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NEW YORK YANKEES (39-33) at HOUSTON ASTROS (42-32)
The Houston Astros begin a seven-game homestand when the New York Yankees come into town for the first of four contests on Thursday night.
The Yankees have been right around the top of the AL East all season long and are a mere one game behind Tampa Bay in the division after losing three of their past four games. The pitching was putrid during that stretch, giving up an average of nine runs per game and allowed the opposition to put double-digits in the run column during all three defeats. They looked to be getting a break with the Phillies coming to town at the beginning of the week, but New York took a beating the first two games, being outscored 22-14, while they managed to not get swept with a 10-2 victory on Wednesday afternoon. The return of starter Ivan Nova (6.2 IP, 0 ER, 3 H, 1 K) gave the team a much needed boost and the offense rewarded him with 15 hits, two of which came off the bat of 3B Alex Rodriguez (.290) who is riding an eight-game hitting streak in which he is 13-for-28 (.464) with three homers and 12 RBI. The Astros have been one of the better surprises in 2015 as they have been able to rebound from a string of horrid seasons with a start that has them four games ahead of the Rangers in the AL West. They have spent the last eight contests on the road and split the games (4-4) while managing to outscore opponents 44-30. Most recently they took on a talented Angels team in Los Angeles and were unable to get the series win after splitting the first two games; losing the rubber-match in heartbreaking fashion after 13 innings with a 2-1 score. SS Carlos Correa (.300) has come as advertised at the age of 20-years-old and over the past 10 games is 15-for-45 (.333) with two long balls and eight RBI. Grabbing the start for the visiting Yanks will be RHP Adam Warren (5-4, 3.62 ERA) as he looks to outpitch LHP Dallas Keuchel (8-3, 2.35 ERA) of the host team. New York will look to push its road record to .500 with a win here as they are 18-19 away from home thus far and will be going against an Astros group which is 23-14 in front of their fans. The Yankees hold a slight 7-5 record overall in this series since the 2013 campaign and are 4-2 when on the road during that stretch. Trends to watch include that New York is 32-23 (.582) in road games against left-handed starters in the past three seasons while the Astros are 27-17 (.614) when Keuchel is on the mound in the last two years. OFs Jacoby Ellsbury (Knee), Mason Williams (Shoulder) and Slade Heathcott (Quad) are on the DL for the Yankees as Houston is without OF Jake Marisnick (Hamstring) and SS Jed Lowrie (Thumb) while they recover on the DL.
Warren may be making the move back to the pen, where he was solid last year with a 2.97 ERA and 8.7 K/9, after this road trip, but while in the rotation he has been effective for New York. In his 13 starts he has seen his strikeout rate drop (5.8 K/9), but is showing some decent control (2.9 BB/9) and has benefitted from batters hitting a mere .264 BABIP against him. The Yanks have won with Warren taking the mound in four of his last five starts and the righty has been extremely consistent with three runs or fewer allowed in each of his last eight outings. He pitched a gem (8 IP, 2 ER, 7 H, 7 K) in his last time out against the Tigers and did well (5 IP, 0 ER, 2 H, 4 K) in his one opportunity meeting with the Astros in 2013. Warren has not had the chance to face many of the hitters in this lineup with so many youngsters joining the club, but he will be happy that SS Jed Lowrie is out as he is 3-for-6 with a double and an RBI in the matchup while 2B Jose Altuve and 1B Chris Carter are a combined 0-for-6 against the 27-year-old. The bullpen for New York has gone 11-8 with a 3.58 ERA (1.21 WHIP) and are 23-for-27 (85percent) in save opportunities. Dellin Betances (1.25 ERA, 4 saves) has been phenomenal with 14 hits allowed and 59 strikeouts in 36 frames, but is coming off a very tough appearance in which he gave up four runs over an inning; taking his first career loss.
