Two division rivals that battled all season long for the AL West crown will meet in the ALCS with a spot in the World Series on the line.
The Houston Astros outclassed the Minnesota Twins en route to the club's seventh straight ALCS, setting up a matchup against the Texas Rangers. The Rangers swept the Rays in the Wild Card round and the Orioles in the ALDS to set up a matchup with the team that ran down Texas in the AL West this season.
Justin Verlander will start for Houston in Game 1 while the Rangers counter with lefty Jordan Montgomery. Here is our betting preview for the opener.
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Rangers vs. Astros odds, run line and total
Rangers vs. Astros prediction and pick
Verlander shined in his lone start in the ALDS, pitching six shutout innings while allowing only four hits with six strikeouts. The veteran rounded into form after the All-Star break, mostly with the Astros after being traded from the Mets at the trade deadline, posting a 2.92 ERA in 15 second half starts. Opponents batting average dropped from .243 to .213 as Verlander raised his strikeouts per nine innings from 7.3 to 8.5.
Further, in the midst of that strong run, Verlander shutdown the Rangers with seven innings of one run baseball on September 6th, a 12-3 Astros win.
I believe Verlander will cool off the bats that were scorching against Baltimore with an extended breather for the Rangers, similar to how some of the division winners struggled against teams that won in the Wild Card round.
However, I believe Rangers' starter Montgomery can answer the call. While he allowed four earned runs in four innings of work against Baltimore, he has been on a tear with Texas pitching to a 2.79 ERA since being acquired at the trade deadline, limiting his walk rate to below two per nine innings.
Houston is incredibly disciplined at the plate, the team strikes out at the third lowest rate, but Montgomery has been able to avoid trouble with a lower walk rate and a low home run rate of less than one home run allowed per nine innings.
With the extended time off for each team, Texas has been off since Tuesday and Houston has been off since Wednesday, we see a slow start for both offenses. I'll go with the first five under in Sunday's Game 1.
Game odds refresh periodically and are subject to change.
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