There is just one full week left of the Major League Baseball regular season! As teams scramble to qualify for the postseason, nearly every game on the schedule today has some form of playoff implications. The Marlins and the Braves matchup in Atlanta, with Miami trying to catch Atlanta for first place in the National League East Division.
The White Sox and the Indians play in Cleveland, with both teams safely in the postseason field at this point, but there is lots of positioning still yet to be decided. The New York Yankees will try and send the Toronto Blue Jays home for the playoffs, as the Jays are clinging to the final wild-card spot in the AL, with several teams trying to catch them from behind.
— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) September 21, 2020
The Reds and the Brewers have the game most likely to determine a playoff spot, as both teams are currently sitting right at .500 on the year and are tied for the final wild card in the National League. Whichever team wins that series is going to likely make the postseason. For our free daily betting pick, we will head to Seattle, where the Mariners and the Astros play with second place in the AL West Division on the line.
Houston Astros (27-26) at Seattle Mariners (23-30)
The Seattle Mariners host the Houston Astros tonight in game one of a three-game series, needing a sweep to catch the Astros in the AL West standings. Both teams have been struggling lately, but the Mariners loss last night in extra innings to the San Diego Padres dropped them to four games back of the Astros in the race for second place in the division and the playoff spot that goes with it.
For Houston, the Astros managed to string together back to back come from behind victories against the Arizona Diamondbacks in their last series, and if they can win even just one game of this series in Seattle, will lock up second place in the division. Houston had lost eleven out of their previous fifteen before taking two out of three against Arizona.
Starting tonight for the Mariners is Marco Gonzalez (6-2 3.49 ERA), and for the Astros, it is Lance McCullers Jr (3-2 4.87 ERA). The game total over/under is set at eight runs. The Astros are -155 road favorites. First pitch is scheduled for 6:10 PM PST from T-Mobile Park in Seattle.
The Houston Astros have done their best to try and give away their playoff spot in the AL West, but at this point, all they have to do is win one of these three games in Seattle, and they will be playing in the postseason. But I would think Houston fans will want the Astros to actually do something when they get there, and unless they can start playing better baseball, that just isn’t going to happen.
Houston just hasn’t been able to score many runs in the last two weeks. Since September 7th, Houston has scored three runs or fewer ten times in thirteen games. Even in the games where they were able to score a couple runs, they managed just four, five, and seven runs. Not exactly stellar production to say the least. They just haven’t been able to do much at the plate, and unless they can find their groove at the dish fast, they are going to have an early exit in the playoffs.
Lance McCullers Jr (3-2 4.87 ERA)
We just talked about the Astros lack of run production, so it makes sense that wins have been hard to come by for Lance McCullers Jr, as he hasn’t been great either. McCullers has had a couple of strong outings this year, like when he held the Texas Rangers to no runs on two hits in his last start, and back in August, when he shut down the San Francisco Giants for seven shutout innings. But both of those starts have been at home, on the road, McCullers has been awful.
McCullers has made four road starts, and he has an 0-2 record and a sky-high 13.50 ERA to show for it. Opposing batters are hitting an absolutely absurd .393 against McCullers away from Minute Maid Park in Houston. And when you look at who he has pitched against on the road, three of those four starts came against the last-place Angels and Diamondbacks. Even against bad teams, McCullers gets lit up on the road.
The Seattle Mariners had a shot to make up a lot of ground on the Houston Astros, but they just haven’t been able to win games late. Last night, they lost in extra innings against the Padres, and in their series before San Diego, they blew a big early lead against the San Francisco Giants. In a season where every win counts, the Mariners just haven’t been able to win enough to really be in contention.
But if Seattle sweeps the Astros in this three-game series at home, they are going to be just one game back with four games left on their schedule against an Oakland A’s team that will have already clinched the division title and will likely be resting their best players. The Mariners will need some help from Houston, and the Astros finish up their season on the road against a Texas Rangers team they have owned in September. It’s not likely, but the Mariners do have a path to the postseason if they can get hot.
Marco Gonzalez (6-2 3.49 ERA)
The Seattle Mariners wouldn’t even be in the position that they are in right now if it weren’t for the strong pitching from Marco Gonzalez. The Mariners have won six out of Gonzalez’s last eight starts, and he really turned it on in the last month, willing his team into contention. He got beat up a bit in his last start against the Oakland A’s, but Seattle managed to win the game anyway.
Before his last start, Marco had pitched 28 innings combined in his previous four starts and had allowed just seven runs total. At home this year, Gonzalez is 3-0 in three starts. Gonzalez leads the Major Leagues in walks allowed and WHIP as he has somehow managed to walk only five batters all season long in 56.2 innings pitched.
Who Do I Like?
The Houston Astros have been elite at home and god-awful on the road this season. Here is a complete list of teams that have fewer road wins than the Astros seven on the year. The Texas Rangers and the Pittsburgh Pirates. That’s it. And just a quick reminder for those of you that haven’t followed baseball all that closely this season, the Rangers have the worst record in the American League, and the Pirates have the worst record in the National League.
It would not at all be a stretch to say the Pirates and the Rangers are the two worst teams in their respective leagues, so to see the Astros on their level on the road tells me the Houston is really, really bad in opposing teams ballparks. In September, Houston is 2-9 as the away team.
I am going with the data on this one. We have stark home and away splits for both teams and both starting pitchers in this game. The Astros are by far the worst road team of any team in playoff contention, and the Mariners are three games above .500 and home, and ten games under on the road.
McCullers has gotten smashed in each of his four road starts, and Marco Gonzalez has picked up a winning decision in each of his home starts this year. Both teams are going to be playing hard with so much on the line, but I think that the Mariners find a way to extend their season and keep their playoff chances alive, even if it’s just for one more game. Give me the Seattle Mariners as home dogs tonight in game one at +130!