Keuchel has been the rock for this Houston rotation as he builds on a breakout 2014 season with another solid campaign, this time with a winning ball club. He is mowing down 7.0 batters per nine innings while showing continued control (2.5 BB/9) and has been able to keep the ball in the yard with seven homers allowed over his 107.1 frames (0.59 HR/9). One thing that has aided him greatly in his success is batters hitting a meager .229 against him and that has put his FIP (Fielder Independent Pitching) at 3.25, still a solid mark, but shows that he could regress slightly. The Mariners gave him issues in his last start, knocking three home runs out of the park as he took a loss after going six innings with five runs allowed on five hits. He will also hope to do well against the Yankees once again and he has faced them only once, but did great with three runs allowed on seven hits over eight innings in a losing effort. OF Chris Young (4-for-13, 2 doubles, 1 triple, 2 RBI) has had success against Keuchel while the trio of OF Carlos Beltran, 3B Chase Headley and 1B Garrett Jones each have a home run and at least two RBI in limited at-bats. On the other hand, leadoff hitter, OF Brett Gardner, is 0-for-4 in the matchup. The relievers for Houston have been stellar, combining to go 15-11 with a 2.61 ERA (0.95 WHIP) and are 23-for-30 (77percent) in save chances. Luke Gregerson (3.68 ERA, 17 saves) has blown just two saves on the year and has a 9:0 K/BB ratio over his last eight appearances (7.2 IP).
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MLB: Giants, Pads and Braves eye two playoff spots
With their sweep of the Arizona D-Backs, the San Francisco Giants now have a three game lead in the NL West on the San Diego Padres. Coincidentally enough, the Giants host the Pads for a three game series starting tonight. Sportsbook.com currently has the Giants as -155 favorites to win tonight.
The Giants need to win just one game to clinch the division. San Diego dropped three-of-four to the Cubs to find itself in this precarious position. The Padres are two games back of Atlanta for the Wild Card. The Braves close out the year with a three-game series against NL East leading Philadelphia Phillies at Turner Field.
Itís been seven years since the Giants have won the NL West and they hope to clinch Friday night when they send Matt Cain (13-10, 2.95 ERA) to the mound against Clayton Richard (13-9, 3.71 ERA). Cain has been phenomenal lately with a 2-0 record and a 0.82 ERA over his past three starts. Itís been the complete opposite for Richard, who is just 1-2 with a 7.41 ERA over his last three outings. No wonder 73% of Sportsbook.comís bettors are on the Giants tonight.
The Padres have gotten the better of San Francisco so far this season, going 10-5 against the Giants including a 5-1 mark at AT&T Park. These teams usually combine for low-scoring affairs as the under has cashed in 10 of their meetings so far this year. Tim Stauffer (5-5, 1.89 ERA) gets the call for the Padres on Saturday against Barry Zito (9-13, 4.08 ERA), while Mat Latos (14-9, 2.82 ERA) and Jonathan Sanchez (12-9, 3.15 ERA) are scheduled to close out the year on Sunday.
The following baseball betting trends support a Giants NL West clinch tonight:
SAN FRANCISCO is 44-24 (+16.3 Units) against the money line vs. teams whose hitters strike out 7 or more times/game in the second half of the season this season. The average score was SAN FRANCISCO 4.7, OPPONENT 3.3 - (Rating = 2*).
SAN FRANCISCO is 28-9 (+15.6 Units) against the money line in home games vs. a good bullpen that converts on 75%+ of its save opportunities over the last 2 seasons. The average score was SAN FRANCISCO 5.0, OPPONENT 3.1 - (Rating = 2*) .
SAN FRANCISCO is 50-30 (+17.7 Units) against the money line vs. teams averaging 2.75 or less extra base hits per game in the second half of the season this season. The average score was SAN FRANCISCO 4.4, OPPONENT 3.4 - (Rating = 2*) .
Meanwhile, over in the East, the Braves look to shore up the Wild Card with Brandon Beachy (0-1, 2.89 ERA) on the mound Friday night. Heíll be opposed by Kyle Kendrick (10-10, 4.76 ERA) for Philadelphia. The Braves have a two-game lead on the Padres and Atlantaís magic number to clinch the Wild Card is two. Sportsbook.com has the Braves at -155 chalk.
Philadelphia has already locked up home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Atlanta enters the series after sweeping the Marlins in a three-game set. Philadelphia comes in after taking two-of-three from the Nationals. The Phillies lead the season series over the Braves 8-7. Atlanta has won four of the six games played at Turner Field this year. Saturdayís probable starters are Cole Hamels (12-11, 3.09 ERA) and Tommy Hanson (10-11, 3.41 ERA). Vance Worley (1-1, 2.25 ERA) and Tim Hudson (16-9, 2.76 ERA) are scheduled to go on Sunday.
