After dropping last night’s game to the Pirates, the Houston Astros are 5-7 overall and will be looking to salvage their road trip with a series win this afternoon. We’ll preview the game before reviewing why I like a first five innings bet for the matchup.
Last night’s game between the Astros and Pirates featured a lot of back and forth that ultimately ended with a Ji-Hwan Bae walk-off homerun off Astros closer Ryan Pressly. Bae’s homerun was the fifth of the game and helped Pirates closer David Bednar pick up a win instead of a blown save, as he allowed two runs (one earned) in the top of the ninth inning which tied the game.
After a strong performance from young right-hander Mitch Keller last night, the Pirates will hand the ball to Rich Hill this afternoon. The veteran lefty has struggled to start the season, with a 10 ERA through nine innings of work. Hill has allowed 11 total hits this season, and five of them have been homers. In his lone start against Houston last season, he allowed four earned runs in three innings of work.
Hill will be taking on an Astros lineup that is 14th in batting average so far this season while averaging 4.92 runs per game. After last night, the bright side for Houston is that Alex Bregman looked like himself again by hitting his first homerun and double of the season. If Bregman feels more comfortable at the plate and can contribute like Yordan Alvarez and Kyle Tucker have been, the Astros likely won’t be under .500 for much longer.
On the mound this afternoon for the Astros will be Jose Urquidy, who will be looking for his first win of the season after picking up two straight no-decisions. Urquidy has allowed 14 total hits in 9.3 innings of work but has managed to keep his ERA at 3.86 over that stretch.
For my play in this one, I’ll be targeting the Houston Astros F5 run-line of (-.5), currently priced at (-114). The Astros are 4-1 on the F5 run-line this season when on the road, and they have a more than ideal matchup today with who they are facing on the mound. Houston is hitting .292 as a team against lefties with a .895 OPS so far this season, and now they will take on a lefty that is already struggling.
Hill is in the first percentile in barrel percentage and xSLG after two starts, which are big positives for a Houston team that has multiple dangerous hitters in it. The average exit velocity that Hill is allowing this season is 4.2 MPH higher than the league average, and he has a 40% fly ball rate at the moment, and those two things are a beautiful site for Astros backers.
I think Urquidy can do a solid job today at limiting the Pirates' lineup, especially since he is in the 95th percentile in chase rate and 60th percentile in barrel percentage. Pittsburgh is hitting .235 against righties this season, and I think Urquidy can produce enough soft contact to preserve any lead Houston may build.
Houston Astros F5 (-.5)(-114)