The Houston Astros and Texas Rangers will do it all over again on Friday. This time it’s Justin Verlander’s turn to get a start in the rotation. Gerrit Cole put together another impressive start on Thursday, as the Astros churned out a second win in a row. Cole got a bit wild in the first inning, but he settled in and got out of trouble without surrendering much damage. Cole allowed a run and was solid from there on out.
The Astro offense took it from there, as Hamels was touched up for 4 runs. With their pitching, the Astros can go toe-to-toe with the Yankees and Red Sox in the postseason if need be. The Red Sox and Yankees are better teams than last season, but the Houston pitching has been even better than a year ago. The addition of Gerrit Cole is a big reason for that. This is first year as an Astro after five years in Pittsburgh.
With the win last night, the Astros advanced to 39-25. It washed away a bad taste in their mouths after losing three in a row. The Rangers fell to eleven games under .500 at 27-38. Verlander will meet his former teammate on Friday, as Doug Fister will go for the Rangers. Verlander and Fister were on the same ball club in Detroit.
They had a good team, notably that rotation, which also featured Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello. One of these guys is still performing at an elite level, and the other has tailed off since then. Verlander is playing some of the best baseball of his career, while Fister has battled injuries and inconsistent play. They will square off tonight in Arlington. Head below for our free Astros vs. Rangers pick.
Houston Astros vs. Texas Rangers Pick
Justin Verlander (7-2, 1.24 ERA) vs. Doug Fister (1-6, 4.13 ERA)
Verlander is on his way to another Cy Young, there is no denying that. His stats certainly back it up, as he’s been burning a hole through opposing hitters. Even after all of the accomplishments he’s had, Verlander is on pace to have his best year yet. He enters with a miniscule ERA of 1.24 on the season. Verlander is following up from where he left off in 2017.
He posted an ERA of 1.06 in his limited time with the Astros in 2017. In any case, his impact was felt tremendously, as he was the final piece to a World Series for the Astros. He has been unhittable on the road, with a 0.44 ERA and 0.81 WHIP across 40.2 innings of work. JV hasn’t allowed more than a run on the road in any start.
After failing to figure out Gerrit Cole a night ago, the Rangers have an even bigger task on hand Friday. Verlander has faced these hitters plenty. In 290 at-bats, they’re hitting .210 against him. Fister will look to outduel Verlander on Friday. He’s been okay at best, but his real enemy has been a lack of run support and a bullpen to help out.
Fister is just 1-6 thanks to blown saves and no offense. Don’t expect a perfect record with an ERA of 4.13, but some help would be appreciated. He hasn’t been okay lately, though, Fister has been pretty bad with an ERA of 6.06 in his last three starts. He has had trouble pitching at home, as he comes in on Friday with a 6.39 ERA and 1.70 WHIP. No one to blame but himself in those cases. Despite this being a heavily juiced line in favour of the Astros, I thought this would be bigger than the current price of -210 to -220. Fister will likely not be able to keep up with Verlander in this one. The Astros look locked in after hitting a mini-funk. I’d just take the -1.5 and watch Verlander work his magic again on Friday.