Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Houston Astros Preview and Pick – Chad Billingsley vs. Wandy Rodriguez

Los Angeles Dodgers (10-5) Chad Billingsley -125, 8.5 O/U at
Houston Astros (6-9) Wandy Rodriguez +115, 8.5 O/U, Minute Maid
Park, Houston, Texas, 8:05 PM EST, Thursday

by Badger of Predictem.com

The Houston Astros and left-hander Wandy Rodriguez will go for the
improbable sweep of the Los Angeles Dodgers on Thursday night in
Minute Maid Park, but in order to take the finale of their three-game
set they will have to beat one of the best young pitchers in the
National League when the face current Dodgers ace Chad Billingsley.

The Dodgers came into the series in Houston riding an eight-game winning
streak, but that has mattered very little as the Astros won the first two
games of the series. After winning the opener 8-5 on Tuesday night, the
Astros came from behind to take last nights game, 6-5. Dodgers rookie reliever
Ronald Belisario fell apart in the eighth inning, including a wild pitch
as he was trying to intentionally walk pinch-hitter Geoff Blum, and the
Astros won it on an RBI-single by catcher Ivan Rodriguez one hitter later.

Baseball oddsmakers currently list the Dodgers and Billingsley as
-125 favorites on the moneyline, with the Astros and Rodriguez as
+115 underdogs. The over/under total opened at 8.5 and is holding
firm at most offshore sportsbooks on the Internet.

Billingsley has been the rock at the top of the Dodgers rotation so
far this season, going 3-0 with a 2.84 ERA in his first three starts
of the season. Last time out he held Colorado to three runs on four
hits and three walks in six innings of work, which turned into a 9-5
victory for the Dodger blue. Hes also showing strong command, as he
has just a 0.95 WHIP and is holding opponents to a .243 on-base
percentage so far.

Rodriguez had a stellar outing in his last start, throwing seven
innings of two-hit, scoreless baseball in a 7-0 victory over
Cincinnati. For the season Rodriguez is 1-1 with a sterling 1.89 ERA,
a 1.00 WHIP and a .282 opponents on-base average.

But Rodriguez will have his hands full trying to cuff the Dodgers
lineup that is currently tops in all of the Major Leagues in several
offensive categories. The Dodgers are scoring 6.13 runs per game
(3rd) and sport a league-high .296 batting average and a league-high .
860 OPS.

Houston meanwhile has had some issues on offense prior to busting out
in the first two games of the series. As a whole the Astros are
scoring just 3.53 runs per game (29th) and are hitting just .263
collectively as a team (18th). But most of the big-name players in
the Houston lineup are having a red-hot series, including Carlos Lee
(4-for-8, 3 R, 2 RBI), Ivan Rodriguez (3-for-7, 3 R, RBI), Miguel
Tejada (3-for-9) and Lance Berkman (3-for-7, 2 R).

Both pitchers have had marginal success versus the other team in the
past. Billingsley is 2-2 with a 3.33 ERA, a .232 opponents batting
average and .306 on-base percentage over four career starts against
the Astros. Rodriguez meanwhile is 2-1 with a 3.65 ERA, a .226 OBA
and .311 on-base percentage in four career starts (five game) against
the Dodgers.

It should be interesting to watch how well Rodriguez handles the
Dodger lineup, because those career numbers above are a bit
deceiving. Several players in the Dodgers everyday lineup have had
strong success versus the lefty, led by catcher Russell Martin who is
hitting .400 with a double, homerun, two runs batted in and three
walks against Rodriguez. Rafael Furcal and Matt Kemp are also
hitting .400 against him (small sample, 2-for-5), and Orlando Hudson
has hit .333 with a triple off of Rodriguez in the past.

All three of Rodriguezs starts for the Astros have ended under the
total, but both games in the series so far have gone over the closing

The home field has been of little advantage when these two have
gotten together in the past too, as the Astros swept the series in
L.A. last season, while the Dodgers took three out of four in Houston
last year.

But the way this series has gone you can throw all of those trends
out the window as nobody would have predicted the Astros would have
shut down the red-hot Dodgers thus far.

One other aspect to watch for in this game is the relative health/
strength of the bullpens. Both pens have been used a lot of late
(Dodgers 22.2 IP last 3 games; Astros 32.1 IP last 3 games), and
Astros closer Jose Valverde is still listed as day-to-day after
taking a hard groundball off his leg in the first game of the series.
If one or both starters get knocked out of the game early, this game
could get ugly quickly.

Badgers Pick: On its face this game looks like it should be a good
pitchers duel, but everything about this series has been topsy-turvy
and unusual. So Im predicting a high-scoring slugfest, with the
Dodgers avoiding the sweep in the process. Take the over of 8.5.