The battle for the Silver Boot starts back up on Thursday as intrastate and division rivals square off when the Texas Rangers (17-17) travel to Minute Maid Park to take on the Houston Astros (22-15). The two teams have already met six times this season, with the Rangers currently holding a 4-2 advantage over Houston; however, it is worth noting that all six of those games were played in Arlington.
The Rangers come into this one having split a two-game series with the Pirates thanks to some late heroics to come back against the Pirates Wednesday, including a pinch-hit grand slam by Hunter Pence. For the Astros, they won their series over the Royals thanks to a 9-0 win in the rubber match that featured a 12-strikeout performance by Brad Peacock.
On Thursday, the Rangers will be sending Mike Minor (3-2, 2.40 ERA) against the Astros’ Wade Miley (2-2, 3.20 ERA). First pitch for this contest will be at 8:10 pm ET.
The moneyline for Thursday’s game is set at the Texas Rangers +150 and the Houston Astros -165. The over/under for runs scored is set at 9.
By The Numbers
On the offensive side, both of these teams are pretty solid, but it is the Rangers who have been a little better at scoring runs. They currently rank 2nd in the majors in runs per game at 5.85 (5.29 on the road). For the Astros, they come in 11th, averaging 4.97 runs per game (5.20 at home). In terms of batting average, though, it is the Astros on top. They rank tops overall, hitting .274 as a team while Texas ranks 11th, hitting .252.
On the pitching side, it is definitely advantage Houston. The Astros currently rank 9th in the majors in earned run average (3.84). The Rangers, on the other hand, come in at 28th in the majors, ahead of only the White Sox and Orioles, at a 5.15 ERA (5.35 on the road).
Rangers Look For Minor To Set Tone
While the Rangers as a whole have struggled on the pitching mound, one exception to that has been southpaw Mike Minor. On the season, Minor is 3-2 in 7 starts with a 2.40 ERA, 0.95 WHIP and opponents are hitting just .190 against him. In 48.2 innings, he has allowed 32 hits, 13 earned runs, five home runs and has struck out 48 while walking 14.
In his last start, a 1-0 loss to the Blue Jays, Minor was sensational. He went eight innings of scoreless ball, allowing seven hits, two walks and struck out nine. With one win under his belt versus the Astros this season, he will look for his second on Thursday.
Offensively, Hunter Pence has been a very pleasant surprise for the Rangers thus far. Expected to be a fourth outfielder, Pence has gotten a little more playing time than anticipated and has taken full advantage of it. On the season, he is hitting .344/.411/.656 with five home runs, 21 runs batted in and 17 runs scored. After belting a grand slam on Wednesday, the former Astro will look to keep his hot start going against his former club on Thursday.
Astros Looking To String Wins Together
Just a little over a month into the season, the Astros already hold a three-game lead in the AL West, and it looks like they won’t have a ton in the way of competition for the division crown. Still, the Rangers have been pesky early this season for them, and they would love to silence them at home.
On the mound for the Astros will be Wade Miley. The quick-working southpaw is 2-2 with a 3.20 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and opponents are hitting .239 against him. In 39.1 innings, he has allowed 37 hits, 14 earned runs, five home runs and has struck out 23 while walking 9. Miley is more of a pitch to contact type, and it has worked for him. He has actually held opposing teams to three earned runs or fewer in 23 straight starts.
On the offensive side, Michael Brantley has been a huge pickup for the Astros thus far this season. The outfielder is hitting .340/.386/.603 with nine home runs, 27 runs batted in and 22 runs scored. Aside from Brantley, Josh Reddick (.339/.388/.455), Carlos Correa (9 home runs, 22 runs batted in), George Springer (12 home runs, 32 runs batted in, 28 runs scored) and Alex Bregman (10 home runs, 25 runs batted in) have all had nice starts to the season.
Surprisingly, one player who is struggling is Jose Altuve, who is hitting just .236/.321/.471 with nine home runs, 21 runs batted in and 21 runs scored. While the power numbers are nice, the batting average is much lower than we are accustomed to with him.
Astros Take Game One
I actually like the pitching matchup on both sides for this game. Mike Minor has a track record of keeping the Astros in check, while Wade Miley has been on quite a roll of quality starts. As a result, I am actually encouraging the under in this one.
What I do think it will come down to is the bullpen, and there I give the Astros a huge advantage. Ryan Pressley and Roberto Osuna are arguably one of the best tandems in the back end of a bullpen in baseball, and both are rested as neither pitched on Wednesday. I look for a low-scoring game, but for the Astros to strike late and take the victory. For my money, I am taking the Astros -165.