The Houston Astros will take on the Texas Rangers Thursday in the opening game of a four-game series that will serve as the opener of the second half of the Major League Baseball season as well. The two American League West rivals will be the only teams playing on Thursday night as the rest of the Major Leagues gets the night off before returning from the All-Star break.
Houston comes into the game with a 7.5-game lead over second-place Oakland in the American League West after winning seven of eight prior to the All-Star break. Texas sits in third place in the division, nine games behind the Astros. The Rangers are three games behind the second Wild Card spot in the American League despite dropping six of eight prior to the break.
The moneyline for this contest has the Houston Astros -135 and the Texas Rangers +125. The over/under for the game has been set at 10.5.
Looking For Better Result
Left-hander Framber Valdez is scheduled to take the mound for the Astros after being recalled from Triple-A Round Rock. Valdez has made 18 appearances, including four starts, for the Astros this season, but was sent down after dropping two straight decisions at the end of June. He allowed 11 runs in 6 1/3 innings in those two starts, dropping him to 3-4 with a 4.57 ERA on the season. Prior to those two starts, Valdez had a 2.77 ERA, so the Astros are hoping his stint in the minors has helped him regain that form.
Valdez doesn’t need to be perfect with the Houston offense supporting him, as the Astros are getting healthy and starting to really hit the ball. Houston scored at least four runs in their last seven games entering the All-Star break. Alex Bregman has been one of the Astros that has been able to stay healthy for the most part, and he leads the team with 23 home runs and 56 RBI. Michael Brantley has also been very good in his first season in Houston, pacing the Astros with a .324 batting average to go along with his 12 home runs and 46 RBI.
Needing a Turnaround
Texas had been playing very good before its bad streak at the end of the first half of the season, and the Rangers need to pick it back up in a hurry or face falling out of the playoff race. Lance Lynn will take the mound for Texas in this game, hoping to stop the bleeding. The veteran right-hander is 11-4 on the season with a 3.91 ERA, but he’s been even better over his last seven starts, going 5-0 with a 2.85 ERA, striking out 53 and walking just four in 47 1/3 innings. Lynn had his troubles with the Astros in his last start against them on May 10, giving up three runs on six hits over seven innings and taking the loss.
It’s hard to completely blame the Rangers for their mini-slump before the break, considering they were playing on the road against Tampa Bay and Minnesota as well as at home against the Angels right after Los Angeles pitcher Tyler Skaggs passed away. Still, they have to put that behind them and start putting together some wins. Having Joey Gallo in the lineup will help, as the All-Star outfielder leads the team with 20 home runs. Still, Gallo, who sat out 22 games in June, is still trying to get back into his groove, batting .167 in July so far.
Rangers Get Win
The Rangers need this win, considering the Astros’ All-Star pitchers, Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, are coming later in the series. Having Lynn on the mound will help, as will playing at home, where the Rangers are 29-17 this season. I’m taking Texas +125 to win this game.