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Tampa Bay Rays at Houston Astros

Over/Under: 7.5

First pitch: 6:07 p.m. PT


Probable pitchers: Blake Snell (6-8, 4.29 ERA) vs. Gerrit Cole (20-5, 2.50 ERA)

On one end of this pitching matchup is the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner. On the other end is someone who legitimately could be the reigning AL Cy Young going into next year.

Surely, you’d think that would lead me to surmise an under here, right? Not this time. Over it is.

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The clear thought on Snell right now is that he’s considerably off from last season’s form, the one that secured him baseball’s most valuable hardware for a pitcher.

In Snell’s defense, he was dealing with an elbow injury that cost him nearly two months of the campaign. But since coming back a few weeks ago, he hasn’t really resembled his usual self, and when facing an unforgiving Astros lineup, there might be no more difficult task than trying to survive this juggernaut offense without your best work.

The 26-year-old southpaw has also been severely limited post-injury, having not even pitched beyond the third inning in any of his three starts. Delving further into this, Snell hasn’t gone any sort of normal distance in a start since late-July.

So, we have someone that’s usually a clear staff ace seemingly vulnerable right now and way out of routine, which can be critical for a starting pitcher. On top of that, it comes opposite a team that he’s historically had trouble with.

Snell has made six career starts against the Astros, going 2-2 with an unpleasant 4.73 ERA and 1.48 WHIP. He was also tagged for eight homers in the 32.1 innings pitched while recording only 1.94 K/BB.

Furthermore, Houston’s insidious six of established core hitters — Alex Bregman, George Springer, Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, Michael Brantley and Yuli Gurriel — is 24-for-63 (.381) off Snell and accounted for six of those long balls. They’ve logged more walks (13) than strikeouts (11) as well, which has to be troubling for a strikeout artist. And it gets only more challenging when you throw AL Rookie of the Year frontrunner Yordan Alvarez into the mix as well.

As for Cole, look, it’s hard to find any weakness right now with the seven-year veteran. He wrapped up his campaign in thrilling fashion by not only getting to 20 wins on the season’s final day but also by setting a new major league record with his ninth consecutive game accumulating at least 10 K’s, the longest such streak ever. That punctuated his strikeouts crown, as Cole punched out a whopping 326 batters on the year to lead all of baseball.

The former Pittsburgh Pirate was simply untouchable in his last 22 starts, going 16-0 (!) with a 1.78 ERA. But if there’s one team that can get to Cole, maybe it’s the Rays. There were six instances in Cole’s 33 assignments this season in which the right-hander surrendered more than three runs — two of those came in both of his meetings with Tampa Bay.

With a much more pedestrian 3.72 ERA lifetime in the postseason (not to mention just two quality starts in five tries), perhaps that factors in as well. So long as those pesky Rays can scratch out a couple runs, we figure to be able to lean on the potent Astro bats for the rest.

I’m waiting up until first pitch to see if the total goes down to 7, and with there being no chance it goes in the other direction, you’d be wise to do the same before placing your action. Play: OVER 7/7.5

Yesterday’s Result: Nationals-Dodgers Under 7.5 (WIN)

2019 MLB Over/Under Betting Record*:

Regular Season: 89-78-12, +1.05 units

Playoffs: 4-0, +2 units

*Each bet graded as if it were to win 1 unit (playoffs 0.5 unit)

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