The Texas Rangers are on the road at the Houston Astros on Saturday night in American League West action.
Trade season is officially upon us. Both the Texas Rangers and the Houston Astros have made trades over the course of the last few days, albeit with completely different motivations. For the Astros, they have acquired Martin Maldanado to be a backup catcher and late Friday night, picked up impressive righty Ryan Pressly from the Twins to help in the bullpen. For the Rangers, they traded Cole Hamels, mostly in a salary dump but also to try to get some assets out of him. Hamels, who was traded to the Chicago Cubs, was supposed to have started Saturday night’s game. Instead, when the Rangers (43-62) travel to Minute Maid Park to take on the Astros (67-38) it will be Ariel Jurado (0-1, 7.71 ERA) taking the mound. He will be opposing the Astros ace, Justin Verlander (10-5, 2.19 ERA). First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 pm ET.
The money line for Saturday’s game is set at the Texas Rangers at +315 and the Houston Astros -360. The over/under for runs scored is set at 8.5.
The Texas Rangers know that they are out of it this season. At 24 games back, their hopes of a postseason berth ended a long time ago. Still, they would love nothing more than to take it to their in-state rivals like they did in Friday’s 11-2 victory. To do so they will be sending out Ariel Jurado to make only his second start of the season. His only other start, back in the middle of May, was against the White Sox, where he gave up 4 runs in less than five innings. At double-A, where he has spent most of the season, he is 5-3 with a 3.28 ERA.
Offensively, there are a few players on the Rangers who have had success against Justin Verlander in their careers. Elvis Andrus is hitting .429 in 28 at bats, while Robinson Chirinos is hitting .286 in 14 at bats with 2 home runs and 3 runs batted in off the righty. Shin-Soo Choo and Joey Gallo have also gotten Verlander for a home run in their careers.
Carlos Correa and Brian McCann are on the disabled list. Jose Altuve has sat out the last couple games with knee discomfort. Needless to say, the Astros potent lineup has taken a bit of a hit lately. Still, they have the depth to compete, despite only having put up just 2 runs in each of their last two games. Despite the loss, Evan Gattis had himself a night on Friday going 3 for 3 with a home run, a walk, and he scored both of the Astros runs. On the season, Gattis is hitting .242/.306/.493 with a .800 OPS. He has 20 home runs, 64 runs batted in and has scored 42 runs. With Correa, McCann and Altuve out, players like Gattis, Alex Bregman and George Springer are going to have to carry the load.
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When the offense is hurting, it is nice to be able to rely on good pitching. The best this season for the Astros has been Justin Verlander. On the season, he is 10-5 with a 2.19 ERA, 0.85 WHIP and opponents are hitting just .186 against him. In 143.2 innings, he has struck out 183 while walking only 26. He is prone to the long ball (has given up 16 on the season), but is also able to shut bats down (has only given up 96 hits in the 143.2 innings. In his last start, a 7-0 win over the Angels, Verlander went 6 innings of shutout ball while striking out 11. He will look to continue his dominating season against the Rangers on Saturday.
Most nights with Justin Verlander pitching it would be automatic that I would pick the Astros. With both the offense and bullpen scuffling a bit, it wasn’t as clear-cut. While I am still picking the Astros, it might be closer than the moneyline would indicate which means I wouldn’t fault you if you took the Rangers as the big underdogs. Still, with a team in the Rangers that has not been very good this season and a pitcher who has spent most of his time in the minors, I ultimately have to go with the best player on the field, and that is Justin Verlander. Take the Astros at -360.