Considering that Philly has little to play for in addition to the following MLB betting trends, Sportsbook.com is expecting bettors to back the Braves all weekend long.
ATLANTA is 54-23 (+17.9 Units) against the money line in home games vs. teams averaging 2.75 or less extra base hits per game this season. The average score was ATLANTA 4.8, OPPONENT 3.5 - (Rating = 2*).
ATLANTA is 14-3 (+9.8 Units) against the money line in home games when playing against a good team (Win Pct. 54% to 62%) this season. The average score was ATLANTA 4.9, OPPONENT 2.9 - (Rating = 1*) .
ATLANTA is 56-24 (+18.1 Units) against the money line in home games this season. The average score was ATLANTA 4.8, OPPONENT 3.4 - (Rating = 2*).
MLB: Handicapping deck stacked against Boston?
The Red Sox and Rays are both nipping at the heels of the A.L. East-leading Yankees, each within 2-games of the top spot. Boston currently leads the wildcard race by a half-game. It goes without saying that the teams will open a meaningful series on Monday night at 7:10 PM ET in Tampa. The Rays are -140 favorites according to Sportsbook.com but that could end up being much higher when bettors get their hands on some powerful systems and trends backing the hosts.
One of the first things I like to consider is the status of the bullpens. We all know that betting lines are predicated first and foremost on starting pitching. It is for that reason that line value can be pulled from less obvious factors. Note that despite the 5-2 record in their last seven games, the Red Sox bullpen has been awful during the stretch, with an ERA of 8.15. At the same time, the Rays are only 4-3 in their L7 games, but their relief staff has been stellar, with a 0.962 WHIP during the stretch. That difference sets up for a very strong system for tonight:
ē Play Against - Road underdogs with a money line of +100 to +150 (BOSTON) - with a struggling bullpen whose ERA is over 7.00 the last 10 games against opponent with a hot bullpen whose WHIP is under 1.200 the last 10 games. (69-27 over the last 5 seasons.) (71.9%, +34.2 units. Rating = 3*)
The other thing that stands out to me is the drastic differential in home/road dichotomy between these teams. In fact, there are two angles so powerful on each side of the coin that there seems to be only one way to bet tonightís game. Take a look.
ē BOSTON was 3-17 (-15.2 Units) against the money line in road games when playing against a team with a winning record in the second half of last season. The average score was BOSTON 3.0, OPPONENT 5.2 - (Rating = 3*)
ē TAMPA BAY is 46-20 (+22.5 Units) against the money line in home games vs. teams outscoring opp by 0.5 or more runs/game on the season over the last 3 seasons. The average score was TAMPA BAY 5.2, OPPONENT 3.8 - (Rating = 1*)
That first angle is actually quite shocking. With Boston having played its 82nd game yesterday, we are now officially into the second half of the season. Unless something changes in 2010, this angle could have a profound effect on Bostonís playoff chances. The Sox face potentially 11 different seriesí the rest of the way against winning teams on the road, including two each at both Tampa and New York.
Tampa Bay is convinced the recent swoon is finally behind them. The Rays, who struggled for more than a month after racing to a 32-12 start, enters this seven-game homestand on an upswing after taking three of four from Minnesota, capped by Sunday's 7-4 victory.
Boston, which begins a six-game road swing with this contest, was denied a sweep of last-place Baltimore on Sunday with a 6-1 defeat.
Bostonís Daisuke Matsuzaka (5-3, 4.50 ERA) gets his second crack at Matt Garza (9-5, 4.08) and the Rays in five days. The right-hander has struggled with his control since coming off the disabled list due to a strained forearm, walking eight in 11 innings over two starts.
He lasted six innings versus Garza on Wednesday, giving up three runs and four hits with four walks in a 9-4 defeat. Matsuzaka is 2-5 with a 4.10 ERA in 10 starts against the Rays, but did get a victory in his most recent outing at Tampa Bay in 2008.
Garza appears to be finding his groove as he tries to become Tampa Bay's second 10-game winner along with David Price. He yielded three runs in seven-plus innings against the Red Sox for his fourth win in five starts.
The right-hander is 2-1 in three starts versus Boston this season, with the loss coming at home May 26. Garza is 7-3 with a 3.40 ERA in 15 career starts against the Red Sox.
The StatFox Power Line indicates that the Rays are slightly overpriced, indicating that they should be a favorite of only -124.