We have the battle of Texas on our hands tonight as we dive into this baseball betting matchup for Rangers vs Astros from Minute Maid Park in Houston!
Over 9 (-110)
Under 9 (-110)
Rangers vs Astros MLB Pick Breakdown
The Rangers got hot with a sweep of the Twins before taking two of three from the Mariners, but have been cooled off entering this one.
The Rangers took a two-game sweep from the Giants before dropping last night’s series opener in Houston. They’ve actually gotten real good pitching despite the three straight losses, but they’ll need a big improvement from left-hander Wes Benjamin if that is to continue in this one.
Benjamin isn’t long for this one after being recalled to start this one as all three of his MLB appearances this season have been out of the Rangers’ bullpen, although he did make a five-inning start in his lone Triple-A appearance this season.
Regardless, his big-league work has largely been subpar across a small 28-inning sample. Benjamin owns a 4.82 ERA in that time, but has struggled with home runs with a 1.61 HR/9 while his 5.03 FIP and 5.20 xFIP suggest he has indeed struggled. He’s walked six batters over his last 3.1 big-league innings this season with a home run in that time as well.
He also didn’t impress in his most recent sample of Triple-A work as he posted a 5.52 ERA/5.64 FIP across 135.1 frames at that level in the 2019 season, allowing 1.60 HR/9 in the process. He won’t get deep into this one, but could get touched up early given his work from 2019 forward.
The Rangers raked their way to 19 runs while winning the final two games of their series with the Mariners, but have been silenced since.
They have scored just six runs over their last three games with the opposing starter going seven innings in two of those three contests. That said, their work for the season has been far better than what was expected.
They’ll enter this one in a three-way tie for 13th with a .309 wOBA on the season while their 101 wRC+ checks in at another three-way tie, this time for ninth.
They’ll face a right-handed starter in this one, so let’s dive into those numbers a bit. Their .314 wOBA off of righties checks in at ninth league wide, as does their 104 wRC+. They do strike out a ton against righties, however, with a 28% K-rate that ranks 29th.
Additionally, FanGraphs credits them with a sixth-ranked 32.8% hard-hit rate versus right-handed pitching, although almost 49% of that contact has come on the ground.
While the bats have exceeded expectations to this point, they’re awfully quiet entering this one.
Belief in the Bullpen?
You’d be hard-pressed to find a team that had more impactful early-season injuries to their bullpen than these Rangers, although the Astros would have something to say about that as well.
Nonetheless, the injuries actually started before the season even began as they lost closer Jose Leclerc for the season due to Tommy John surgery before another key bullpen arm in Jonathan Hernandez suffered the same fate. Add in the long-term arm injury to Matt Bush and the Rangers are missing a big chunk of their high-leverage arms here in 2021.
That said, there is some belief in this bullpen now that we have a decent sample size under our belt. The Rangers’ bullpen has powered through those ailments and sit 12th with a 3.68 ERA on the season. It doesn’t seem to be any fluke, either, as their 3.77 FIP sits 11th and their 3.66 xFIP sits fifth.
Limiting walks has been a major key to success as the Rangers’ bullpen has walked just 2.91 batters per nine innings, good for the third-best mark in the bigs. Their Statcast data in terms of hard hit rate and barrel rate are closer to the middle of the pack, but there’s zero doubt this bullpen is far exceeding expectations even before the injuries.
While the Rangers are scuffling entering this one, the Astros are riding a three-game win streak that’s seen them dominate on both sides of the ball.
The 4-3 win last night wasn’t a dominant outing, but they once again received very good pitching and will send their ace in Zack Greinke to the bump in search of another quality outing.
At 37, we’re not seeing vintage Greinke so far this season. He’ll enter this one rocking a 4.23 ERA/4.31 FIP, although his 3.84 xERA/4.08 xFIP are at least a little more favorable.
Greinke’s 7.05 K/9 on the season is his lowest mark since his sophomore 2005 season when he punched out just 5.61 batters per nine. Home runs have been an issue as well as he’s surrendered 1.41 HR/9 compared to a sub-1.00 mark in each of the last two seasons as well as a career 0.92 HR/9 rate.
Statcast also isn’t the biggest fan of his 2021 work to this point. He does rank in the league’s 86th percentile in hard-hit rate and 85th in average exit velocity, but also the 52nd in xwOBA and xERA, 32nd in xBA, 44th in xSLG and 20th in K-rate. His 67th percentile ranking in terms of barrel rate is a quality figure, however.
He’s also struggled over his last four outings, going exactly four innings in each with 11 earned runs allowed in those 12 frames. He has also allowed a homer in each of his last three starts.
We’ll see if a bounce-back effort is in store tonight.
The Astros began the season white-hot at the plate before a stretch of cooled-off production, but they’re swinging it well again of late.
They scored four last night, but also 14 across their previous two games. If we go back to May 6, they have scored an average of six runs per game while scoring at least seven in four of those eight games.
For the season, the Astros are tied for fourth with a .330 wOBA on the season while their 118 wRC+ checks in as the best mark in the Majors. They’re an extremely tough out with a 19% K-rate on the season while they also lead the Majors with a .263 team batting average.
I don’t imagine they’ll see Benjamin twice through the order, but the Astros are tied for fifth with a .334 wOBA versus left-handed pitching while their 18.3% K-rate off lefties is the second-lowest mark in baseball.
They boast a deep lineup, they don’t strike out much and they get on base a lot. That’s going to be a difficult group for Benjamin to navigate through while the Rangers likely need a lengthy, big-time effort from their bullpen in this one tonight.
Like the Rangers, the Astros’ bullpen has seen its fair share of injuries. They’re currently without the likes of Josh James, Framber Valdez, Pedro Baez and Blake Taylor at the moment, and while the former two are also rotation candidates, it’s certainly a group that’s had to perform shorthanded this season.
They too have come out of it relatively okay. It’s not the Astros bullpen of a couple of years ago that ranked among the best in the league, but they do sit 15th with a 3.81 ERA on the season while their 4.03 FIP and 4.00 xFIP are more or less in line with that number.
Statcast is also a fan as they put the Astros’ bullpen at sixth with a 34.8% hard-hit rate against and tied for seventh with an 87.6 mph average exit velocity against.
The bullpen has done yeoman’s work of late as well, ranking seventh in baseball with a 2.19 ERA over the last week while they have allowed just one run over their last three games spanning 10.1 innings pitched.
The Rangers’ quiet bats don’t bode well for them in this one, even if Greinke isn’t on his ‘A’ game.
For one, he’s due for a bounce-back effort as Zack Greinke doesn’t go four innings four starts in a row very often, if ever. He’s also likely to get plenty of run support from his red-hot offense, one that doesn’t have an issue hitting righties or lefties. Yuli Gurriel is questionable due to an illness for this one, but otherwise it’s a healthy Astros lineup with all the big boys present.
I just don’t like Benjamin’s chances here, giving the Astros a big starting pitching advantage. Add in the offensive advantage and their red-hot bullpen at the moment and I’ll grab the Astros here on the run line. For more baseball betting action check out our Cubs at Tigers prediction here.
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