2:10 PM EST – Line: Astros -215, Over/Under: 8.5
Division Rivals meet in a crucial Three-Game Series from Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas, as the Houston Astros host the Oakland Athletics for the third time in as many days. After a slow start to the season, the Athletics (57-44, 2nd in AL West) have rallied to get themselves back into the thick of things in the American League, obtaining a tenuous grip on the league’s final Wild Card. Of course, Oakland would like to think that they still have a shot at the AL West Division Title, but their opponent tonight, the Astros, continue to pad their comfortable lead; Bob Melvin’s charges trailed Houston by 6.5 Games in the Division, but have only seen that deficit grow after Monday’s 1-11 thumping. Homer Bailey (1-1, 12.38 ERA, 2 GS, 8.0 IP, 15 H, 11 ER, 3 HR, 3 BB, 8 K, 2.250 WHIP) was chased from the Mound after just Two Innings of work, getting tagged for Three Home Runs, and before it was all said and done, the team as a whole relinquished Thirteen Hits. Conversely, they didn’t do much from the Plate themselves, totaling a scant Two Hits to show for themselves. Half of that figure was charged to Matt Chapman (.279 BA, 98 G, 102 H, 64 R, 27 2B, 22 HR, 59 RBI, 45 BB, 79 K), who coming into this Series has been on a tear in the month of July; the All-Star Third Baseman has batted .340 with Sixteen Hits, Seven Runs, Six Doubles, a Home Run, and Seven Runs Batted In since July 1st. In just his third season in the Majors, the 26-Year Old is on pace to shatter his career-highs in a slew of categories, including Home Runs (22), RBIs (59), and Walks (45). Taking the mound tonight for the Athletics will be Chris Bassitt (7-4, 3.96 ERA, 16 GS, 88.2 IP, 73 H, 39 ER, 12 HR, 36 BB, 83 K, 1.229 WHIP), who continues to enjoy his first prolonged period as a Starter in the Majors. What could be described as a late-bloomer of sorts, the 30-Year Old was optioned back down to Triple-A this time a year ago, though this season has firmly entrenched himself in the middle of Melvin’s Rotation. The towering Righthander has been a major component of Oakland’s surge up the Standings over the past few months, going 4-1 over his last Six Starts, with the club going 5-1 in that timeframe. In those Six Starts, Bassitt has accumulated a 4.50 ERA, with opponents batting .233. When we last saw him, he emerged victorious in a 5-3 win at the Minnesota Twins, despite not having his best stuff; Bassitt was pulled after 5.0 Innings, in which he allowed a pair of Earned Runs on Five Hits (including a Home Run) with as many Strikeouts as Walks (2) on a total of Ninety-Four Pitches. He faced the Astros once already this season, in a 4-6 A’s loss ending in a No-Decision for the Pitcher back on June 2nd. Bassitt was solid if unspectacular, yielding Three Earned Runs on Six Hits, with a Strikeout and Walk apiece over 6.0 Innings.
Meanwhile, despite dealing with a myriad of injuries this season, the Astros (65-37, 1st in AL West) have nonetheless reemerged as powerhouse in the American League, and now that they’re getting healthier, they’re gunning for First Place. Establishing a comfy cushion in the AL West (7.5 Games), Houston currently trails the New York Yankees by a mere Half-Game in the overall Standings, and given the injuries that they’ve suffered, one would have to respect their chances of overtaking them. Since the All-Star Break, A.J. Hinch’s charges have gone 8-4, winning eight of their last ten outings. Since the Midsummer Classic they’ve exploded offensively, batting .290 with a .374 On-Base Percentage, .522 Slugging Percentage, and .896 OPS, all the while averaging a 6.5 Runs per Game. Monday’s 11-1 victory over Oakland featured Thirteen Hits, Three Doubles, and Three Home Runs, all of which came off of the aforementioned Bailey. Taking the mound tonight for the Astros will be none other than Justin Verlander (12-4, 2.99 ERA, 21 GS, 138.2 IP, 88 H, 46 ER, 28 HR, 29 BB, 172 K, 0.844 WHIP), who continues his career renaissance since joining the club late in the 2017 campaign. The former Cy Young and MVP has been essential to Houston’s success this season, particularly given the amount of injuries that they’ve suffered earlier this season. Leading the American League with Twelve Wins, the Astros themselves are 15-5 thus far when Verlander starts, leaving one to wonder just where would they be without him. When we last saw him, the Righthander was dominant in a 4-3 victory over the Texas Rangers, yielding a pair of Earned Runs on Eight Hits, with Twelve Strikeouts in comparison to One Walk. However, he did serve up Two Home Runs, bringing his total allowed this year to a staggering Twenty-Eight, which leads the league. It’s a dubious figure for an Ace who allowed as many in Thirty-Four Starts in 2018. Of course, this led Verlander to openly lament that Major League Baseball had juiced the baseballs in an effort to create more offense. The 36-Year Old is 13-6 in Twenty-One Career Starts against the Athletics, posting a 2.63 ERA and 1.090 WHIP, and since arriving in Houston back in 2017 he’s gone 3-0 against them with a 3.65 ERA and an identical WHIP. He’s faced them once already this year, silencing them in a 5-1 victory back on June 1st, permitting just One Earned Run on Four Hits over the course of 8.0 Innings, with Eight Strikeouts and Two Walks.