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PLAY: UNDER Houston/Texas
RATING: DOUBLE DIME PLAY
I'm not looking to play a ton of Unders with scoring and power way up this season. Trying to make an Under work in Arlington's Globe Life Park can prove especially difficult during the hot, humid months of July and August.
But I'm going to make a rare exception in this Astros-Rangers matchup. It's the only game on the Thursday baseball card. The rest of the MLB teams still get to enjoy All-Star break.
My three main factors why I like the Under are Lance Lynn, the Astros' fresh and elite bullpen and the Rangers' current bad offensive form.
Lynn is one of the few pitchers going deep into games. He has gone at least seven innings in each of his last four starts. Lynn just isn't an innings-eating, which is important enough given the weak Texas bullpen, but he is having a strong season yielding three earned runs or fewer in 10 of his last 11 starts. The Under is 7-2 in his last nine starts.
The Astros entered the break off an 11-10 win against the Angels, However, they had failed to score more than four runs during any of their previous three games.
Houston is expected to start rookie Framber Valdez. This would be his fifth start of the season. Valdez was very good in his first two starts holding the Orioles and Blue Jays to a combined three earned runs in 13 innings with a 15-to-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He wasn't so good in his past two starts giving up 11 earned runs in 6 1/3 innings with a 5-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio versus the Yankees and Pirates. That got him sent down to Triple-A Round Rock.
What to expect from Valdez? That's the big unkown. What is known is the Astros have an elite, rested bullpen. Valdez just needs to be respectable for five innings. At that point the Astros can turn to middle relievers Will Harris (1.67 ERA), Hector Rondon (3.00 ERA), setup man Ryan Pressly (1.36 ERA) and closer Roberto Osuna (1.95 ERA).
Valdez will be pitching on regular rest. The Rangers' scoring has gone downhill. If you discount a 9-3 Fourth of July win against the Angels, Texas is averaging 3.6 runs in its last 10 games. That would be tied for second-to-last in the majors if computed for the entire season. This scoring slump has coincided with Hunter Pence being out since June 16 due to a groin injury. Ronald Guzman and Asdrubal Cabrera haven't been hitting. The Rangers' lineup these days brings no fear.
There could be rust factor, too. The only four players from these two teams who have swung a bat against live competition since Sunday are All-Stars George Springer, Michael Brantley, Alex Bregman and Joey Gallo. The three Astros have had a combined five at bats. Gallo had just one bat in the All-Star Game. It was a home run to his credit.
I'm not putting that much stock in this All-Star break rust angle, however. There were 13 Over and four Unders on the one-game Thursday menu and full slate of Friday games following the 2018 All-Star break.
The forecast is for wind blowing out to right at 9-12 mph. That could be why early money has pushed the total up presenting what I perceive as value to the Under. The humidity will be reduced because of partly cloudy conditions so that's a weather plus for the Under.
This is just a regular play for me. The wind blowing out and Valdez's up-and-down history prevent me from making this a Max Unit Triple Star play.
Best of luck!