What a strange game last night. Things were looking good for the Mets, and also for my UNDER play until things got a little (lot) messy in the seventh inning. The headliner was Chase Utley’s old-school take-out slide that resulted in breaking up a double play (and Utley eventually being ruled safe after an overturned replay) and more importantly, Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada breaking his leg in gruesome fashion. You don’t see stretchers on baseball fields very often, and it clearly had an effect on the Mets. They allowed four runs in that inning as they piece-mealed together a bullpen full of extra starting pitchers and the series is now even at a game apiece.
Utley’s slide will be the talk of the town, but to me the bigger story is that this series would have been OVER had the Mets beaten the Dodgers in back-to-back games in Chavez Ravine with Kershaw and Greinke on the hill. Instead? Game on! This series is going to get REALLY interesting.
Let’s shift our focus back to the American League for a pivotal Game Three between the defending American League champs and the young, upstart Astros this afternoon in Houston.
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Today’s Free Pick:
Kansas City Royals vs. Houston Astros (Total: 6.5)
Edinson Volquez vs. Dallas Kuechel
This is exactly the situation the Astros hoped to find themselves in a week ago: still alive in the playoffs with Dallas Kuechel on the mound at home with a chance to take a commanding 2-1 series lead. Ok, maybe they would have rather finagled a scenario where they won the division and had Kuechel for Games 1 & 4 – but either way, today is about as good a look at advancing in the playoffs as the young Astros could have hoped for.
So will they capitalize today? Can they get Kuechel the run support he needs to handle his business?
Perhaps having to throw Kuechel in the wildcard game was a hidden blessing. Now, he pitches at home, and home has been pretty good to him. How good? Well, better than any pitcher in the modern era. He went 15-0 with a 1.46 ERA in Minute Maid Mark this season, the best home mark, eclipsing a guy named “Boo” in 1946. SO there is little reason to doubt Dallas today.
But is there any hope for Volquez to match zeros? He went a pedestrian 13-9 this season with an ERA in the mid-threes, 3.55, and got battered the last time he faced the Astros, allowing five runs and eight hits. His limited postseason history isn’t good either. He is 0-2 with a 12.15 ERA in two starts with Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. He should be able to muster a better performance this afternoon, but I have a hard time seeing him match Kuechel frame for frame.
This postseason, hell, this entire season, has been about starting pitching. It’s be pretty ambitious to go against one of the best home field pitchers of all time today just on a hunch or chasing fat lines. I don’t like to take heavy favorites in the column – it feels a little too easy. But with just one game to choose from, it’s no time to get cute. The Astros should win today, but to get a little more value I’ll split my pick up with the -1.5 runline at +115 along with the conservative -185 straight-up winner. That’ll get our averaged payout down to around -135 – a more reasonable value.