Previewing the Series: #21 Houston Astros
I’m going to switch things up a little bit for this series because I will be incommunicado for the rest of the weekend. Since lineups haven’t been finalized for today, let alone the next two games, I’m going to have to project using lineups that I think make sense. This also means that I’m going to then estimate betting lines for the games based upon these lineups. Know that changes to the lineups would change things subtly or even greatly depending on what happens.
For instance, the Rays may have caught a break with Carlos Correa twisting his ankle last night. Not only is he one of the best players in the game, but the Astros don’t really have an above replacement level guy to take his place for this series. Additionally, the Astros came into the series with a three-man bench so if Correa is unplayable that now makes it a two-man bench. For this reason I’d expect them to call someone up prior to the series, and boy, wouldn’t A.J. Reed make a ton of sense for them.
Another sticky wicket is that the first two starters for the Astros, Lance McCullers Jr. and Mike Fiers, respectively, have pronounced reverse splits over their careers which holds up even upon regression. This would indicate that the Rays should think long and hard about going with a heavy right-handed lineup, but I have no idea if they will actually do this. Basically, take these numbers with even more of a grain of salt than usual.
The line for tonight is current as of 10:30 AM and it looks like a pretty solid one using my projected lineups. The Rays go extremely righty-heavy with Dickerson’s power threat representing the lone lefty. You can see how important Correa is to their lineup, and what a blow it would be if he has to miss this series. You have to think that even if he plays he will be limited in one way or another, and this is something the system has no knowledge of.
The Tampa native McCullers is really tough on both types of hitters pairing a plus fastball with a plus-plus curveball. The change lags behind and it remains a pitch he is reluctant to throw in big moments as he mentioned in this must read. He’s a lot like Chris Archer, in that, when both pitches are on he can be lights out, but much like Archie the command can lapse at times leading to good counts for those that care to work for them.
The middle game features the aforementioned Chris Archer for the Rays, and he will be taking on Mike Fiers. I pointed out earlier that he as shown a pronounced reverse split so I’m again going with the unconventional righty-heavy lineup for the Rays and keeping it exactly the same for the Astros. Today’s line works well for these matchups so that is also maintained. I again see the Astros as a slight favorite predicated on the notion that Correa will be in the lineup and good to go. Assuming he isn’t the Rays probably earn the nod for this one.
We have seen Archer look a whole lot better at home, but he will need to limit the mistakes against an aggressive bunch that can make a pitcher pay for his transgressions in the heart of the zone. Fiers has quietly been a pretty good starter in his career, but his strikeouts are down substantially this year. This has led to more grounders, but it is still a below average part of his game and when batters are able to elevate they have seen a ton of balls leave the yard.
I’ve got Gattis moving to catcher in the finale with Jake Marisnick taking his lineup spot and a straight switch from Luis Valbuena to Marwin Gonzalez. The Rays stay mostly the same, except I have Logan Morrison taking Corey Dickerson’s slot at DH. I see the Astros as a solid favorite here and have guessed the Vegas line to match that.
Matty Moore looked better in his last outing, but his inability to limit the homers is making it very tough to keep him in the rotation. He was able to go seven and one of the homers probably should have been pulled back, but it’s time to stop making excuses and time to start pitching your ass off. A similar story for Houston’s lefty Dallas Keuchel who reached the pinnacle last year, but has mostly taken the short way down instead of the more expected gradual decline. His command is faltering enough that that he can’t just pick apart the edges to batters forcing his stuff to get exposed as he has to tread more and more into the zone. The Rays will need to be patient and hammer the mistakes that they do get to win this one.