Long shots on the MLB odds when the 2015 season began, the Twins and Astros are still in the playoff mix as they open a 3-game series in Houston on Friday.
The first official interleague game that either the Twins and Astros ever played took place in Houston. I know, because I was there that Friday the 13th (June 1997) in the Astrodome watching Chuck Knoblauch go 4-for-4 in his first big league appearance in his hometown to lead Minnesota to an 8-1 victory.
It was a weird experience for me, an interleague proponent since 1962, to see an AL team come to the Bayou City for a matchup. It's even stranger to think they're American League rivals now, and even more bizarre to see both teams still in the playoff hunt at this stage of the 2015 campaign.
It's a quick rematch for the two clubs who open things Friday evening (8:10 PM ET) after meeting in Minneapolis just last weekend. The Twins took two of those three clashes, and send the only pitcher to lose to the Astros to the mound in Game 1, Mike Pelfrey. Houston trots Collin McHugh out to the hill, early wagering behind the Astros who have grown to around -190 chalk following overnight trading on the MLB betting odds board. BetOnline has the total pegged at 8 runs, and leaning 'over' with a -115 price.
Astros Close Homestand Before Long Road Trip
Both teams have defied the MLB futures odds to get to this point. Minnesota (69-64, +18.9 units) was the longest of long shots to win the American League flag at 125/1 on Opening Day, but Paul Molitor and the Twins won't go away 1½ games out of the second wild card slot behind the Rangers in the Junior Circuit.
Houston (73-61, +5.1 units) wasn't far behind the Twins at 100/1 to become the first team to win both NL and AL flags. The Astros were giving back $15 on a division flag at the same time, and bring a shrinking 2-game lead in the division over a climbing Texas Rangers bunch. They opened this homestand by dropping two of three to the Mariners, and have a huge road trip upcoming with stops at Oakland, Anaheim and Arlington.
The series win at Target Field last weekend gave the Twins a 21-14 edge in this budding rivalry, a record that seems a little more impressive when you tack on Minnesota winning four of the five series played since the Astros joined the American League a couple of years back. Two of the three up north stayed 'under' the MLB odds, but four of the six games played in Houston the past two seasons have breached the totals.
McHugh Climbs Bump After Extended Rest
Pelfrey didn't last through the fourth inning a week ago in Minnesota, the Astros raking seven hits and scoring four times en route to the 4-1 victory as small road chalk. It was the fourth time in five August starts that Pelfrey couldn't go a full six innings, three of those outings never making it through five. Tonight is just his second career assignment at Minute Maid, the first way back in '07, and Pelfrey has struggled away from home this season with a 5.59 ERA.
McHugh is taking the mound for the first time in nearly two weeks, the extra rest well-deserved following a stellar month of August during which the Indiana native posted a 1.89 ERA with five quality starts. Unfortunately, Astros hitters only showed up for two of those games, the other three Houston losses despite McHugh's fine effort. Houston won both of his starts against Minnesota a year ago (10.1 IP, 4 ER), and though McHugh has proven a bit more hittable at home than on the road this year, the Astros have won nine of his 13 appearances at Minute Maid.
There is a chance for scattered showers in the Houston area on Friday and throughout the weekend set, and with highs in the low-to-mid 90s each day, expect the lid on the stadium to be closed. I'm leaning to the visiting Twins on a nice payback tonight, but with both teams on 'OVER' spurts right now, my free MLB pick will be on a scoreboard buster in Houston.
Free MLB Pick: Twins & Astros 'OVER' 8 (-105) at BetOnline