The Texas Rangers are a win away from sweeping the Houston Astros, but it will take an upset win as the underdogs on Wednesday's MLB betting board to pull it off.
Wednesday's Game 3
By: Willie Bee
It sure doesn't take long for a red-hot team to cool off, does it? The Texas Rangers, who hadn't won two straight games all season, defeated the Houston Astros, who won 10 straight heading into this series, for a second game in a row on Tuesday, 7-1.
Having now won its first series of the year, Texas can complete a broom job on Houston tonight (8:10 PM ET) when the clubs complete the second of six meetings on the schedule. Colby Lewis takes the mound for the Rangers while the Astros counter with Samuel Deduno, Houston currently listed as -130 chalk at Wagerweb with a 9 run total that favors the 'under' on the MLB Odds.
Rangers Drop 4-Straight Lewis Starting Assignments
Everything started well for Lewis and the Rangers, the Bakersfield native picking up a win at Oakland in his season debut with six innings of 3-hit, 1-run baseball. Texas has since dropped his four subsequent outings, though the bullpen was to blame for last Friday's debacle at home vs. the A's. Lewis blanked Oakland for six frames before turning things over to the relievers, and the Athletics rallied for a 7-5 triumph.
One of the four Texas defeats in the current string came against these Astros on April 12. Lewis allowed four runs before departing one out into the eighth, Houston eventually posting a 6-4 decision in 14 innings. He has been superb the last two times he climbed the bump in Houston, both Rangers wins with a single run coming plateward in nearly 14 innings.
Deduno is filling the rotation slot previously held by Asher Wojciechowski and Brad Peacock. Working for his fourth team in six seasons, the journeyman made five relief appearances before getting the start last Friday vs. Seattle. Deduno allowed a run in four innings of a 4-3 Astros victory, and got banged around in his only start against the Rangers last season (5.1 IP, 4 ER).
Umpire Notes, Mother Nature & A Free Pick
Crew chief Mike Winters is expected to call balls and strikes in the series finale. Now in his 28th MLB season, Winters has alternated 'unders' and 'overs' in his five plate assignments this year, a high side winner due next if the trend follows. He hasn't worked the dish in Houston since late in the 2013 campaign, and that matchup finished below the mark.
There's enough threat of rain in the Houston area to force the roof closed once again on Wednesday. If for some reason they do decide to pop the top for this one, it'll be a muggy 78º at game time with a nice 13-16 mph SE wind (out to center).
It would be a big surprise to see Deduno go past the fifth, if that far, and Astros hitters have cooled off in this series. That has me liking Texas (+120) to finish this sweep off for my free MLB Pick.
Free MLB Pick: Rangers +130 at 5Dimes
Tuesday's Game 2
By: Willie Bee
We see rematches between starting pitchers all the time, sometimes several times in the same season. Tuesday's tussle in Houston between the Astros and Texas Rangers is a replay of a mound duel from about five seasons ago...but with a twist we don't often see.
Their 10-game win streak halted Monday night by Texas, the Astros will try and begin a new run in Tuesday's 8:10 PM (ET) matchup in Houston. A couple of hurlers facing their former clubs square off for the initial mound battle, Wandy Rodriguez throwing for the Rangers opposite Houston's Scott Feldman. The Astros went out at -180 officially, but can be had for -160 to -170 after overnight trading, a 9 run total priced to the 'under' at several shops monitored by SBR's live MLB Odds.
Texas tallied single runs in the eighth and ninth on Monday to take a 2-1 victory in the series opener. The clubs combined for just 11 hits, only four of those on the Rangers' ledger, and it was the third consecutive 'under' between the clubs in Houston.
Control Issues Have Plagued Rodriguez
Astros and Rangers fans will be excused if they get confused about which pitcher they should be cheering for tonight. That's because the last time Rodriguez and Feldman faced each other, they were wearing opposite uniforms. That matchup was June 2010 in Houston, Feldman and Texas getting the better of Wandy and Houston. The two also appeared in the same game three years earlier, Rodriguez beating the Rangers while Feldman pitched in relief for Texas.
Tuesday will not be the first time either hurler has faced their former team. Rodriguez is making his third start against Houston, the other two coming in 2012 after the Astros dealt him to Pittsburgh before the trade deadline. Both resulted in wins for the Pirates, including one just two days after the swap was made.
