Hapless Astros Look To Avoid Being Swept Against Rangers – Betting Preview

Texas Rangers (43-38) AT Houston Astros (28-53)
June 30, 2011 at 8:05 PM EST
Opening Line:  TEX -140, HOU +120
Current Line:  TEX -114, HOU -105
Opening Total: 8
Current Total: 7.5

SP:  TEX- Matt Harrison; HOU- Wandy Rodriguez

Wandy Rodriguez will look to get back on track after a rough outing last time

To say that the Rangers have had the Astros number might just be an understatement.  Tonight they seek their third consecutive sweep against the hapless Astros who sit a unhealthy 25 games below .500 and they currently own the MLB’s worst record.

Last night, the Rangers eeked out a 3-2 win, spurred on by Ian Kinsler’s two solo home runs, while starting pitcher Colby Lewis threw six scoreless innings, but gave up two in the seventh.  Still, he was able to get the win.

“Colby was great tonight,” Rangers manager Ron Washington remarked. “He just got into that seventh inning and two pitches made me have to make a decision to get him out of that ballgame. But up until that point he was just outstanding, had everything working.”

How bad have things been for the Astros?  They’ve been outscored 46 to 21 in their last 8 games against the Rangers and it probably won’t get any easier tonight against Matt Harrison, who is 6-6 on the season with a 3.00 ERA.  In his three career interleague starts Harrison has gone 2-0 and only given up 2 earned runs over 21 2/3rds innings.  In Friday’s victory over the Mets, Harrison gave up only 1 run over 7 innings in another quality start.

Harrison, a 6’4″ lefty, is only 25 years old and still has yet to realize his full potential according to many scouts.  Last season he entered the rotation but built up a 5.29 ERA en route to being demoted back to the bullpen.  Following his demotion, he lost confidence and began to vary his pitches less, which made him more predictable to batters.

Baseball Prospectus says that he has a “realistic projection” of a “middle reliever” rather than a middle of the rotation starter.  His PECOTA projection for the year calls for a 6-7 record with a 5.63 ERA.  Obviously, thus far, he has blown that out of the water and played well above expectations.

“He’s focused. Whatever trouble he created tonight, he was able to pitch around,” Ron Washington said of Harrison.

Against the Astros on the road, Harrison has pitched three games, only one of which was a start, and he has compiled a 3.38 ERA over those appearances.

Wandy Rodriguez takes the mound for the Astros tonight.  He’s 5-4 on the year with a 3.21 ERA and has been hot recently before losing his first decision in over two months.  In his last 7 starts he is 4-0 with a stunning 1.31 ERA.  He’s battled elbow issues but appears to be healthy now.  He struggled badly against the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday, giving up 5 runs in 6 innings, including back to back shots by Evan Longoria and B.J. Upton.

The slight of frame 5’11” 160 pound Rodriguez has been defying expectations on an annual basis based on the fact that he’s so small, much like Pedro Martinez was.  I’m not saying he is Pedro’s equivalent, not at all, but he is reminiscent of the former Cy Young winner.  He features an 89 mph fastball, but his money pitch is his curveball that is framed so well by the control he has over his fastball.  After fixing his changeup last season, he posted a 2.03 ERA in his final 18 starts.  This year he is projected by Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA projections for a 12-9 record with a 3.97 ERA in 181 Innings Pitched.

In his last 7 innings against the Rangers, Wandy has given up 12 runs while Ian Kinsler has hit three home runs and 5 RBIs just in this series.  Life time against Rodriguez, Kinsler is 9 of 13 with 2 of the 9 hits having been home runs.  Kinsler has battled injuries his entire career and had only 460 plate apperances last season, while hitting .359 with a .633 slugging percentage, playing in only 103 games, however.  He’s obviously an all-star level player, but staying healthy is a must for Kinsler and the Rangers.

Some betting trends:

The Texas Rangers are 4-1 SU in their last 5 games on the road and the total has gone UNDER In 4 of their last 6 on the road.  The Rangers are 6-1 SU in their last 7 games against the Houston Astros while the Rangers are 5-0 SU in their last 5 road games in Houston.

The Houston Astros are 0-5 SU in their last 5 games and the total has gone OVER in 5 of their last 7 at home.  The Astros are 0-5 SU in their last 5 home games and they are 1-6 SU In their last 7 against the Texas Rangers.  The Astros are 0-5 SU in their last 5 home games against the Rangers.

It’s interesting to note that the Rangers were favorites when betting opened, but since the line has shifted to nearly even odds, likely as a result of some sharp betting.  While the Astros have been pitiful, I like what veteran Wandy Rodriguez brings to the table and if he can avoid the issues he had in his last start, namely being too predictable with his pitches, he should be able to control the Rangers.  He’ll have to be careful with Ian Kinsler, though, as he alone can cause enough damage for Rodriguez to pick up a loss.

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