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The Houston Astros emerged from the trading deadline as the biggest winners with their acquisition of starting pitcher Zack Greinke. So much so that the ‘Stros are now odds on 5-8 favorites (-160) to win the American League pennant. The New York Yankees are next at +275 with no other team less than 7-1. Houston has also surpassed the Los Angeles Dodgers as favorites to win the World Series with odds of 2-1.

The Dodgers are the second choice at 5-2 and the Yanks are 6-1. Those odds are from the Westgate SuperBook which also has a traditional head-to-head prop of the American League -150, the National League +130 to win the World Series.

Two seasons ago, Houston acquired Justin Verlander in an August waiver trade, a practice that was eliminated this season. After winning the 2017 World Series they added Gerrit Cole in an offseason trade. The trio of Cole, Greinke and Verlander may the best starting trio in baseball and the Astros are on pace to a third straight season of more than 100 wins.

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Between 2011 and 2014 Houston was the worst team in MLB, winning between 51 and 70 games each season. Shrewd scouting and drafting, akin to “The Process” employed by the Philadelphia 76ers in the NBA, has resulted in Houston being one of baseball’s strongest franchises.

Most of the attention in New York has been paid to the Yankees who are on a pace to win 106 games and are now running away with the AL East with a nine-game lead over Tampa Bay and defending champion Boston 14 games out. Yet some attention should be paid to the crosstown rival Mets. Ten games under .500 at the All-Star break, Flushing’s Finest have gone 17-6 since to stand 57-56 through Monday, just 2.5 games out of the second NL Wild Card berth.

Two developments are worth noting in the dramatic change in the Mets’ fortunes. The first occurred in June when pitching coach Dave Eiland was fired and replaced with 82-year-old Phil Regan. Nicknamed “The Vulture” in his playing career, Regan has had a significant impact on the Mets. Since the All-Star break, Mets starters have a solid 3.16 ERA and 1.20 WHIP.

The second development relates to the quality of competition the Mets have faced and defeated during their run. Most of the teams are losing teams such as Miami, Pittsburgh, San Diego and the White Sox. But after beginning post-All-Star play by taking two of three games in Miami, the Mets played a two-game road series at Minnesota. The Twins were 58-34 at the time and the Mets swept that series 3-2 and 14-4.

Those wins might be looked back upon as the series that turned the Mets’ season around. It’s true that the Mets followed that series by dropping three of four in San Francisco but it’s worth noting that all three of those losses were competitive one-run losses, each in extra innings.

Working against the Mets in their quest to make the postseason is the schedule gets much tougher, beginning with this weekend’s series against Washington. Working in their favor is that 31 of their final 49 games are at home where the Mets are now 30-20 for the season.

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Here are thoughts on two key series this weekend:

Nationals at Mets: This series should impact the Wild Card chances of both teams. After Monday’s action the Nats were tied with Philadelphia for the two NL Wild Cards with the red-hot Mets just 2.5 games behind.

Both teams have a solid trio at the top of their rotations with the Mets’ Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndrgaard and Zack Wheeler pitching just as well as the Nats’ Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin. Scherzer, on the IL for the second time in a month, is expected back for this series.

In matchups involving two of the six listed hurlers the preferred plays will be on both the under and the underdog with totals of 7.5 or higher acceptable for under plays.

Indians at Twins: This four-game series begins Thursday and provides Cleveland a chance to narrow their gap behind the Twins in the AL Central. Minnesota started play Tuesday with a four- game lead over the Tribe.

Minnesota’s strength has been its offense but the Twins’ pitching has been more than adequate. Cleveland’s strength has been pitching, both from the starters and the bullpen.

Cleveland’s offense leaves much to be desired but was addressed by their trade of pitcher Trevor Bauer to Cincinnati for OF Yasiel Puig.

The season series has been fairly even with the Twins winning five of nine meetings. The series has been low scoring. Six of the nine games have stayed under with three going over the total as the teams have averaged just 8.0 total runs per game.

The preferred plays will be to back Minnesota’s Jose Berrios if laying -140 or less against other than Shane Bieber or Mike Clevinger, each of whom may be backed as underdogs or favorites of -120 or less against other than Berrios. If Berrios faces either of those two Indians starters, under 8.5 or higher is the play.

About the Author

Andy Iskoe

Owner and author of “The Logical Approach,” Andy Iskoe has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football.

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