Houston Astros have no problems

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The Houston Astros must not have liked what I had to say about the Tampa Bay Rays last week, when I wrote about the latter, and suggested the Rays might be the best team in baseball. 

Suddenly, it’s the Astros who’ve surged to the top of the league with the best record thanks to a power-packed lineup that led the league in batting average and ranked fourth in ERA, heading into Tuesday’s games.

And the difference between the Astros and Rays, is Houston’s been here, done that. Over the past three seasons, the Astros have been the American League West’s dominant team, and overall one of the top teams in the majors, including 2017, when they won the World Series.

Through Monday’s games, the Astros had won six straight and nine of 10, a stretch that saw them boast a .325 batting average while outscoring opponents by a whopping 48 runs. And of those nine wins, Houston scored at least 10 runs four times, while scoring less than six runs just twice. Their demolition of the Texas Rangers over the weekend is better representation of just how destructive the Astros lineup can be, as they destroyed their AL West rivals by a combined final of 26-9 after pounding 11 extra base hits, including six home runs. On the mound, Houston’s pitchers silenced the Rangers with a combined 32 strikeouts, including 14 by hard-throwing Gerrit Cole.

We’re roughly seven weeks into the season, which is when we start to see the teams separate themselves as either great, good or bad. There are a handful who emerge as elite, and for the fourth straight season, the Astros are looking like one of those teams. I mean, when you’re the only team in baseball that can brag about being ranked in the top-five in both ERA and runs scored, you have something good going.

The Astros’ .281 batting average outdistanced three teams — the Minnesota Twins, Arizona Diamondbacks and Atlanta Braves — by 20 points on Tuesday. They ranked first in hits (401) and slugging percentage .507), and second in runs scored (229) and home runs (79).

On the hill, to go along with its fourth-best 3.57 ERA, Houston was tied with the Milwaukee Brewers atop the league with 400 strikeouts. But it was all alone in opposing batting average, limiting teams to a mere .206 at the plate.

From a betting perspective, here’s where it can be dangerous. As the prices on the Astros begin to climb, it’s buyer beware with those bigger prices that can set you back a few days when they lose as favorite of -200 or higher. They’ve caught a plus-price just twice this season, losing in Oakland and at Minnesota.

Despite being 12 games above .500 heading into Tuesday’s game in Motown against the Detroit Tigers, a $100 bettor was up roughly $230 because of several big hits over their first 42 games. In that span, the Astros laid -200 or more 13 times. They were 9-4 in those games, which isn’t impressive considering what you lost in those four games.

The consolation with a team like the Astros is because you’re getting dominating performances from both the lineup and the pitching staff — which resulted in a +76-run differential — is you always have the option to play the run line, making things more cost effective. Their average price in the 15 losses was just less than -$1.65, and by reducing the cost of your ticket on the run line, you would have reduced the risk of a bigger loss in those games. Plus, of their 27 wins, only five were by one run.

We’ll get a better look at just how good the Astros are this weekend when they head to Fenway Park for a three-game set with the defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox, who have been playing well since plummeting to the bottom of the AL East month. The battle between baseball’s last two champions will provide value prices and could further define just how elite the Astros are this season.

Let’s look at some picks for the weekend:

Thursday

Mets at Nationals: I split a pair of totals I gave you last week, and will start this week with another, as I like the New York Mets and Washington Nationals to go Over in their matinee battle in D.C. The Mets hand the ball to Zack Wheeler and Washington will give the nod to Anibal Sanchez. I’m banking on this pitching matchup for the total to go high, as have the potential for early exits.

I know Wheeler has been good of late, going 3-1 with a 2.93 ERA and 49 strikeouts spanning 40 innings. But keep in mind of the three times he’s failed to deliver a quality start, twice it was against these same Nationals, who roughed him up for a combined 11 runs. And Sanchez has been Washington’s most disappointing starter, with an 0-6 mark and 5.27 ERA in his first season with the Nationals.

Not exactly what the team bargained for when they inked him to a two-year $19 million deal. Look for this one to run high. OVER

Rangers at Royals: I’ve got my eye on Kansas City when it hosts Texas, and I’m leaning on veteran right-hander Homer Bailey to outpitch Lance Lynn.

I know the Royals are one of the worst teams in the league and are dwelling in last place in the AL Central, but the Rangers have been horrendous on the road this season, and believe it or not, Lynn has struggled against Kansas City. He walked a career-high six batters against the Royals last July and is 2-2 with a 5.13 ERA in seven career starts against them.

Bailey, however, toes the slab after nabbing the 6-1 victory over Philadelphia last Friday, when he labored over five-plus innings and allowed just one run to earn his team-leading fourth victory. This is also the end of a nine-game, 10-day road trip, and the Rangers will be thinking about getting home more than they will this game. ROYALS

Friday

Orioles at Indians: This one might be pricey, so look at the Indians on the run line against Baltimore in the second game of this four-game set. And while I don’t care who pitches for the Orioles, I insist you get Jefry Rodriguez is pitching this game when making your wager. The 25-year-old right-hander who made his debut last June continues to pitch well, as he registered his third consecutive quality start his last time up, allowing just three runs on six hits over six innings against Oakland. He showed off his durability, tossing a career-high 101 pitches, and has yet to allow more than three earned runs in all four of his starts.

Baltimore ranks in the bottom third of the league with its paltry batting average and limited scoring, so I like Rodriguez (1-2) to even his record in what should be a rather easy assignment. INDIANS RUN LINE

Last week: 2-1

Season: 12-6

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About the Author

W.G. Ramirez

W.G. Ramirez is a 32-year veteran covering sports in Southern Nevada, and resident of 46 years. He is a freelance reporter in Las Vegas and the Southern Nevada correspondent for The Associated Press.

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