2019 American League Division Series Betting Odds and Preview: Tampa Bay Rays vs. Houston Astros
The Tampa Bay Rays have done it. They made it to the American League Division Series on a relatively measly budget. But why stop there? The Rays have a chance to pull off one of the biggest upsets in Major League Baseball, when they face the world-eating Houston Astros beginning this Friday.
The Astros are a venomous team that’s stacked from top to bottom, but do the Rays have the anti-dote. Nitrogen Sports Blog provides an in-depth look at both the Rays and the Astros.
Tampa Bay Rays vs. Houston Astros 2019 ALDS Betting Preview
Game 1: Rays at Astros | Friday, October 4, 2:05 PM
Game 2: Rays at Astros | Saturday, October 4, 9:07 PM
Game 3: Astros at Rays | Sunday, October 6
*Game 4: Astros at Rays | Monday, October 7
*Game 5: Rays at Astros | Wednesday, October 9
Betting on the Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays waltzed in the postseason by securing a Wild Card berth, as they finished with a 96-66 record, just seven games behind the New York Yankees in the AL East. What’s even more impressive is the fact that the Rays are joining the post-regular-season party despite having the cheapest constructed roster in the majors. The Rays defeated the Oakland Athletics in the Wild Card, and will now cross paths with the mighty Astros. How do they match up against the defending World Series champions?
Charlie Morton neutralized the Athletics’ offense with a solid start in the Wild Card game, but that also meant that his arm will not be ready to face the Astros in Game 1 of the ALDS. That role should belongs to Tyler Glasnow.
The 26-year-old righty has faced the Astros once this season and got a win by limiting Houston to only an earned run on six hits through five innings of a 3-1 home victory back in March. On the season, Glasnow went 6-1 with a 1.78 ERA and a 0.89 WHIP in 60.2 total innings. The Rays have been successful on the road when they start Glasnow this year, with the hurler going 4-0 with a 0.55 ERA in six starts away from Tropicana Field.
Game 2 of the ALDS will see Blake Snell toe the rubber for the Rays. It’s been a down year for Snell after winning the AL Cy Young Award in 2018, when he posted a 21-5 record and a 1.89 ERA. This year, he went 6-8 with a 4.29 ERA, though, he enters the postseason with a fresher arm. From 180.2 innings pitched in 2018, he appeared in just 107.0 frames this season. Snell had a 2-5 record and a 5.89 ERA in 12 road starts in the regular season.
Morton will resurface in Game 3 for the first time since silencing Oakland. The 35-year-old vet has been the Rays’ best pitcher this season. He had a sensational September in which he went 3-0 with a 2.73 ERA in five starts. Morton is very familiar with the atmosphere at Minute Maid Park. After all, he played for the Astros for two seasons before coming over to Tampa. He has a career 20-10 record and a 3.95 ERA in 38 total starts there.
The Rays own the third-best ERA (3.67) in the majors and have the lowest FIP of 3.65. Houston’s power will always be a challenge for any opponent, but the Rays were the best team in the regular season in home runs per nine innings allowed with a 1.10 clip.
The win over the A’s was a showcase of the Rays’ bullpen which played a huge role in sending the Rays to the postseason. Morton was not especially sharp in the Oakland game, but Tampa’s relievers did not allow the A’s to do much of anything, with Diego Castillo, Nick Anderson, and Emilio Pagan combining to throw for three scoreless innings. The Rays’ bullpen finished the regular season No. 1 in the majors with a 3.71 ERA and a WAR of 7.6 — the highest overall.
Tampa Bay’s offense isn’t as powerful as those in Houston, but it can make noise. The Rays ended the regular season inside the top 10 in wRC+. If you take out the Rays’ 15-1 road loss to Houston, Tampa Bay would have actually outscored the Astros in their head-to-head matchups this year, 26-20.
Although the Astros’ starting rotation feature a three-headed monster, there are Rays hitters who have got Justin Verlander’s, Gerrit Cole’s, and Zack Greinke’s numbers. Avisail Garcia is 8-for-34 in his career vs. Verlander, and he just scored a homer in the Wild Card game. Matt Duffy is .500 against Verlander with a 4-for-8 batting line. Travis d’Arnaud is 4 for 4 against Cole, while Tommy Pham is 9 for 18 with a homer. D’Arnaud is also 3 for 7 with a homer off of Greinke.
Betting on the Houston Astros
The Astros finished the regular season with the majors’ best record of 107-55. There seems to be no significant flaw on the way they play, but will they avoid an upset in one of the most unpredictable playoffs in all of professional sports?
The Astros have a seemingly unfair rotation that’s so top heavy and includes two of the major contenders for the Cy Young Award in the AL. One is Justin Verlander, who’ll get the ball in Game 1 for the Astros. Verlander is dialed in heading into Houston’s first game in the postseason. He went 5-1 in September and had a 2.08 ERA in six starts. The last time he faced the Rays, he held them scoreless for 5.1 innings and allowed just four hits in a 15-1 home win last August. The former Cy Young Award winner is 10-4 with a 2.34 ERA in 17 home starts his season.
After Verlander, the Rays will have to deal with the Gerritt Cole in Game 2. If you thought Verlander had a great September, wait until you see what Cole had that month. Cole was 5-0 in the last month before the postseason and allowed just five earned runs in 42.0 innings pitched over that span. Cole is nearly unbeatable at home this year, going 12-2 with a 2.63 ERA in 17 starts at Minute Maid Park in the regular season.
When the Astros play the third game of the series in Tampa, they’ll have another Cy Young winner working for them on the hill in the form of Zack Greinke, who’s probably unconscious right now after going 8-1 over his last nine starts. In September, he won four of his five starts and collected a 2.59 ERA. Greinke has an 8-1 record and a 3.02 ERA since joining the Astros before the trade deadline. In his last start, the 35-year-old blew the Seattle Mariners away with a scintillating performance, tossing a shutout for 8.1 innings and striking out nine in a 3-0 road win.
The Astros’ mound greatness doesn’t end with the last guy on their rotation. It continues into their bullpen which also happens to be the best in the majors, excluding the Rays. Houston’s crop of relievers had a 3.75 ERA in the regular season. Four of the six Astros relievers with at least 50.0 innings pitched this year has an ERA lower than 2.90. That group includes Roberto Osuna, who had 38 saves and a 2.63 ERA.
The Astros’ offense is the envy of the other 29 teams in the majors. Houston is No. 1 in batting average (.274) and third in runs per game (5.68). Their lead-off guys in George Springer and Jose Altuve always get the Astros guys on base for the likes of Alex Bregman, Michael Brantley, Yuli Gurriel and Josh Reddick to drive in.
Houston tops the majors in on-base percentage (.352) and second in runs batted in when there are men in scoring position. In other words, the Astros’ offense is just as dominant as their pitching staff, which also explains why they are entering the postseason with the best run-differential (+280).