Kansas City Royals (+119) at Houston Astros (-129, 7.5 o/u)
Two American League division leaders headed in opposite directions will clash tonight when the streaking Kansas City Royals (44-28, 22-15 Away) visit the slumping Houston Astros (44-34, 25-16 Home) at Minute Maid Park (8:10 PM Eastern).
The Royals have won four in a row and five of the last six, including a sweep of the Oakland A’s over the weekend. Kansas City is now 5.5 games above the Minnesota Twins in the AL Central and has the second-best record in the majors (trailing only St. Louis).
The Royals will turn to righty Joe Blanton (2-0, 1.73) tonight. Blanton, who actually retired from baseball last season after being released by Oakland, will be making just his third start of the season. The 34-year-old has found new life in K.C., making seven relief appearances this season before being inserted into the starting rotation. Blanton has won both his starts to date, including a 4-1 win over Felix Hernandez and the Mariners last time out in which he threw six innings allowing just two hits and one run.
Houston remain on top of the AL West, four games clear of the Los Angeles Angels, but have dropped six of their last ten. Their 25-16 home record is second-best in the American League (only behind the Royals), but they only managed a split with the visiting Yankees in their most recent four-game set.
Houston took the finale, 3-1, last night thanks in large part to some sloppy fielding on the part of the Yanks. Super-rookie Carlos Correia went two for three in the win – upping his average to .314 – and scored two of the Astros’ three runs.
Tonight, the ‘Stros will turn to Lance McCullers (3-2, 2.33 ERA) to try to keep the hot Royals bats at bay. McCullers left with a no-decision in his last start (a 2-1 loss to the Angels) but deserved better, tossing six innings of four-hit, one-run ball.
In the trends, Houston has won the last three meetings against Kansas City (all played last season). Blanton has been a nice comeback story, but McCullers and the Astros at home look like the play.
Pick: Houston (-129).
(Photo credit: Keith Allison on Flickr (Originally posted to Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.)