The battle for the American League pennant and for the state of Texas has reached game seven. By winning their third game on the road in this series last night, the Rangers forced this winner-take-all scenario in Minute Maid Park. In a matchup featuring a veteran starter against a young arm with plenty of postseason experience, I’ll explain why the Astros will at least control the first half of this game.
With the saying, “Death, taxes, and Nathan Eovaldi winning in the playoffs,” once again ringing true last night, the Texas Rangers find themselves one win away from the World Series after losing three straight in their home ballpark. Texas won every game that Eovaldi started this postseason, and if their bullpen didn’t blow it in game five, the same would be true for Jordan Montgomery.
The problem heading into game seven is neither of them will be on the mound tonight. Instead, veteran Max Scherzer will two the rubber for his second start this postseason. His first start back from injury, which happened to be game three of this series, did not go as planned, as he allowed five earned runs on five hits across four innings. Not only has he allowed 12 earned runs over his last 8.2 playoff innings, but he’s also allowed 12 earned runs and four home runs in his last seven innings against the Astros.
Last night, the Astros lineup was held to their lowest amount of runs since being shutout in game one, as they would leave 23 runners on base last night and failed to record an extra-base hit. That performance was on par with their home and away splits this postseason. In five road games, Houston is hitting .279 with a .856 OPS, but at home, they are now hitting .206 with a .641 OPS.
Getting the start for Houston tonight will be right-hander Cristian Javier, who picked up the win in game three by throwing 5.2 innings with two earned runs allowed. Javier’s two earned runs allowed in 10.2 innings this postseason have given him a 1.69 ERA, but they have also given him a 2.08 career postseason ERA in 43.1 innings.
On the brink of possibly making their third straight Fall Classic, the Houston Astros are (-130) favorites on the moneyline tonight, but for my play, I’ll be backing their F5 moneyline of (-122). Houston has two things going for them: their success against Max Scherzer and Cristian Javier’s ability to play at an impressive level, no matter how high the stakes are.
When the Astros lineup faced Scherzer in game three, they recorded nine hard-hit balls, which gives them 15 hard-hit balls off the right-hander in their last seven innings against him. Houston has struggled in their home ballpark this postseason, but they see Scherzer incredibly well, as they have an expected batting average of .267 and xwOBA of .363.
Like Nathan Eovaldi, Cristian Javier seems to be built for the postseason. In four postseason starts, all of which have come on the road, Javier has a .82 ERA with 26 strikeouts and just five hits allowed. If the Astros can jump on Scherzer early and give Javier a lead, I think he can give them at least five innings of quality before leaving the game in the hands of the bullpen.
Houston Astros F5 (-122) on BetRivers