What has seemed like a long spring training schedule comes to an end this weekend, and the 2013 MLB betting campaign will officially begin Sunday night. One of the teams taking part in the regular season opener is Texas, and the Rangers will wrap up their exhibition schedule with a pair of games against the San Diego Padres.
Helping to make these games a bit more intriguing is they will be played in San Antonio at the Alamodome, the first time the venue has hosted MLB teams. First pitch Friday night comes a bit past 8 PM (ET), and features Alexi Ogando on the hill for Texas against San Diego's Eric Stults.
Overnight MLB odds listed the Rangers as -135 chalk for the tilt, giving Padres backers a +115 return. Morning lines at 5Dimes had the split -132/+122. As with all spring training games, no total was available.
It would be interesting to see what the total might be for this game if it was a regular season matchup. The Alamodome is going to offer hitters a very short right field porch to aim for, and we could see home runs flying in that direction both games. A mere 280 feet stand between the batter and the right field foul pole, a distance made slightly more difficult to clear with a 16-foot fence. To put that in perspective, it is 315 feet down the left-field line at Minute Maid Park in Houston where the wall is 21 feet high.
Left field and left-center will be set at standard distances, with straightaway center 395 feet from the plate.
Texas reaches this series having lost its last four official spring training games, the last taste of victory coming Sunday when Ogando was on the mound against the Cincinnati Reds. The lanky Dominican silenced the Reds for six innings, allowing just three hits while striking out five, and has enjoyed a good showing this spring as he prepares to move back into Ron Washington's rotation after working out of the bullpen in 2012. Ogando has made four previous spring starts plus a pair of relief appearances, and fashioned a 2.95 ERA in 21.1 IP with 18 strikeouts.
Stults spent most of his time in the Padres rotation last year after San Diego claimed him off waivers from the Chicago White Sox. The lefty also pitched last Sunday, getting in six innings while surrendering four runs to the Brewers in a 6-4 Padres win. His five exhibition starts have yielded a 6.63 ERA.
It's a tough game to handicap with no history to go on in the Alamodome, but I'll back the home team tonight with a play on the Rangers.
Astros Tune Up For Season Opener With Weekend Series Vs. Cubs
Roughly 200 miles east of the Alamodome, the Houston Astros prepare to host the MLB season opener against the Rangers. Houston will host their old rivals from the NL Central, the Chicago Cubs, for a couple of games this weekend, beginning with an 8 PM (ET) start time on Friday.
The Astros have been installed as -117 favorites for tonight's contest according to the live odds at SBR, with +107 the take-back on the Cubs.
Alex White, who will begin the season pitching in long relief for Houston, draws Friday's start. The former 1st-round pick out of North Carolina by the Cleveland Indians had a shot to win a rotation slot this spring, but proved very hittable with opposing batters raking at a .388 clip against him.
Edwin Jackson, signed as a free agent this winter, is scheduled for the Cubs who will be his sixth team in as many seasons. The veteran owns a 4.05 ERA in five spring starts, and a 3.37 ERA (13.1 IP) in three appearances at Minute Maid Park over his career.
Today seems as good a time as any to hop on the Fade The Astros bandwagon. For the final of our sports picks, we will back the Cubs in this contest.
My MLB picks: Rangers -132, Cubs +107
Preseason: 12-15 (-$4.50)