The Houston Astros and St. Louis Cardinals have quite a bit of history. The two teams tangled as rivals in the NL Central for years before the Astros made the switch to the American League in 2012. The teams engaged in some memorable playoff battles, including back-to-back showdowns in the 2004 and 2005 NLCS. The Cardinals broke Houston’s hearts in ‘04, while Houston returned the favor in ‘05.
It has been years since the teams have squared off, but both have their eyes on a potential matchup in the Fall Classic. The Astros certainly have the inside track at this point, but the Cardinals have quietly caught fire over the last handful of games. St. Louis enters Friday’s game having won nine of their last 11 games, including a four-game sweep in Pittsburgh earlier this week.
Houston, meanwhile, comes to St. Louis after taking two of three games from Oakland, which was huge considering the A’s have once again emerged as the biggest threat to the Astros in the AL West. The Astros extended their lead to eight games in the division in the process, while the Cardinals are now tied for first in the NL Central with the Cubs.
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2019 ATR Home
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2019 O/U Away
The Astros have had one of baseball’s best pitching staffs over the last few seasons. Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole are still chugging along at the top of the rotation nowadays, but the Astros have struggled with depth in recent weeks. Brad Peacock is on the IL, while Collin McHugh was demoted to the bullpen, following a ragged start to the campaign. The bottom of the rotation has been shuffled around quite a bit, but Houston is hopeful that Jose Urquidy can continue to give them some solid innings.
The 24-year-old right-hander made his big-league debut earlier this season, and he’s made three starts in all at the big league level. He has a 5.54 ERA through those first three outings, but his SIERA of 3.00 shows that he’s pitched quite a bit better than the ERA indicates. Urquidy has an excellent strikeout rate north of 30% next to a tiny 1.8% walk rate.
Urquidy has also kept the ball on the ground at a 45.9% clip. The Mexico native struggled through his first two outings against the Rockies and Angels, but last time out, he whiffed nine Rangers while allowing just a run on two hits over the course of seven dominant innings.
Tonight, he gets to face a watered-down version of the Cardinals lineup that will still be missing Marcell Ozuna, Matt Carpenter, and Yadier Molina, who are all currently on the injured list. The projected Cardinals lineup has a collective ISO of .168 against right-handed pitching this season, which is mediocre. It’s not a particularly high-strikeout lineup, but there’s reason to believe Urquidy can have some success here against a group of hitters that has never seen him before.
The Cardinals have been struggling for most of the season, which made little sense considering all of the talent on the roster. Over the last few days, though, we’ve started to see the team that many thought they would be. Paul Goldschmidt has been snoozing through most of the season, but he almost single-handedly demolished the Pirates earlier this week. Goldy homered in each of the four games in Pittsburgh, to bring his total up to 22 so far on the season.
Jack Flaherty will take the mound for St. Louis tonight. The second-year right-hander has a 4.24 ERA next to a 4-6 record to this point. The Astros obviously have a talented lineup, but most of their better bats swing it from the right side of the plate. So, Flaherty will hold the platoon advantage against the likes of Alex Bregman, George Springer, Jose Altuve, and Carlos Correa, who will return from the IL for tonight’s game.
That’s big for Flaherty, who has held opposing righties to a wOBA of just .282 so far this season. Left-handed hitters have had far more success at his expense, though, as evidenced by a .336 wOBA. Lefties have also accounted for 11 of the 20 home runs he’s served up on the year.
Yordan Alvarez and Michael Brantley could give him some trouble, but Flaherty profiles fairly decently here, assuming he can keep the hard contact to a minimum.
As mentioned above, the Astros will be getting Correa back into the lineup tonight, so this will be the first time Houston will be at full strength since the call-up of Alvarez in June. So, every single hitter in the lineup—save for former AL MVP Jose Altuve—has an isolated slugging north of .200 on the season. That gives the Astros one of the more stacked lineups in all of baseball.
Regardless of Flaherty’s individual quality, he’s going to have to run the gauntlet tonight. Urquidy gets a less daunting matchup with a lesser version of the Cardinals, and it’s rare to ever get a team like the Astros at odds as favorable as -110 on the moneyline. Vegas has this game as a toss-up, but I like the Houston side tonight.
Taylor Smith has been a staff writer with GamblingSites.org since early 2017. Taylor is primarily a sports writer, though he will occasionally dabble in other things like politics and entertainment betting. His primary specialties are writing about the NBA, Major League Baseball, NFL and domestic and international soccer. Fringe sports like golf and horse racing aren’t exactly his cup of tea, bu ...
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