Our red-hot start to the summer continued last night as we picked up another win, to run our record to 4-1 on the week, and 11-5, in the last two weeks. We have been making this run mostly by backing underdogs, but last night we found a spot where we could back what I saw as the much more talented team, the Atlanta Braves, laying just -115. So, I did something I would have never done in the past, and that is bet against Madison Bumgarner at home, and took the Braves as small road favorites.
In my pick, I highlighted Braves rookie sensation Austin Riley, as the twenty-two-year-old phenom has been ripping the cover off the ball in his short stint in the big leagues, and I suspected that his hot streak would continue last night. And boy did it! Not only did Riley rack up three hits, including his fifth homer in just his ninth big league game, he also singled in the winning run in the top of the thirteenth inning to give the Braves the lead for good.
The Braves have the most, young talent, in the majors, and it seems like they have a never-ending supply of twenty-something guys waiting to get their shot in the show. With Riley’ emergence as a real major league ready player, there are talks of swapping former MVP third basemen Josh Donaldson, for some much-needed bullpen depth. You hate to lose a bat and glove like Donaldson, but at this point, Riley must be in the lineup, and in my estimation, the Braves are one or two good bullpen arms away from being the prohibitive favorites in the National League. For today’s pick, we will head to the American League, where two of the league’s best open up a series in Houston tonight.
The Boston Red Sox are in Houston Friday for game one of a three-game series with the Astros. The Astros come into this series, having just dropped two straight games to the Chicago White Sox. Before splitting the four-game set with the Sox, the Astros had won thirteen of their previous fifteen games. Houston has thirty-three wins, tied for the most wins in the majors with the upstart Minnesota Twins.
For Boston, they have recovered after a brutally slow start to the season, and they have their record back over .500. That being said, the Red Sox are still in third place in their division, five and a half games behind the New York Yankees. Boston has won four out of their last five games.
Starting for the Red Sox is Cy Young Award winner Chris Sale (1-5 4.31 ERA), and for the Astros, it is Wade Miley (4-2 3.51 ERA). The game total over-under is set eight and a half runs. The Red Sox are -137 road favorites. First pitch is scheduled for 5:10 PM PST from Minute Maid Park in Houston.
What has happened to Chris Sale? Sale has been amongst the best pitchers in the majors for several seasons, but this year, he got off to the worst start of his career. Through his first six starts, Sale was 0-5 with a 6.30 ERA, and Boston lost every game he started. He has been better recently, as in May he has an ERA of just above two runs, but in his last start, against these very same Houston Astros, he looked shaky again as he allowed three earned runs in five and a third innings worked and walked a season-high five batters.
The Astros will counter with Wade Miley on the mound tonight in game one. Miley faced Sale and the Red Sox in his last start, and actually outpitched Sale. In that game, Miley threw five innings and gave up just two earned runs. He picked up a no-decision for his efforts, but he is 3-0 in the month of May. While Miley certainly doesn’t have the raw stuff that Sale brings to the table, this guy has been super consistent for Houston this season. The Astros had won seven out of Miley’s previous eight starts before they dropped their last game to Boston.
Look, if you bet against Chris Sale too often, you are going to go broke. Even with his struggles this season, the guy is still striking guys out at a prolific pace. Sale has double-digit strikeouts in each of his four May starts and has racked up fifty-one punchouts in just twenty-six and a third innings of work. But, this Houston offense is no joke.
The Astros may have the best lineup in the majors. They are first in all of baseball in batting average and on-base percentage and are top four in runs scored, home runs, and slugging percentage. And oh, did I mention they also have the best bullpen in baseball? The Astros bullpen has an ERA of just 2.64, the third best in the majors are the Tampa Bay Rays at a distant 3.48. Opposing batters are hitting sub .200 against this bullpen.
So, while we are certainly getting the worst of the starting pitching matchup by backing the Astros, I have reason to believe, they are going to find a way to win this game at home. Either this high-powered offense gets to Sale, or they keep it close and the bullpen shines and they grind out the win. Houston has the best home record in the American League at 18-6, and to be able to get them as home underdogs is too much value to pass up on.
I hate to bet against a guy like Chris Sale, but I can’t pass up on getting the best team in the league, getting a bunch of dog money, at home, where they never lose. Give me the Houston Astros as home underdogs tonight in game one against Boston!