It certainly hasn’t been an easy start to the MLB season in terms of free picks as I have come out of the gates 0 for 2 with a tough loss on Thursday night keeping me winless for the season. The Rays had the Yankees down by a 2-1 score late in the game before Aaron Hicks cracked his second long ball of the evening in the 7th inning to put the Yankees up by a 3-2 count and that was how the game would finish. I expected more damage to be done off of Luis Severino but the youngster had his best effort in quite some time which just so happened to come at a very inopportune time for myself. I will attempt my first win of the young season in tonight’s free pick between the Los Angeles Angels and the Houston Astros.
Season Record: 0-2 Units: -2 units
Los Angeles Angels @ Houston Astros
MY PICK: ASTROS -1.5 (+135) *Risking 1 unit to win 1.35 units*
We have an all AL West matchup on our hands tonight as the Los Angeles Angels and Houston Astros open up a series from Minute Maid Park in Houston. I feel there is a distinct advantage for the Astros here due to the pitching matchup as well as how the Astros bats will lineup up against Angels’ start Jesse Chavez this evening.
Chavez will take the mound for his third start of the young season this evening and while his first start went swimmingly, his second start was rather disastrous. Chavez tossed 5.2 innings of one-run ball in his first start on just four hits and one walk to go along with six strikeouts, however the Rangers would rough Chavez up to the tune of five runs on five hits including two home runs in just 4.1 innings of work his second time around. The two homers continued a trend that Chavez developed last season as he struggled to keep the ball in the yard. Chavez surrendered 1.61 HR/9 last season while allowing a career-high 15.4% of fly-balls to leave the yard. The home runs came fairly equally from both sides of the plate, however righties did the heavier lifting against Chavez with 1.67 HR/9, a 16.3 HR/FB rate and a 34.4% hard contact rate compared to just 26% for lefties. Add it all up and Chavez struggled with hard hit balls and home runs against right-handed bats last season and he will be dealing with plenty of them tonight in Houston.
George Springer, Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, Carlos Beltran, Evan Gattis, Alex Bregman and Yuliesky Gurriel all figure to start as right-handed hitters for the Astros tonight and all of these players boast power potential. Looking more at the top of the order, Altuve and Correa both posted reverse splits last season, meaning they actually generated higher OPS’ against right-handed pitchers than they did southpaws. Combine that with the start Springer has enjoyed while dealing with a long Astros lineup and Chavez could be in more trouble tonight. The short left field porch in Houston sits just 315 feet from home plate, further complicating matters for Chavez who is seeing a lot of fly-balls leaving the yard over the last year and change.
Looking as Astros’ start Charlie Morton, he has been rather impressive in his two starts since coming to Houston in the offseason. He has allowed five earns runs across 11 innings of work, however has struck out ten and has seen the velocity on his four-seam fastball increase substantially since dealing with elbow and hamstring issues the last couple of seasons. His fastball is averaging 95.5 MPH this season compared to just 92.1 MPH in 2015, giving him much higher strikeout upside and thus having less balls put into play. The spacious 435 wall in center field should help keep his already solid home run numbers down. Morton allowed 0.91 HR/9 in 2015 and just 0.51 in 2014, his last two full seasons.
With the pitching matchup heavily in the Astros’ favor tonight I will take them on the run line with the utmost confidence while locking in my first victory of the season.