Friday will feature a clash of the AL West versus Central as the Houston Astros take on the Cleveland Guardians in the second of a four-game series. Progressive Field in Cleveland will play host to this one, with the first pitch scheduled for 7:10 pm ET.
The opener of this series was dominated by Houston Thursday as they won 6-0. Justin Verlander threw six scoreless innings to pick up his 22nd career win against the Guardians.
Chas McCormick and Martin Maldonado both went deep for Houston, and both Jose Altuve and Jeremy Pena added two hits apiece in the win. Crazily, this game could have been worse, but the Astros left 23 stranded on base in the win.
The Guardians have a Zach Plesac problem as the righty lost his 10th game of the season (versus just two wins). He allowed four runs on seven hits and five walks over just 4.1 innings.
Cleveland managed just three hits in the game, with All-Stars Jose Ramirez and Andres Gimenez combining to go hitless in eight at bats.
The Astros are the favorites Friday despite playing on the road. They are -205 to win while the Guardians’ moneyline sits at +172. The runline features Cleveland +1.5 (+106), and the over/under for total runs is 7.5.
Houston’s Strength Is The League’s Problem
While the Astros’ offense is deep, especially with the trade deadline acquisitions of Trey Mancini and Christian Vazquez, it is their pitching that has been absolutely dominant this year. Coming into play Friday, they rank second in ERA (3.01), second in WHIP (1.088), second in opponents’ runs per game (3.32), and sixth in strikeouts per nine (9.10).
On the mound for Dusty Baker’s club, Friday will be southpaw Framber Valdez. In 20 starts this season, he is 9-4 with a 2.80 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in 128.2 innings.
In his last start, against Seattle, he took a no-decision after allowing three runs in seven innings while striking out seven. In his last 19.2 innings, he has allowed eight earned runs while striking out 21.
One of the hottest hitters on the team over the last couple of weeks has been utilityman Aledmys Diaz. In his last 47 at bats, he is hitting .319/.373/.596 with three home runs, five runs batted in, and nine runs scored.
As a team, Houston has relied on the long ball as they rank third in the majors in home runs with 149 on the season. The Astros have seven players with double-digit home runs, led by Yordan Alvarez (30), Jose Altuve (19), and Kyle Tucker (19).
Guardians Trying To Figure Out Astros
The trends don’t bode well for the Guardians in this one. They have lost 10 of their last 12 to Houston, and the Astros are undefeated at Progressive Field in their last six tries. Trying to break the trend, Cleveland will look to pick up a home win on Friday.
This season, when playing at Progressive Field, Cleveland is a solid 27-21 (compared to 27-30 on the road). The Guardians have also won six of their last 10.
Trying to even up the series, the Guardians will send Hunger Gaddis to the mound to make his major league debut. The 24-year-old righty is 5-3 in the minors this year with a 4.07 ERA.
Cleveland’s offense has been powered this season by All-Star Jose Ramirez. In 387 at bats, he is hitting .282/.356/.553 with a team-leading 21 home runs, 86 runs batted in (second most in the AL), 61 runs scored, and 14 stolen bases.
Ramirez has also had success against Valdez, hitting .571 in seven at bats with a home run.
Keep an eye on Steven Kwan in this one. Not only is he hitting .297/.369/.381 with 51 runs scored, but the Guardians’ leadoff hitter also has the MLB’s longest active hit streak at 18 games.
Take Houston To Win And Cover
This one basically comes down to the difference between the two teams on the mound Friday. Framber Valdez has quietly been one of the best starters in the American League, while the Guardians will be pushing a rookie to face one of baseball’s best teams.
Cleveland currently sits just a game back in the AL Central, but they might need to hope for another Twins’ loss as the Guardians could have a tough time picking up a win Friday.
Take Houston to both win and to cover the -1.5 runline (-128).