With most of the expected contenders jumping out to strong starts in the season’s beginning, one team collected most of the attention for its unforeseen success. The Houston Astros took advantage of a slow start from Los Angeles and a disaster in Seattle to jump out to a commanding lead in the AL West. As the ‘Stros bobbed at the top of the division, the attention shifted to the New York Mets and their amazing run through the summer but eyes have returned for the photo finish ensuing out West.
The major surprise is what team has emerged as Houston’s running mate. Nearly everyone expected the Angels to push Houston for the West crown but Los Angeles hasn’t sustained a run. Seattle’s prolonged disaster and Oakland’s brutally tough luck season leaves just one, last year’s worst team. And with two weeks left in the regular season the Texas Rangers are that team vying for a division title.
In fact, Texas now holds the top spot in the West with back-to-back wins over Houston in Arlington. With one chance to salvage a win in the series and regain its familiar territory, Houston hands the ball to its ace Dallas Keuchel.
Keuchel’s spot in the rotation is a welcome site for Houston fans, who have yet to see their pitching shut down the Rangers’ offense in this series. Keuchel hasn’t waivered much from his impossibly hot start and still holds onto a low-2 ERA and a WHIP of 1.00. His chances to finally shutdown a hot Texas lineup has the ‘Stros slated as -135 road favorites. And I can’t find much reason to disagree with such an assessment.
The kicker in this one is Texas’ Martin Perez. An often forgotten, yet integral part of Texas’ World Series runs in 2011 and 2012, Perez missed just about all of last season with Tommy John surgery. He’s recently returned to make 10 starts this year that have garnered mixed results. His overall numbers aren’t good: a 1.50 WHIP with an ERA well over 5.00. But he got absolutely bombed in late-July against the Yankees (who scored 21 that day). Other than that, he’s only given up more than three runs in one other start – his last time out in Seattle. He hasn’t gone very deep into games but that’s not my biggest concern here. The question is whether he can give Texas one of those other 8/10 starts where he allows three or less. In a playoff-like spot against a guy he knows won’t give his offense much to work with, there’s a lot to like about Perez here. And it certainly makes the under the attractive play in this one.
Free Pick: Under 8.5 -105
YTD: 25-18-4 +2.54
2014: 45-28-3 +9.02