Houston can complete a sweep of the Los Angeles Angels tonight, and the baseball odds currently suggest the Astros will do just that in their series finale.
The Los Angeles Angels came to Houston with a game advantage in the AL West, but the division lead has now swapped hands with the Astros up by a game over the Halos following a 6-3 victory on Wednesday.
Houston now looks to broom LA out of town in the series finale Thursday night. First pitch at Minute Maid Park is scheduled for 8:10 PM (ET) and is to be delivered by the newest Astro, Scott Kazmir. MLB odds started with Houston around -140, but that moneyline is up to -153 now on the morning nickel line at 5Dimes. Matt Shoemaker opposes with an 8 run total leaning to the 'under' at most sports books.
Added Pressure On Kazmir In 1st Home Start For Astros
The Angels have been very gentle with Shoemaker the last couple of months, and the move certainly paid off with a solid July so far. This will be his first start in nine days, and just the fourth in July. The last was a dandy against the Twins, Shoemaker going six innings on 88 pitches while allowing nary an run and striking out 10. Shoemaker has not had much luck against the Astros. however, Thursday's tilt just his first starting assignment in Houston.
This is exactly the kind of game the Astros got Kazmir for, and they're going to have a couple more for him coming up on a West Coast swing that takes them to Texas, Oakland and San Francisco. It will be the Houston native's first start at Minute Maid wearing the home colors, so the butterfly effect is always a consideration.
A bigger consideration, at least for me, is the Angels had been knocking Kazmir around before he beat them in Oakland with a fine effort for the A's back in May (7.1 IP, 1 ER, 6 K). Nobody available to LA manager Mike Scioscia tonight has ever taken him deep, but the Angels have hit a collective .309 against him, including Erick Aybar's 7-for-11 (.636).
Umpire Notes, Final Thoughts & A Free Pick
Speaking of Houston natives, Clint Fagan will have the plate for the series finale. Born nearly 34 years ago in the Bayou City, he's level on totals in '15 with a 9-9 O/U mark, just a year after a strong 'under' lean to the MLB odds (12-20 O/U). It's the second time Fagan has called balls and strikes in Houston this year, the other going past a 9 run total in an Astros victory. He also called on 'over' here last year when Houston lost. Home favorites are 10-3, 7-1 at a -140 moneyline or higher.
Several trends support this game going 'over' the total, and that's the way I'm going to run with my free baseball pick; the Astros may not pull off the sweep, but the 'over' will.
My MLB Pick: Angels-Astros Over 8 (+100)