Tampa Bay Rays (+172) at Houston Astros (-182, 7.5 o/u)
The Houston Astros (65-55, 41-20 Home), arguably the biggest surprise of the 2015 MLB season, currently sit 2.5 games ahead of the Los Angeles Angels in the battle for AL West. Tonight, the young ‘Stros will look to extend their lead when they close their three-game set with the Tampa Bay Rays (59-60, 28-29 Away) at Minute Maid Park (8:10 PM Eastern).
Since losing six of seven games earlier in the month, Houston has rebounded by winning four of six. They have split the first two games with the Rays, dropping a lopsided 9-2 decision on Monday before eking out a 3-2 win in extras last night. Super-rookie Carlos Correa knotted the game at twos with an RBI double in the eighth inning before Marwin Gonzalez hit a walk-off tater in the tenth.
Houston will look to carry that momentum into tonight’s game as they send ace Dallas Keuchel (14-6, 2.36 ERA) to the hill. Keuchel had eight Ks and allowed just one run on six hits in his last start, a 5-1 win over the Tigers last Friday.
Keuchel, who’s been fine-tuning his approach oif late, felt like everything was finally coming together against the Tigers.
“I’ve been working on a breaking pitch backdoor,” Keuchel said to the Associated Press. “That’s what I’ve been doing the last couple outings with some walks and some hard-luck hits. I just wanted to attack the zone [Friday].”
Tonight, Keuchel will be facing a Rays team that sits 7.5 games back of the Yankees in the AL East. The Rays, who were predicted to struggle this season, surprised a lot of folks early by challenging for the division lead in the first few months of the season. But the inexperienced team has come back to Earth of late, including losing four of the last five and getting swept by the Rangers in Texas on the weekend.
Tampa will send righty Nathan Karns (7-5, 3.53 ERA) to the mound tonight. Unlike the rest of his team, Karns has actually been better in his most recent starts. He’s 3-0 over his last five starts and has fanned 19 over his last 15 innings. This will be his first start against Houston.
Houston is a big favorite tonight, but for good reason. They have a more talented roster, on the whole; they’re playing at home; and they have their ace on the mound. The value isn’t great, but take Houston to win.
Pick: Houston (-182).
(Photo credit: EricEnfermero (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo has been cropped.)