Verlander, Astros Begin World Series Defense at Rival Rangers

Willie Bee

Wednesday, March 28, 2018 6:12 PM UTC

Wednesday, Mar. 28, 2018 6:12 PM UTC

The wait is over with MLB's Opening Day upon us Thursday, and we have a free baseball pick as World Series champ Houston travels north to meet the Texas Rangers.

Houston Astros at Texas RangersFree MLB Pick: RangersBest Line Offered: Heritage

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The shortest offseason in Houston Astros history ends with the shortest road trip they will make all season. Of course, Houston will make two more trips after this to meet their Lone Star rivals up in Arlington, giving Texas Rangers fans plenty of opportunities to come see just exactly what a championship team looks like.

And that’s my last dig at the North Texas 9 for 2018 as well, but I simply could not pass up one more chance before the 2018 campaign begins Thursday afternoon (3:30 ET) up at the House That Dubya Built, which will soon come down as the Rangers build their new park with a roof …something Houston figured out how to do more than 50 years ago.

Oops, I did it again. Oh well, Houston sends Justin Verlander to the mound opposite Cole Hamels in a clash of veteran arms, and Heritage has the Astros -159 with 9 for the total.

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Tomorrow. #NeverSettle

— Houston Astros (@astros) March 28, 2018

Rangers 4-1 At Home When Hamels Meets Astros

As smoking hot as the Astros were last season on their way to 101 wins, it wasn’t until Verlander joined the team at the end of August that Houston got over the hump and became a true championship contender. All five of Verlander’s starts in the final month, including one against the Rangers in this ballpark, went into Houston’s win column, as well as five of his six postseason assignments. He has won two of his last three games in Arlington, posting a 4.00 ERA in those 18 frames.

Hamels is making his second Opening Day start for the Rangers as he begins his third full season with the club. He split his two starts on this mound against the Astros a year ago, both of those outings as the underdog on the MLB odds, and Texas is 4-1 when he faces Houston since he came to Arlington at the 2015 trade deadline. During that time, the southpaw is 16-4 in 34 games at Rangers Ballpark, pitching to a 4.21 ERA (214 IP).

Rivalry Notes, Mother Nature & A Free Pick

This wasn’t much of a interleague rivalry, but that has changed since Houston moved to the AL West in 2013. The Rangers hold a commanding 102-65 lead dating to the interleague days, but Houston won 12 of 19 in 2017, taking seven of the nine on this diamond. Playing totals in the series last year was fairly flat, going 5-4-1 O/U/P in Houston and 4-3-2 in Arlington.

Houston had a nice spring and comes into 2018 relatively healthy. Still, I’m taking the underdog for my free baseball pick based on Verlander having some problems in Arlington over his career.

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