The Houston Astros (13-12, 6-5 away) and Tampa Bay Rays (13-13, 6-8 home) meet up for the first time since last season’s American League championship series. Friday night’s contest will be game one of a three-game weekend set.
The first pitch of the contest is at 7:10 p.m. EST inside Tropicana Field. Friday’s game can be seen live on ESPN+. Houston is the money line favorite, and the run total is 8.
What to Know – Houston Astros
Houston rolls to Florida, having won six of its last eight games and push its record to over .500. The Astros won three of four against both the Los Angeles Angels and the Seattle Mariners. Houston is 2.5 games out of first place in the AL West, currently in third place.
Right-hander Lance McCullers Jr. (1-1, 4.58 ERA, 1.12 WHIP) takes the mound for the visitors. McCullers bounced back after his worst outing of the season to hold the Angels to two earned runs over 6.0 innings. The 27-year old scattered three hits, walked two and struck out five in the no-decision.
Offensively, the Astros average 5.1 runs per game and sport the league’s fourth-highest batting average (.256). First baseman Yuli Gurriel has a month to remember at the plate, beginning the season with a .344 average (31-for-90). Gurriel has four home runs and a team-high 16 runs driven in.
What to Know – Tampa Bay Rays
The defending AL champions have had a roller coaster start to the season highlighted by a five-game winning streak during mid-April. Tampa Bay split its series against Oakland during the week after dropping two of three to Toronto last weekend. The Rays are three games back of the Red Sox in the current AL East standings.
Ryan Yarbrough (1-2, 4.28 ERA, 1.21 WHIP) gets the start on the hill for the Rays. The lefthander has shined in his last two starts, surrendering one earned run over 10.2 innings pitched. Yarbrough went 5.2 innings in his previous outing, conceding three hits, no earned runs, and striking out six.
Tampa Bay scores 4.4 runs per game and bats .230 as a team. Third baseman Joey Wendle (.316 avg) is the only TB starter batting over .300 so far this season. Wendle leads the Rays in runs scored (16) and RBI (16).
The Pick is In
Houston heads to the East Coast with the pieces of the puzzle starting to come together. The Astros did not have an excellent start to the season but have bounced back as the team has gotten healthy. McCullers needs to build off his solid outing last Sunday and continue to limit free passes.
The Rays, like Houston, lost more than they won to begin the 2021 campaign but have slowly rounded into form over the last two weeks. Tampa hasn’t scored more than four runs in a game in the previous five contests, so the Rays will need to get the offense going this weekend if they want to succeed against the Astros.
McCullers and Yarbrough will limit both teams’ offenses, but the Astros will win a close one thanks to clutch hitting late in the game.
The Pick: Houston Astros ML (-120)