Every series matters for the Houston Astros moving forward, as they are in the midst of a heated divisional race with the Rangers and Mariners. Luckily for Houston, two of their remaining series come against the Kansas City Royals, with the first one starting this weekend. We’ll preview the start of the series before going over my two plays for the game.
Losing series to lesser opponents can’t happen amid a playoff race, but the Astros did just that, losing two out of three games to the Oakland A’s. After scoring two runs total in the first two games of the series, Houston was able to at least leave Minute Maid on a high note by winning 6-2 on Wednesday. Three Astros sluggers stepped up in the series finale, with Yordan Alvarez, Alex Bregman, and Kyle Tucker leaving the yard and driving in five of the teams' runs.
Houston would also get five shutout innings from rookie Hunter Brown in Wednesday’s victory, and they’ll be looking for a similar performance tonight from starter Cristian Javier. The right-hander has looked nothing like his former self this season and enters tonight after allowing four earned runs on four hits in four innings of work against the Padres. That start made it three of his last five outings in which he’s allowed four earned runs.
Typically, if a pitcher were going up against the Royals, it would be an opportunity to bounce back; however, that won’t be the case for Javier since Kansas City enters tonight after scoring a combined 18 runs over their last two games. It’s been a brutal season for the Royals, but they seem to play their best baseball against the White Sox since they took their second series over them in the past two weeks with a 7-1 win on Wednesday.
Kansas City will call upon veteran Zack Greinke to take the mound tonight in his first start since August 28th. Greinke has been used in long relief for his last two outings, and so far, that has been an unsuccessful role change, as he has taken the loss in both games. Overall, the right-hander enters tonight with a 5.47 ERA in 126.7 innings.
The total for this game is set at 10, and I’ll be taking the over for my first play. The over is 15-7 in the Royals last 21 home games and 23-12 in the Astros last 35 games. Neither starter has proven they can keep teams out of the run column, and every game moving forward is a must-win for the Astros, so there will be plenty of motivation for them to hang a crooked number.
Since August 15th, the Astros offense is hitting .346 and ranks 1st in the league in hard-hit percentage, wRC+, wOBA, and OPS against right-handed pitching on the road. Those numbers give them quite the advantage against Zack Greinke, who is in the 15th percentile in expected ERA and 4th percentile in expected batting average. With that matchup being so one-sided to the Astros, my second play is the Houston F5 team total over 3.5, which is priced at (+120).
Kansas City should also be able to find the run column a few times tonight. Over the past month, the Royals are hitting .265 with a .749 OPS against righties at home, and their matchup tonight has struggled on the road. Not only is Cristian Javier in the 28th percentile in xERA, but he also has a 5.51 xFIP in 78.1 road innings.
Houston Astros F5 Team Total Over 3.5 (+120)