The revamped schedule means we’re going to be seeing quite a bit of interleague play this season. Wednesday’s schedule brings 10 interleague games alone, if you include two different doubleheader matchups. One of them pits the Houston Astros against the Arizona Diamondbacks in Phoenix.
Houston got the better of Arizona on Tuesday night after Madison Bumgarner struggled to tame the Astros’ powerful, righty-heavy lineup. Bumgarner yielded eight runs on seven hits in just 4.1 innings of work, which dropped his record to 0-2 with a 7.04 ERA through his first three starts with the D-Backs.
Another left-hander, Robbie Ray, will look to get Arizona back on track tonight. Ray will be squaring off against Lance McCullers Jr., who will be making his third start of the year after missing all of 2019 after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
The Astros are -135 favorites on the moneyline in a game with an over/under of 9 runs.
McCullers’ Uneven Start
The Astros were minus-money favorites to win the World Series last fall thanks in large part to their loaded starting rotation. Between Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, and Zack Greinke, Houston had the most talented starting staff we’ve seen in quite some time. Naturally, you may have forgotten that the Astros also had McCullers, because he missed the entire season.
Now, the argument can be made that McCullers is the de facto ace. Cole is in New York, while Verlander may be out for the season with an injury. McCullers was one of the brightest young pitching prospects in baseball before getting hurt, but his results so far this season have been hit-or-miss.
The right-hander allowed four runs on six hits in four innings of work last time out against the Angels. He has now walked seven hitters through his first 10 innings, as well. Control has always been an issue for McCullers, and those woes have plagued him early on. His 15.2 percent walk rate is downright unsightly, though that will surely come down as the year progresses.
McCullers also has a 5.40 ERA with a strikeout rate of 21.7 percent, which is down from his career mark of 26.5 percent. Arizona’s bats have been largely quiet this season, though, and one thing working in his favor is the number of lefties that will populate the D-Backs’ lineup. Arizona will likely put four lefties in the top-six of the order, with the potential to put as many as six in the order.
McCullers has actually been a reverse-splits righty in his career, which means he’s better against left-handed bats. He has allowed a low .278 wOBA to lefties over the course of his big league career to this point.
Ray’s Volatile Stuff
There’s no questioning Robbie Ray’s talent. In fact, he’s a lot like McCullers. He has shown a ton of strikeout potential at the major league level, but control and hard contact have been his undoing. Ray boasts a career K-rate of 28.6 percent in the majors, but his career walk rate is also pushing 11 percent.
Ray reworked his delivery during the offseason to try and cut down on those walks. Through two starts, it hasn’t worked. The lefty has a walk rate nearing 21 percent so far, which is obviously catastrophically bad. Ray’s ERA is north of 8.60, though it is worth noting he’s faced a couple of tough matchups against the Padres and Dodgers.
Plus, the new windup seems to have improved Ray’s velocity:
Biggest velo increases among starters this year: 1) John Means +3.6 2) Yusei Kikuchi +2.6 3) Jose Berrios +1.9 4) Clayton Kershaw +1.8 5) Drew Smyly +1.8 6) Jake deGrom +1.8 7) Yu Darvish +1.7 8) Stephen Brault +1.6 9) Robbie Ray +1.5 10) Eric Lauer +1.4
That said, things don’t get any easier tonight. We saw what the Astros’ hitters just did to Bumgarner, and Ray is a similar pitcher in terms of splits. Ray misses more bats than MadBum, but he still has problems with power against righties. Right-handed hitters have a wOBA of .331 vs. Ray in his career. 93 of the 113 homers he has allowed have also been slugged by RHBs.
Between Alex Bregman, George Springer, Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, and Yuli Gurriel, there is no shortage of righty power in the Houston lineup.
Houston Astros at Arizona Diamondbacks Pick
While I may be a buyer in Ray’s long-term stock, there’s really no way to sugarcoat this matchup for him. It’s about as bad as it can possibly be. Ray still has an impressive strikeout rate over 28 percent against righties in his career, so his best hope for tonight is to miss as many bats as possible.
Could the retooled delivery wind up paying dividends? Possibly. It should also help that the Astros’ hitters haven’t seen a lot of Ray in the past considering this is an interleague matchup.
Another problem for Arizona is that their offense has looked downright dormant. While McCullers hasn’t been great, either, he does profile much better against the Diamondbacks’ hitters than Ray does against the Astros’ bats. Despite having a couple of solid arms on the mound, it’s hard not to like everything about this spot for Houston.
So, bet on the Astros. There is still a bit of value in taking Houston straight-up on the moneyline at -135, but the runline is also appealing. Getting Houston to win by at least two runs at +105 makes plenty of sense, as well.
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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