It seems like longer than five years ago that the Detroit Tigers were in the postseason with Justin Verlander on the mound for them. Now, in 2019, the Houston Astros are streaking towards the playoffs with Verlander on the mound for them, while the Tigers are the worst team in baseball and trying to avoid finishing with the worst record in franchise history this season.
Detroit has lost the first two games in its four-game series with the Astros — and four straight overall — but will look to change its fortunes when the two play on Wednesday night. Verlander will be on the mound for the Astros against Daniel Norris for the Tigers. Houston is currently on a three-game winning streak and holds an eight-game lead over Oakland for the American League West top spot. The Astros are also trying to keep pace with the New York Yankees for the top record in the American League, but they are two games back in that race.
Detroit sits at 37-86 and 38.5 games out of first place in the American League Central. The Tigers are trying to make a late push to avoid matching or beating the mark for the worst record in franchise history, set by the 2003 team that finished 43-119.
The moneyline for this one has the Detroit Tigers +370 and the Houston Astros -450. The over/under on the game has been set at 8.5.
Not All Bad
Norris takes the mound for his 23rd start and 26th overall appearance this season. In his last outing, he went three innings, holding the Tampa Bay Rays to just one hit and no runs before giving way to the bullpen. Norris has a 3-10 mark with a 4.82 ERA, but he has given up two or fewer earned runs in four of his last six outings.
The Detroit offense has struggled all season long, with the team’s total of 447 runs easily the worst in the American League, more than 80 behind the next lowest run total. Veteran Miguel Cabrera leads the Tigers with a .282 batting average and 50 RBI. He has four hits in the first two games of this series, though all were singles. Brandon Dixon’s 14 home runs lead the team, though he has yet to hit one in August.
Back On A Roll
Houston had lost five straight prior to its current winning streak as they are starting to get their groove back. The fact that the team has had a big lead in the division race for so long could make it hard for them to get as up for every game as they should. Verlander is certainly not having that problem, having gone 5-0 with a 2.30 ERA over his last seven starts. He has recorded double-digit strikeouts in a franchise-record six straight starts. On the season, the 36-year-old is 15-4 with a 2.81 ERA and has recorded 228 strikeouts compared to just 34 walks.
Offensively, the Astros have a lot of depth to their lineup, though injuries continue to be a problem, with Carlos Correa headed to the injured list with back discomfort. Yuli Gurriel leads the team with 88 RBI to go with his 25 home runs, and he’s been hitting the ball well over the last week, batting. 370 with two home runs and seven RBI. Michael Brantley has been even hotter, recording 15 hits in his last 30 at-bats, including five doubles and two home runs.
Houston Wins Again
It’s hard to picture Verlander wouldn’t be ready to pitch well against his former team, having already compiled a 2-1 record with a 3.60 ERA in three career starts against Detroit. The veteran is starting to gear up for the postseason, and the Tigers just don’t have the offense to put runs on the board against him. Taking Detroit in this one is certainly better as far as a payoff due to the heavy odds favoring Houston. But to get a win, I’m going with Houston -450.