Astros at Rangers MLB Pick July 3
Tuesday brings the latest installment of the Lone Star Showdown. The defending World Series champion Houston Astros will be in Arlington for a couple of days to take on the Texas Rangers for a midweek 2-game series. The Astros have taken 10 of the first 14 meetings of the season between the clubs, which should come as no surprise. Houston is atop the American League West with a record of 55-31, while the Rangers are in the cellar at 38-47. Still, Texas can play spoiler in this spot as the Astros are just a half-game up on the Seattle Mariners entering play Tuesday.
Dallas Keuchel will toe the rubber for the Astros in this one opposite Rangers right-hander Austin Bibens-Dirkx. This will already be Keuchel’s fourth start of the season against the Rangers. He has gone 1-1 with a 4.15 ERA through the first 3. The southpaw fared well in his first couple of outings before getting roughed up last time out. Texas touched the former Cy Young winner up to the tune of 6 runs on 13 hits in just 4.1 innings of work in a start in this ballpark last month.
The up-and-down nature of his starts against Texas serves as a microcosm for Keuchel’s entire season to date. He is just 4-8 with a 4.22 ERA, which has made him easily the worst starter in the Astros’ vaunted rotation so far this season. We know he is capable of dominance, but we haven’t seen it on a consistent basis from him so far in 2018.
Keuchel has never been a big strikeout guy. His K-rate sits down at about 18 percent so far, which is even lower than his career-to-date number of 19.4 percent. Instead of racking up punchouts, Keuchel is a guy that thrives on keeping the ball low in the zone and generating soft-contact ground balls. The hard-hit rate against Keuchel is south of 30 percent, which is solid.
Keuchel’s ground ball rate of 54.2 percent is well above-average, but it is quite a dip from the number we’re used to seeing from him. The lefty’s ground ball rate was 66.8 percent last year, which is unbelievable. Keeping the ball on the ground is obviously a good way to limit home runs, but that’s another area in which he has struggled. Keuchel has already conceded 12 home runs on the year after allowing just 15 all of last year.
While the ball will be flying in Arlington tonight with the temperatures in the 90s, this is a matchup that should bode well for Keuchel. The Rangers’ lineup is heavy with left-handed hitters, and Keuchel has held his fellow lefties to a wOBA of just .267 over the course of his career. He’ll have the platoon edge against most of Texas’ dangerous bats, including Joey Gallo, Nomar Mazara, Rougned Odor and Shin-Soo Choo. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a bounce-back effort from the Astros’ starter tonight.
The Houston hitters will take their hacks against right-hander Austin Bibens-Dirkx. There isn’t much about Bibens-Dirkx’ profile that makes him seem like anything other than a league average pitcher, at best. He has a 4.50 SIERA on the season and a middling strikeout rate around 17 percent. ABD’s career K-rate is under 14 percent, so he might even be pitching over his head at this point.
Bibens-Dirkx has also allowed a hard contact rate over 45 percent so far in 2018, which is a recipe for disaster, especially in this ballpark against a strong offense. ABD is also a fly ball pitcher, which means he’ll give up his fair share of home runs. Bibens-Dirkx has only allowed 1 homer so far this season, but he hasn’t faced the toughest opponents to this point. He has faced the Royals twice, the Padres and the Mariners.
ABD has also shown some reverse splits so far this season, which is suboptimal against an Astros lineup that features a multitude of excellent right-handed bats. Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve and George Springer immediately stand out, while Evan Gattis has also been swinging a red-hot bat over the last month or so.
There could be runs scored on both sides of this game, but I would expect the Astros have an easier time against Bibens-Dirkx than the Rangers will against Keuchel. Betting on the runline is tricky, but I think the numbers tell us this should be a lopsided game in favor of the visitors. Give me the Astros at -1 1/2 on the runline tonight.
$100 stake could win...