnacle Sports

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