If you are an avid reader of my daily baseball picks, you know I have one hard rule that I follow no matter what. I always list my starting pitchers. Baseball is already hard enough to handicap when you know who will be starting, when you don’t, you are risking your money on simple luck. This came into play in a big way for game five of the World Series, as my play was to back Washington starter Max Scherzer as a home underdog.
And to my horror, Scherzer was pulled from the start with back spasms and was not available to pitch. The line went from Houston -145 to -250 in a matter of minutes, and our bet was spoiled. Luckily, we had listed both starters on the bet, so we got a refund, but as a baseball fan, it was quite disappointing.
Instead of getting a blockbuster starting pitching matchup, that was setting up to be an all-time classic, we got Gerrit Cole versus Joe Ross. Ross had pitched just two innings in this postseason, and after spending most of the season as a reliever, was forced into starting the biggest game of his life on basically no notice. It was a blood bath as Houston hammered Ross, and Cole dominated, and the Astros took the game going away.
It is hard not to feel bad for Washington, as they were so close to winning their first ever World Series title in franchise history after winning the first two games of the series in Houston, and now because of injury, basically have no realistic shot of winning. They now must win two straight games in Houston to pull off the comeback, and to make matters worse, they will have to beat a Cy Young Award winner in both games. Its not going to happen. For Houston, they will gladly take advantage of the Nationals misfortune, and are hoping to close out the series tonight in game six and win their second World Series title in the last three years.
Starting for the Houston Astros is Justin Verlander (1-3 4.15 ERA) and for the Nationals it is Stephen Strasburg (4-0 1.93 ERA). The game total over-under is set at seven and a half runs. The Astros are big -180 home favorites. First pitch is scheduled for 5:07 PM PST from Minute Maid Park in Houston.
In a series loaded with starting pitching talent, Stephen Strasburg has been the best arm in this postseason for either team. He had made five appearances for Washington, and is 4-0 with a 1.93 ERA, and the Nats have won all five games. In game two in Houston, Strasburg picked up the win when he tossed six innings of two-run ball and struck out seven. The Nationals blew Houston out 12-3 in that game to take a two games to none series lead.
But that seems like forever ago now as the Nationals lost all three games at home and will be playing for their postseason lives tonight in game six, down three games to two. But who else would they rather have on the mound than Strasburg? This guy has been the epitome of clutch all playoffs long, and the Nationals need him to do it one last time, to force a game seven.
Justin Verlander has been shaky in the postseason so far. After having one of the best regular seasons of his storied career, Verlander just hasn’t been himself here in October. After opening the playoffs with a seven-inning shutout gem against the Tampa Bay Rays, he has really struggled. In his previous four starts, he is 0-3 and has allowed fourteen runs in just twenty-three and two thirds of an inning.
The big issues for Verlander have uncharacteristically been home runs and walks. After allowing just ten home runs in fifteen post All-Star game starts, he has gotten hammered for six home runs in his last four starts. And similarly, after allowing just an average of one walk a game in the regular season, he has handed out eleven free passes in five starts, more than double his regular season numbers.
This is a fantastic matchup of strength on strength with two elite starters going. One of these guys is pitching well, the other, not so much, but I think tonight, they both find ways to be really, really good. Verlander, at home, with a chance to win the World Series? I think he finds a way to get his act back together and pitches a gem tonight. And how can you not expect Strasburg to continue his dominance?
This seems to be the game we got robbed of in game five. A low scoring, tightly contested game, that is tense from the first pitch. With this being the last start of the year for both guys, you can expect both of them to throw well over 100 pitches, and to be in the game late. I think this game comes in well under, and that is where I will take my stand, on the under seven and a half runs.
The baseball fan in me is rooting for Washington, as I absolutely love game sevens, and hope that we get one more game tomorrow night. But the realist in me says that this is Houston’s game to lose, and they will likely close out the series tonight at home. But it won’t be without a fight! Give me the under 7.5 runs tonight in game six in what should be a tightly contested game that gets settled in the final few innings.