The Royals begin defense of their AL pennant when they open the ALDS against upstart Houston Thursday. To little surprise KC is favored for, but where might the real MLB pick value reside?
Astros-Royals ALDS Game 1 Odds
As of mid-Thursday morning the best MLB odds we could find on Kansas City with Yordano Ventura was the -133 offered at 5Dimes, while Houston with Collin McHugh was getting +128, also at 5Dimes. Also, Bookmaker was chalking the Royals at -130 to win this series, with the Astros getting +110.
Kansas City is the champion of the AL Central and owns home-field advantage for as long as it's alive in these playoffs, including the World Series. The Royals had the division title iced long ago, and ended the season on a five-game winning streak, beating Toronto out by two games in the battle for the best record in the league.
Houston is back in the playoffs for the first time in 10 years, after making a 16-win improvement over last season. The Astros led the AL West for most of this season, faltered near the end but hung on for the second American League wild-card spot. They then went up to New York Tuesday night and behind ace Dallas Keuchel shut out the Yankees 3-0 to reach this ALDS.
Houston took four of six games from KC during the regular season, with the UNDERS going 4-1-1, as the games averaged less than six runs per.
Game 1 Mound Match-Up
Ventura (13-8, 4.08), by our strict standards, is only 12-for-28 on quality starts this season, but he's been pretty good as of late. Last Saturday he held Minnesota to one run through seven innings, with 11 strikeouts, and over his last four starts he's allowed only six earned runs through 25 innings.
On the season Kansas City is 16-12 in Ventura's starts, with the UNDERS going 13-11.
Over three career starts against Houston, including a winning effort back in July, Ventura has allowed seven ER through 16 2/3 innings. The Royals won two of those games, with the UNDERS going 2-1.
McHugh (19-7, 3.89) is 18-for-32 on quality starts this year, two for his last three. Last Saturday he held Arizona to one run through seven innings, and over his last three outings he's held foes to six runs through 21 2/3 innings.
The Astros are 21-11 in McHugh's starts, with the totals splitting 15-15.
In his one career start against KC, in May of last season, McHugh tossed seven innings of five-hit, shutout ball, walking none while whiffing nine, in a 3-0 Houston victory.
Game 1 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.
Kansas City, meanwhile, ranked 11th against righties with a .321 team OBP and sixth with a .416 team slugging percentage.
Ballpark Totals Factor
Games played at Kauffman Stadium this season are 38-36 on the UNDERS, averaging 8.5 runs per.
Kansas City recently lost closer Greg Holland for the season to a torn elbow. In his place Wade Davis has converted four saves chances in a row, and allowed just one ER over his last 20 appearances, covering 19 2/3 innings.
Astros-Royals ALDS Game 1 Free Picks
We give McHugh a short edge in the pitching match-up, and Houston a short edge with the sticks. So for our free MLB pick on the side for this game we like the value with the Astros. Also, these teams have played some low-scoring games this year, and we rank both these bullpens among the top half-dozen or so in baseball at the moment. So we're thinking UNDER.
MLB Picks: Houston & UNDER 7.5 (-110) at Heritage