A lot of scoreboard watching the rest of the season will
involve the Astros who open a 4-game series in
Thursday's Series Opener
By: Willie Bee
Who'd a thunk we'd be paying attention to Houston Astros games right now? The Astros may have been unofficially eliminated back on March 31 when they opened the schedule with 350/1 baseball futures odds to win their first World Series, but a lot of eyes are going to be on their final three series against current playoff contenders.
It all begins with four games in Cleveland against the Indians, Houston's first trip into the Rock & Roll Capital of the World in 13 years. The long set gets underway Thursday when Ubaldo Jimenez hurls the first pitch a little past 7 PM (ET), Astros lefty Dallas Keuchel his opposition.
The Astros and Tribe met for the first time as AL foes about five months ago in Houston, the site of their final interleague series just last season. Cleveland took two of three from the Astros in mid-April, the totals splitting in thirds and the moneylines tight; Houston was a small 'dog in the first two games with the finale closing near a pick 'em.
That's certainly not the case for Game 1 of this series. Cleveland opened as prohibitive $2.30 chalk with an 8 run total on the MLB odds board for bettors to consider; both the moneyline and total held in overnight wagering.
Indians Return Home Half-Game Out Of Wild Card Race
There are a lot of good reasons to include Joe Girardi, John Farrell, Bob Melvin and even Jim Leyland in the discussion for AL Manager of the Year. But my vote would go to Terry Francona in his first year with the Indians. I thought Francona and the Tribe could reach the 83-win mark when previewing the AL Central during spring training, and they're a win shy of that figure now,
Cleveland will begin this set trailing Texas by a half-game for the second AL wild card. The Rangers are finishing up a series at Tampa Bay this evening and travel to Kansas City for a weekend set with the Royals while the Indians get to face the lowly Astros.
Aside from one little hiccup at Miami in August, Jimenez has been about as consistent as they come over the second half of the campaign. Cleveland simply hasn't taken advantage of the lanky Dominican's efforts, the Indians level at 5-5 in his post all-star assignments while Jimenez pitched to a 1.83 ERA. This is a much different lineup than Jimenez faced regularly when both he and the Astros were in the National League, but does include several faces he saw last year in a victory down in Houston (6.2 IP, 0 ER, 8 K).
Can Astros Salvage Season By Playing Spoilers?
It's been another long, tough season for the Astros and their fans, take that from someone who has been following them the entire trip. Technically, I've been fading them each and every game, which has led to 8.7 units of profit following their setback to the Reds in 13 innings at home on Wednesday. Cincinnati's victory finished a sweep of the Astros who reach Cleveland on a 5-game skid.
The good news for Houston fans such is the team's playing better, maybe not as much in the win column to stop me from riding my Fade the Astros experiment out to the end. But still, it has gotten better.
The good news for Keuchel is he dominated the Indians when he saw them last year as a rookie in just his second big league start. The former Razorback star went the distance with a 6-hitter for the 8-1 dubya, his first, and Cleveland's only run came on an Asdrubel Cabrera homer. The bad news for Keuchel is this is a much different Tribe lineup; the 2012 version was extremely vulnerable to left-handed pitching (18-35) while the '13 edition is 29-20 against port-siders.
Everything looks good in the weather department for Thursday's opener, but Friday and Saturday could be a different story. Only a few clouds are expected at the start of Game 1 when temps will be in the low-70s, possibly dropping into the 60s during the game, along with a 6-10 mph south wind (out to left).
I'll continue to play against the Astros, but can't really recommend anyone bet a -230 line. What I will suggest for my free pick in Game 1 is the OVER, and most of the runs on the Tribe's side of the scoreboard.My pick: Astros-Indians Over 8 (-110) at Bet365