It's showdown time in the Lone Star state as AL West-leading Houston visits second-place Texas. How are we betting the opener of this big four-game series in Arlington Monday night?
Astros-Rangers Monday Odds
As of this writing the best price we could find on Texas and Cole Hamels was the -120 at BetOnline, while Houston and fellow lefty Scott Kazmir were getting +114 at Heritage. Also, BetOnline was listing both teams at -110 to win this series for your MLB picks consideration, based on the first three games.
Houston just lost a series at Anaheim over the weekend, but avoided the sweep with a thrilling come-from-behind 5-3 victory Sunday, scoring five runs with two outs in the top of the ninth. Nonetheless, the Astros are 1-4 in their last five series, 6-9 over their last 15 games.
At 77-66 Houston's lead in the AL West is down to a game and a half over second-place Texas.
The Rangers, meanwhile, just took two of three games at home from Oakland over the weekend, winning Sunday's rubber match 12-4. Even so, Texas is 1-1-1 over its last three series, 5-5 over its last 10 games.
At 75-67 the Rangers are not only breathing down the Astros' necks, they also own a one-game lead over Minnesota in the battle for the second American League wild-card spot.
Texas leads this Lone Star season series eight games to four, with the UNDERS going 7-5.
Monday's Mound Match-Up
Hamels (9-8, 3.76) is 17-for-27 on quality starts this season, four-for-seven since joining Texas in that trade with Philadelphia back in July, and four for his last five. Last Tuesday he gave up four runs through seven innings against Seattle, but over his four starts previous to that he held opponents to nine runs through 28 innings. For the season Hamels has allowed 162 hits through 176 innings, walked 54 and struck out 181.
Texas is 5-2 in Hamels' starts, with the OVERS going 4-3, in part because of a couple of very low totals.
This will be Hamels' first start against Houston since 2012.
Kazmir (7-10, 2.63) is 14-for-27 on quality starts this season, four-for-nine since joining the Astros in that trade with Oakland back in July, but 0 for his last two. Last Tuesday he gave up four runs in six innings against the A's, and just before that he gave up three runs – two earned – and seven hits through 4 1/3 innings against Seattle. On the season Kazmir has allowed 135 hits through 164 innings, walked 35 and struck out 101.
The Astros are only 3-6 in Kazmir's starts, but that's not all his fault, considering seven of his nine starts for Houston have played UNDER.
Kazmir has already started four times against Texas this season, the first three times while still with Oakland, and has been tough on the Rangers, holding them to seven runs – just four earned – through 26 2/3 innings; his teams won three of those games.
Monday's Batting Splits
Houston ranks 15th in the Bigs this season against left-handed pitching with a .319 team on-base percentage, and seventh with a .423 team slugging percentage.
Texas, meanwhile, ranks 22nd against lefties with a .311 team OBP and 16th with a .397 team slugging percentage.
Ballpark Totals Factor
Games played at Globe Life Park this season are 33-28 on the UNDERS, even though they're averaging 9.6 runs per. Apparently oddsmakers have been over-posting their totals on Rangers home games just a bit.
Texas OF Shin-Soo Choo (.357 OBP, 18 HR) left Sunday's game with a sore neck, and is questionable for Monday night. On the other side of the scorecard Houston OF Carlos Gomez will miss tonight's game with sore ribs, but he hasn't done a whole lot since coming over to the Astros in that trade with Milwaukee anyway, hitting just .234.
Astros-Rangers Free Picks
We'll give Hamels the edge in the pitching match-up, and Houston's recent play has us wondering if it can hang on. So we'll take Texas tonight. Also, considering Kazmir owns a 1.35 ERA against the Rangers this season, and most Astros hitters are unfamiliar with Hamels, we're thinking UNDER.
MLB Picks: Rangers -121 & UNDER 8 at Pinnacle