Feldman had five assignments vs. Texas a year ago, his first with the Astros. Houston won three of them while the 6'-7" righthander posted a sparkling 2.16 ERA. Elvis Andrus has hit Feldman to the tune of a .318 average, but both Adrian Beltre and Shin-Soo Choo are batting below .200 in their confrontations.
Umpire Notes, Mother Nature & A Free Pick
After spending five seasons as a part-time ump at the MLB level, Mike Muchlinski is now in his fifth full season calling games in the bigs. He's 2-1 O/U so far in 2015, but was 10-19 O/U a year ago and three of his last four plate assignments in Houston finished short of the totals.
There is a chance for a lot of rain in the Houston area today, and while it's supposed to taper off in the evening, expect the roof to remain shut for this contest. I'm going to play the Rangers (+145) for my free MLB Pick tonight.
Free MLB Pick: Rangers (+150) at Bovada
Monday's Series Opener
By: Willie Bee
My, but how the fortunes have turned down in the Lone Star State. Less than five years ago, the Texas Rangers were hoisting their second American League pennant while the Houston Astros were bringing up the rear of the NL Central with the first of three consecutive 106+ loss seasons.
Texas' slide back and Houston's turnaround began late last season, and both have come complete circle now with the Rangers riding the caboose of the AL West with the Junior Circuit's worst record and the Astros on top with the league's best mark. They'll meet for the second time on the schedule down in Houston on Monday, the 8:10 PM (ET) first pitch featuring Ross Detwiler on the hill for the Rangers against the Astros' Dallas Keuchel.
The morning baseball betting board is showing a thick chalk line of -185 on Houston at WagerWeb, a 7½ total favoring the 'over' at most shots monitored by SBR's live MLB Odds.
The clubs first met in Arlington the first weekend of the schedule, Houston taking two of three thanks to a game-saving, grand-slam robbing catch in the series finale. Texas still owns a huge 31-16 advantage in this rivalry since the start of the 2012 campaign, and that's with the Astros winning seven of the last nine played in Houston. The April series went 1-2 O/U on the totals, and they've split 4-4 the last eight on this diamond.
Keuchel Tops All Hurlers In ERA, WHIP
Detwiler is preparing for his fifth consecutive start against an AL West foe, and the Rangers have lost the previous four thanks to the St. Louis native getting knocked around to the tune of an 8.66 ERA. He saw the Astros once last season in a relief during an interleague contest while with the Nats, his only two starts vs. Houston each ending in Washington wins (13 IP, 4 ER). Houston hitters he'll face tonight are a combined 1-19 against Detwiler.
It would be tough to find anyone pitching better than Keuchel in either league. The Astros are 5-0 behind the bearded southpaw, including the victory that got the team's string of dubyas started. The 0.73 overall ERA is accented by the same WHIP ratio and no homers allowed in 37 innings.
Keuchel faced Texas in Arlington earlier this season, arguably his worst outing to date and yet still a quality effort (7 IP, 2 ER), an no-decisioned in the Astros' 6-4, 14-inning decision. That left him 3-3 in 10 assignments (3.95 ERA) vs. the Rangers in his career, Houston going 6-4.
All Systems Go In Houston
Presently on pace for 116+ wins in 2015, it's tough to find weakness on the Astros right now. They're averaging five runs per game (5th-most) and allowing 3½ (2nd-fewest). Houston has slugged seven more homers than any other team while giving up just 21 (4th-fewest). The bullpen and the defense are both improved, plus they lead the AL with 31 steals, getting caught just six times.
If there's one concern, it's the same issue that has plagued this teams for several seasons: Houston hitters still find a K on their scorecard more than any lineup in the majors. That's alright when you're dropping bombs in the bleachers like the Astros are right now, but when the inevitable offensive slump comes -- and it will -- it will put more pressure on the pitching staff and defense.
We're not really worried about the weather interfering with this series since there's a retractable roof in Houston, a very good thing with thunderstorms in the forecast for Games 2 and 3. It should be nice enough for the series opener to go topless, however, the thermometer in the upper-70s for the start and a 10-12 mph wind from the ESE (out to left, left-center).
MLB Picks: This free MLB Pick is too easy to make; the offense is on fire right now, and there's no reason not to take the Astros on the run line (-1½, +110) with Keuchel on the mound and a 10-game win streak in progress.
Season: 18-17-2 (+0.15)