Yesterday, I got all excited that we finally got to see all 30 Major League Baseball teams back in action. After missing more than a week, the St. Louis Cardinals finally got the go-ahead to play again, as they were scheduled to face Jon Lester and the Chicago Cubs.
I jumped all over the Cubs, as they have been playing very good baseball so far this season, and expected Jon Lester to continue his early-season dominance against a team that almost certainly had to be rusty, and was going to be depleted by injuries. But unfortunately, about an hour after I made my bet, the game was scrapped, as three more Cardinals tested positive for the Corona Virus.
It has to be a frustrating time for Cardinals fans, and I hate that I had to lose out on what I saw as a very high-value play on Chicago, as Lester was going to plow through a weakened Cardinals lineup that was forced to play without some of their best guys like Yadier Molina and Paul DeJong. What can you do, 2020 has been a rollercoaster ride, we just have to find a way to keep holding on! For today’s daily betting pick, we will head to Oakland, where the Athletics host the Astros.
Houston Astros (6-7) at Oakland Athletics (10-4)
The Oakland Athletics will look to extend their lead in the American League West Division tonight, as they host the Houston Astros is game two of a three-game series. The A’s are hoping to make it two straight wins over Houston, as they picked up a walk-off extra-innings win over the Astros last night in game one of the set. Entering play tonight, Oakland is tied with the Minnesota Twins for the best record in the American League.
For Houston, the Astros have lost three straight games, the last two of which have come in walk-off fashion. With last night’s loss, the Astros fall to below .500 for the first time this year and are now three and a half games back of the A’s for first place in the AL West.
Starting tonight for the Athletics is Frankie Montas (1-1 2.25 ERA), and for the Astros, it is Framber Valdez (0-1 2.53 ERA). The game total over/under I set at eight and a half runs. The Athletics are -135 home field favorites. First pitch is scheduled for 1:10 PM PST from Ring Central in Oakland.
The Houston Astros are quickly finding out that hitting a baseball is a lot harder when you don’t have a guy in the stands banging on a garbage can to tip off the pitches for you. While the Astros haven’t been awful at the plate in 2020, they have been very hot and cold, now that they aren’t cheating. In five of the Astro’s last nine games, they have scored four runs or fewer, and they are just 3-6 during that stretch, as the Astros pitching staff is a shell of its former shelf.
Remember a couple of years ago when the Astros had a rotation that featured killers like Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Charlie Morton, and Dallas Keuchel? Yeah, none of those guys are pitching for Houston right now, as Verlander is hurt and could be done for the year, and the rest have all fled Houston for greener pastures. That has left Houston with guys like Brandon Bielak, Josh James, and tonight’s starter, Framber Valdez, starting games.
Framber Valdez (0-1 2.53 ERA)
When you are comparing Framber Valdez to Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander, of course, he is going to look like a major downgrade, but this kid isn’t all that bad of an option right now for Houston. Valdez had a cup of coffee with Houston in 2018 and had stellar results. That led Houston to give him a shot in the big leagues, as a regular player in 2019, pitching first out of the bullpen and then out of the rotation.
He had a solid start to the year working in relief, and Houston called him up to start games in the second half of the season. Things didn’t go well for Valdez as a starter, as he made eight starts, and got blasted for twenty-eight runs in just 35.2 innings.
The big issue for Valdez has always been his control, as he walked forty-four batters last season in just 70.2 innings pitched. He has managed to find the plate so far in 2020, as he has just two walks in two starts, spanning 10.2 innings, and his ability to find the strike zone will be a major key to his success tonight against Oakland.
Who is the hottest team in the Major Leagues right now? You guessed it, the Oakland Athletics. The A’s have won seven straight games, and they are doing it by finding a way to win one and two-run ball games. Oakland is 6-0 this season in games decided by two runs or less. Oakland is using timely hitting, solid power, and a bend but don’t break pitching staff, to run up the best record in the American League.
Despite having a poor team batting average of just .206 on the year, Oakland has done a great job of drawing walks and getting on base, as their 64 walks as a team, are second in the Major Leagues, trailing only the Cleveland Indians. Many of the A’s best hitters are off to a slow start as Khris Davis, Matt Chapman, Marcus Semien, and Matt Olson are all currently hitting under .200. If Oakland can get these established sluggers all going, this team could be scary good.
Frankie Montas (1-1 2.25 ERA)
Frankie Montas got his first crack at the Athletics starting rotation in 2018 and showed a lot of promise, as he posted a 3.88 ERA in eleven starts. Last year, he built on that success, as he was the early season Cy Young Award favorite in the American League, when he jumped out to a 9-2 record with a 2.63 ERA in sixteen starts.
But Montas saw his season coming crashing to a premature halt, as he was slapped with an eighty game PED suspension. Montas did the crime and served his time, and rejoins the A’s in 2020, looking to pick up where he left off last season. And for the most part, he has done just that, as he has made three starts and has a 2.25 ERA to show for it. In his last start, he pitched a gem, as he tossed seven innings of one-run ball while striking out nine, against the Seattle Mariners.
Who Do I Like?
The Oakland A’s are winning games without having any of their best hitters hitting. They are doing it by working the counts, getting on base, and scoring just enough runs to win close games. They have managed to put together the longest winning streak in the Major Leagues so far this season, and they are absolutely not playing their best baseball. If you don’t see this team as a legit World Series favorite, you need to get your eyes checked, this team is the real deal.
I am backing the home team in this one. Framber Valdez has always struggled with giving up walks, and this A’s team prides themselves on finding ways to get on base. We saw this last night in game one of the series, when they got sixteen runners on base. They struggled to get those runners across the plate, scoring just three runs, but when it mattered, they scored enough runs to win the game.
I see a similar scenario playing out tonight. Valdez will play with fire, and eventually, he will get burned. Montas has ace level stuff when he is on his game, and I expect him to have a nice outing tonight against a slumping Astros team. Give me the Oakland Athletics tonight as small home favorites in game two against Houston!