Tampa Bay Rays vs. Houston Astros Pick 10/4/19
Tampa Bay Rays (97-66) vs. Houston Astros (107-55)
When: 2:05 p.m., Friday, October 4
Where: Minute Maid Park, Houston
Moneyline: TB +190/HOU -220
Runline: Rays +1.5/Astros -1.5
Ultimate DartIf a team makes the playoffs, and there’s nobody around in their home market to watch them…they apparently get crazy with their strategy. The Rays, despite winning 97 games, are barely a blip on the radar in Tampa Bay, which has allowed Kevin Cash to do whatever he wants strategy-wise because there’s nobody paying attention to second-guess him. With that in mind, the Rays have thrown all caution to the wind and decided to go with an opener strategy in the playoffs, opting for Tyler Glasnow to start the series opener. The Rays do the opener strategy better than anyone else, but it remains to be seen if this is going to work in the postseason. Usually, the opener works best against a team that hasn’t seen the pitchers before and has to come up with a strategy on the fly. The problem is twofold: Glasnow isn’t a traditional opener (there’s a misnomer), and the Astros have seen him before. Houston came up against Glasnow back in March, and he was dominant in that game, scattering six hits and only giving up a run on a solo homer. But the second time around is tough for an opener to pull off, and there’s no guarantee that Glasnow can go longer than four innings in this game, even if Cash thinks he can get six out of his pitcher.
Three of a KindWinning the division has its advantages. The biggest edge is that the Astros didn’t have to burn through one of their pitchers and have Justin Verlander on the mound for the start of the Division Series. Verlander’s the man the Astros want on the hill in this situation, in part because he’s been the team’s ace throughout the year and in part because Tampa Bay hasn’t come close to figuring him out this year. In 12.1 innings pitched against the Rays, Verlander has given up just seven hits and one run, a solo home run in a 5-1 win on March 28. He’s also picked up two wins in the process, and he enters this game having won six of his past seven starts and never giving up more than six hits in any of them. In short, he’s about the last guy Tampa Bay wants to face. However, if the Rays can’t beat him once, then they’ll have to go 3-0 against Gerrit Cole and Zack Greinke to advance — also not an appealing prospect.
The HistoricalsThe Rays might be the one team in the American League that doesn’t have a reason to fear the Astros. For the season, Tampa Bay beat Houston 4-3, taking advantage of getting to play one extra game at home. The Rays won three of four in St. Petersburg, only losing to Verlander in the season opener. However, the Rays did lose two of three in Houston — losing to both Verlander and Cole.
- The Rays are 6-0 in Glasnow’s past six road starts.
- The Rays are 1-6 in their past seven ALDS playoff games.
- The Astros have dropped their past four playoff starts.
- The Astros are 4-1 in Verlander’s past five home starts.
- The under is 5-1 in the Rays’ past six games.
- The over is 5-1 in the Astros’ past six playoff games.
Weather ReportWith temperatures pushing 92 degrees, this game is almost certainly going to be played under the retractable roof. In fact, there’s a good chance that every game in this series is played indoors, as the Astros are still dealing with Texas heat, and the Rays’ roof is permanently in place.
Dan’s pickWith such a high price on the Astros, I really don’t want to take them here, but how can I trust a pitcher who has barely thrown since May against the likes of Justin Verlander? I just can’t do it, and the Astros aren’t enticing as a straight-up bet. So the choice here is to gamble on Verlander continuing to freeze Tampa Bay’s bats and the Astros getting their offense going, as happened in the teams’ first two meetings with Verlander on the hill. The only way to get value on that is to take the Astros on the run line, so that’s exactly what I’ll recommend here.
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