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Major League baseball’s least successful franchise takes on one its finest Thursday as the Detroit Tigers visit the Houston Astros to conclude a David and Goliath AL series. Behind George Springer and Jose Altuve, Houston lifted games one and two this week from the Tigers. While Detroit managed a narrow Monday loss, on Tuesday, Houston used an early jump from its stars to create breathing room. Tonight, the Astros must remain focused on their larger playoff picture to avoid a letdown opposite sneaky Detroit. Houston is 3-0 following five consecutive defeats. Meanwhile, Detroit is 9-32 since the All-Star break.
Furthering the competitive divide, Gerrit Cole, and his 2.87 ERA, opens tonight for Houston. Detroit trots out hard-luck Jordan Zimmerman (1-8).
Houston rebounds against softer schedule
Houston has used Detroit as a barrier to ward off AL West challenger Oakland going into September. For a few shaky days last week, it seemed the then streaking A’s might seriously challenge Houston for divisional honors. Though, as of this writing, the Astros are again 8.5 games up on Oakland as 29 contests remain.
However, New York currently owning home-field advantage throughout the AL playoffs is Houston’s immediate concern. Simply, on a World Series or nothing mission, the Astros focus needs laser aim, especially vs. lesser opponents, if they are to remain alongside rival New York and be fully equipped for a likely ALCS date.
We’ve got a new streak! 🔥 pic.twitter.com/qW6matD934
— Houston Astros (@astros) August 21, 2019
Returning from a recent hamstring injury which scratched him from his last scheduled start, Gerrit Cole (14-5) brings his elite numbers to the mound tonight. A run-halting machine in his last five, Cole is 5-0 during that time and has allowed a meager six earned runs through his past 34 innings.
Keeping with the focus theme, Cole cannot relax against MLB’s last-ranked offense. It’s time Houston begins re-affirming good habits to pave an easier postseason road. That may be a little more difficult with Carlos Correa (back) headed to the 10-day IL.
Tigers searching for any success
Detroit’s lack of power sabotaged their ten-hit performance Tuesday, netting the Tigers just three runs. Overall, Detroit’s 115 round-trippers ranks 29th in a league fueled by the long ball. But that statistic is just one in a deluge of poor performance indicators as Ron Gardenhire’s men amble along a season considered with modern MLB’s worst. And rostering borderline prospects and fringe-MLB veterans, Detroit’s 6-5 Monday loss can be viewed more as an indictment toward Houston’s recent slump than as a Tigers accomplishment. Still, through the murk this rebuild has created, Detroit will give 100 percent effort tonight while the team’s roster gains invaluable experience.
Victor Reyes leads off the game with a home run, the first leadoff homer of his Major League career. #MotorOn
— Tigers PR (@DetroitTigersPR) August 21, 2019
Though any winning notions are far-flung as Jordan Zimmerman takes the mound. The former All-Star hasn’t gone past six innings since late April and has allowed 30 runs in his last 31 innings – though Zimmerman did perform well through five scoreless frames August 17 vs. Tampa Bay. Detroit lost that contest, however, 1-0.
- Astros are 41-11 in their last 52 home games vs. a team with a road winning % of less than .400.
- Astros are 44-15 in their last 59 home games.
- Astros are 40-18 in their last 58 games vs. a team with a winning % below .400.
- Tigers are 5-11 in their last 16 road games vs. a team with a home winning % of greater than .600.
- Tigers are 14-37 in their last 51 road games.
- Tigers are 12-46 in their last 58 overall.
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
Houston, as mentioned throughout, isn’t firing on all cylinders. With that stated, it’d take an exceptional tumble by Cole and crew to slip against a totally deconstructed Tigers group.
I don’t expect a world-beating performance tonight from Houston. But, I can’t justify them losing even with Monday’s close call, either.
Look for Detroit to gain a few runs while the Astros do just enough to end this series on a winning note.
Prediction: Houston Astros
Full-Game Total Pick
With 43 games separating these clubs in the win column, the play today will obviously be the over-under. I choose under because of Detroit’s offensive struggles and Houston’s recent laissez-faire approach.