Houston (Keuchel) at Texas (Fister) O/U
Recommendation: Houston -1.5 -120
From all indications, the defending World Series champs are primed to be every bit as good in 2018, and there’s no reason to expect any sort of hangover. Dallas Keuchel: “We’re not the Cubs”; in reference to Chicago’s ‘hangover’ season last year following their World Series title in 2016.
Houston picked up right where they left off last October, taking care of business against the Rangers on opening day. This is a rotation loaded with legitimate aces, like Dallas Keuchel who is starting today. Keuchel dominated the Rangers on three separate occasions last year right here in Arlington – two earned runs allowed in 18.1 innings of work while striking out 22 batters and holding the Rangers to a .206 batting average against.
The Astros bullpen is truly elite – there’s a reason the Rangers notched only six hits at home on opening day; struggling to make contact even after Justin Verlander left the game and scoring their only run on a truly meaningless wild pitch in the ninth inning when trailing by four runs. There are no fatigue problems from that pen tonight. And when we’re talking about a lineup with multiple All Stars – four of their six hits yesterday went for extra bases, including a couple of dingers –it’s not like the Astros even need dominant starting pitching to win by multi-run margins on a regular basis against lesser foes like Texas.
I don’t overreact to Spring Training results. That being said, the Rangers 8-22 Spring Training – worst in the majors – was meaningful for a rebuilding team with low expectations, primed to struggle from Day 1 of the regular season. This team was nothing short of awful in Cactus League play. Their lineup lacks potency outside of a couple of middle of the order bats. And Texas has bullpen issues right from the get-go; bad news against the Astros big bats.
It’s not hard to make a case for betting against Doug Fister at this stage of his career. Fister has crapped out in Washington, Houston and Boston over the last three years – no contender wanted him back. Current Astros have hit .302 against him, but those numbers were worse last year – two appearances against Houston, 6.2 innings of work, six earned runs, nine hits and two walks allowed.
The fact that Fister is pitching out of the #2 spot in the rotation – a tired retread on a one year deal -- speaks volumes about the Rangers are precariously short on starting pitching options. Chalk worth laying, but not too much chalk – expect a win by multiple runs here, making the Run Line the preferred way to attack this wager! Take the Astros on the run-line.