Thursday’s MLB schedule is highlighted by a potential playoff preview between the Houston Astros and the Cleveland Guardians. The Astros are listed as road underdogs with a moneyline of -190 compared to Cleveland’s moneyline of +160. The game also has an over/under of 7.5 runs.
The Astros beat the Red Sox on Wednesday to avoid getting swept. However, they have still lost six of their last ten games, perhaps becoming complacent with such a big lead atop the AL West. Houston holds an 11-game lead in the division, although the Astros are just two games behind the Yankees for the best record in the American League, giving them something to pursue.
Meanwhile, the Guardians are in a tight race in both the AL Central and in the Wild Card standings. Cleveland is one game behind the Twins in the division and one game behind Tampa for the Wild Card race. However, despite winning their last two series, the Guardians are just 8-6 since the all-star break, struggling to get in a groove.
Pleased to Help
Cleveland will give Zach Plesac his 20th start of the season on Thursday night. Over his first 19 starts, the righty is just 2-9 with a 4.33 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP. Plesac is also coming off a poor July, going 0-4 with a 5.84 ERA across five starts, including losses to the Tigers and Royals.
The good news for the Guardians is their offense has been producing lately. They have scored at least four runs in seven of their last nine games, averaging 5.1 runs per game during that stretch. All-stars Jose Ramirez and Andres Gimenez have continued to carry the Cleveland lineup, but with Myles Straw, Franmil Reyes, and Josh Naylor all struggling, they’re not necessarily getting the help they need.
The Guardians will have to deal with facing Justin Verlander in Thursday’s series opener. The 39-year-old is 14-3 with a 1.81 ERA and a 0.87 WHIP over his first 19 starts of the 2022 season. Verlander is also in the midst of a hot streak, earning the win in his last six starts while also pitching to a 1.01 ERA over his four starts in July.
Of course, the Houston lineup has undergone a little bit of a slump lately, scoring three runs or less in five of their last nine games. Of course, with MVP candidate Yordan Alvarez, the Astros are capable of getting back on track at any time. While a couple of key members of Houston’s lineup are slumping, Jose Altuve, Aledmys Diaz, and Yuli Gurriel are all red hot right now.
Ride the Wave
The Astros have been a little vulnerable lately, so this game is far from a guarantee. However, Verlander on the mound gives Houston a huge leg up, whereas the Guardians have struggled to win games with Plesac on the mound. That makes the Astros a safe bet to win on Thursday and potentially cover the run line, giving Houston a fair amount of value.
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