Houston Astros (+120) at Kansas City Royals (-130, 7.5 o/u)
The Houston Astros were just six outs from advancing to the ALCS. Up 6-2 in the eighth in front of a raucous home crowd, Will Harris and his 1.90 ERA got the ball and promptly loaded the bases. A couple singles and an error later, the Astros had coughed up the lead and booked their tickets back to Missouri for a decisive Game 5. Now they’ll send Collin McHugh (19-7, 3.89 ERA) to the mound with one last chance to upset the reigning AL Champion Kansas City Royals tonight (8:07 PM Eastern).
The Royals haven’t had great pitching this series either, but with everything on the line, they’ll hand the ball to Johnny Cueto (11-13, 3.44 ERA). A high-priced deadline acquisition, Cueto has been a disappointment since joining K.C. But the former Red is the best option Ned Yost has left after he sent Yordano Ventura to the mound for Game 4. Cueto was decent in Game 2; he gave up four earned runs over the first three innings, but then settled down and pitched three scoreless before being pulled after six.
Pitching is not going to win this game for Kansas City though: Houston has scored at least four runs in every game this series. If the Royals are going to move on, they’ll need the offense to keep rolling on the heels of its nine-run performance in Game 4. It was a pretty classic K.C. performance; the Royals only had two extra base hits – home runs by Salvador Perez and Eric Hosmer – but with their speed on the base paths, they’re always a threat to score.
Speaking of threats to score, perhaps the Royals should just pitch around Colby Rasmus. The center fielder has four home runs this postseason and is batting .500. While he’s already drawn seven walks, there is no shame in letting him rack up more, putting the pressure on the likes of Evan Gattis and Chris Carter.
Neither team has trustworthy pitching. Betting this game comes down to which batting order you trust more. The Royals are 3-1 in do-or-die games in the last two years, including 2-1 at home. Meanwhile, Houston took the Yankees to task in the Wild Card game in New York, and has the highest team average and on-base percentage, and second-highest OPS.
Throw in the fact that home teams are just 2-7 in these American League playoffs, and I’ll take the Astros and the better payout.
Pick: Houston +120.
(Photo Credit: Keith Allison (Originally posted to Flickr)[https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/])
Let's have fun and keep it civil.