The Houston Astros are counting down the days until they play their first postseason game. Meanwhile, the Baltimore Orioles are counting down the days until they can clean out their locker and go on vacation. Armed with the American League West title, the Astros will be going into the postseason as one of the favorites in the American League. It’s hard to ignore the Red Sox with their healthy record, but don’t discount the defending World Series Champions.
The Astros haven’t been getting much respect in comparison with the Red Sox, though much of their team from last season is still intact. However, while the Astros were able to keep their core, the Red Sox and Yankees got better in the offseason, so we’ll see if it’s going to be enough for those two clubs. The Yanks will not get a free pass to the ALDS.
Instead, they’re going to have to make it past the Athletics first. Not exactly how they envisioned things going when they signed Giancarlo Stanton, but they can still make noise deep into the postseason. The offense has been getting hot at the right time.
Whether the pitching can as well is a different story. J.A. Happ may have punched his ticket as the starter in the Wild Card Game with a good outing last night against the Red Sox. He made a mistake against Steve Pearce, who emptied the bases with a grand slam. But, I think management is going to be happy with how he handled the most feared lineup in baseball.
Justin Verlander will get the nod for the Astros against the Orioles in this one on Saturday. He has been looking sharp recently and hopes to round out the regular season with another stellar performance. It would be a good sign if the Astros get two nice outings from Verlander and Keuchel today. Keuchel will take the bump for Game 2 of a doubleheader. Dylan Bundy will counter in Game 1 against Verlander. Head below for our free Astros vs. Orioles pick.
Houston Astros vs. Baltimore Orioles Pick
Justin Verlander (16-9, 2.60 ERA) vs. Dylan Bundy (8-16, 5.49 ERA)
To counter the lineup the Red Sox and Yankees have, the Astros are going to have to rely on their pitching. That includes everyone in their pitching staff. That’s what it takes to win championships, as we found out last season with the Astros. But when you take a look at the Red Sox and Yankees lineups, it’s not going to be as easy as it was last year.
Verlander is flying into the postseason with an impressive ERA of 1.35 and 0.60 WHIP in his previous three outings. He hasn’t allowed more than 3 runs since August 19th. Verlander is coming off a sharp showing against the Angels, allowing just 1 hit and no runs across 6 innings.
The Astros don’t have as much of an impressive lineup as the Red Sox or Yankees, but they have clutch hitters scattered throughout. In the postseason that goes a lot further often. The Astros will take on Dylan Bundy, who they own a .269 batting average and .356 OBP against. .269 isn’t bad against the ‘Stros, but he has to settle down and hit his spots, because a .356 OBP vs Houston can turn into a disaster.
Bundy just got shelled for 5 hits and 4 runs in 3 innings against the Red Sox. In four of his last ten starts, he’s surrendered at least 6 runs. In his last seven starts, Bundy has gotten smashed for an ERA of 7.41 and 1.71 WHIP. The Astros’ offense fell asleep last night, but I expect them to show up and back Verlander. They do not want to go into the postseason with cold bats and I don’t think they are in Game 1 against the O’s.