The upstart Astros are actually short favorites over the Yankees for Tuesday's American League wild-card game at Yankee Stadium. How is this handicapper betting this game?
Astros-Yankees Wild-Card Odds
As of Monday morning the best MLB odds we could find on Houston with lefty Dallas Keuchel was the -109 offered at Heritage, while New York with Masahiro Tanaka was getting +104 at 5Dimes. Also, 5Dimes was giving both the Astros and Yankees +850 to win the American League championship.
New York (87-75) is back in the playoffs after a two-season absence. The Yankees began this season getting around 15/1 to win the American League pennant, then led the AL East for most of the way. They got caught and passed by Toronto over the last six weeks, and lost six of their last seven games, but held on for the top wild-card spot.
Houston (86-76) is back in the playoffs for the first time in a decade. The Astros, who went off this season as a 50/1 shot or so to win the American League pennant, shocked baseball by leading the AL West for most of the year, faltered somewhat over the last six weeks, but won six of their last eight to just squeeze in as the second wild-card team.
Houston took the season series from New York four games to three, taking two of three games at Yankee Stadium back in August. Also, the UNDERS went 4-3 in this series this season.
The winner of this game meets defending American League champion Kansas City for the opener of an AL divisional-round series Thursday.
Tuesday's Wild-Card Twirlers
Tanaka (12-7, 3.51), by our strict standards, is 14-for-24 on quality starts this season, and three for his last four. Last Tuesday, throwing on 11 days rest, he gave up four runs in five innings against Boston, but over his previous three starts he held foes to three runs through 21 innings.
New York is 15-9 in Tanaka's starts, with the UNDERS going 13-11.
In his one career start against Houston, back in June, Tanaka got touched for six runs in five innings, giving up three gopher balls, although the Yanks went on to win that game 9-6.
Keuchel (20-8, 2.48), who will start Tuesday on three days rest, is 25-for-33 on quality starts, and three for his last three. Last Friday he held Arizona to two runs through six innings, throwing 99 pitches, getting the early hook because Houston was up 10-2, on its way to a 21-5 victory. And over his last three starts he's allowed just four runs through 20 2/3 innings.
On the season the Astros are 23-10 in Keuchel's starts, with the UNDERS going 17-16.
In two starts this season against New York Keuchel went nasty, allowing zero runs and nine hits through 16 innings, with one walk and 21 strikeouts; Houston won both those games.
Tuesday's Batting Splits
Houston ranked 18th in the Majors this season against right-handed pitching with a .312 team on-base percentage, but fourth with a .439 team slugging percentage.
New York, on the other hand, ranked fifth against left-handed pitching with a .336 team OBP and 10th with a .414 team slugging percentage.
On the whole, we'll call this match-up of the lineups a wash.
Ballpark Totals Factor
Games played at Yankee Stadium this season went 39-38 on the UNDER, even though they averaged 9.1 runs per, sixth-most among all ML ballparks.
AL Wild-Card Picks
We give Keuchel the check-mark in the pitching match-up, and Houston owns an edge in the comparison of the bullpens. And as they say, pitching wins wild-card games. So for our free MLB picks on this American League wild-card contest we like the Astros, along with the UNDER.
Picks: Houston (-113) & UNDER 7 (+102) at Pinnacle