Astros vs Royals – MLB Pick for June 8th

by Kevin Roberts
on June 8, 2017

The Houston Astros march back into Kauffman Stadium on Thursday night, ready to get back to their winning ways after dropping a 7-5 decision on Wednesday night. Houston was primed to snag their second win of this series after the two sides slits the first two contests (1-1), but Dallas Keuchel was scratched at the last second and gave way to Dayan Diaz making the start.

Diaz did not perform well, giving up four hits and three runs in just over two innings. Kansas City took advantage of the Astros from there, tacking on four more runs before staving off a mild Houston comeback (3 runs in the 8th).

We were supposed to get an ace on the mound for the Astros last night and it didn’t happen, but tonight we should get it with the rising Lance McCullers Jr. set to toe the rubber. McCullers’ mere presence makes the ‘Stros the obvious favorite even though they’re on the road, while the erratic Jason Hammel doesn’t help Kansas City’s chances on the other side.

On a night where there doesn’t seem to be a ton of obvious MLB betting value, it might make sense to simply go with what works. Is Houston that easy pick? Let’s take a closer look to find out:

Houston Astros (-187)
Kansas City Royals (+176)
Total: 9.5

Lance McCullers has turned into a true ace in 2017, but he’s endured a couple of minor hiccups lately, with five total runs given up over his last two starts. McCullers had a tough time working through the Rangers in Texas in his last outing and wasn’t his elite self against the Baltimore Orioles the start before that, either.

It’s fair to wonder if those struggles will continue, especially since McCullers isn’t nearly as clean (3.58 ERA on the road) away from home. Of course, McCullers boasts some elite swing-and-miss stuff and was blazing a scorching trail before his last two outings. Prior to that modest stumble, McCullers had has pieced together four consecutive outings without a single run scored.

That’s elite pitcher territory if we’ve ever seen it, while McCullers is walking into a favorable matchup with a weak Royals offense. KC has actually stepped up their game a bit in this series specifically, but they still rank 21st in power against right-handed pitching and also rank 24th in batting average against righties.

This is an ideal matchup for McCullers in every way, while he also has a positive park factor with Kauffman Stadium not normally being known for inducing offensive explosions.

McCullers will be backed safely by an elite (and hot) Astros offense, as Houston draws an enviable date with the volatile Jason Hammel. The former Cubs pitcher has not been on point in his first season with KC, as he’s sported an ugly 5.65 ERA at home and has given up loads of contact. Considering Houston connects on right-handed pitching (1st) better than anyone in the majors and also brings the power (5th in home runs), this is not a good place to trust in Hammel.

Even if Hammel gets hammered early, though, there could be enough here to have us bite on the Under when it comes to the Total. When we look at the park and how dominant McCullers can be, it’s not crazy to think he can hold KC to 2 or fewer runs. If Hammel can keep Houston remotely in check and just survive this thing, it’s not crazy to imagine the Astros being “limited” to 6-7 runs on the road. That’s certainly what happened on Wednesday night, while the Astros only scored 3 runs in this same spot in the series opener.

The obvious bet is backing the Astros, but there’s really no money in it unless we go extra hard with our bets. We find a bit more value in the Under, which feels feasible if you can find a high one like Bovada’s (9.5). Houston makes that a somewhat risky play, but the park and McCullers give us enough upside to roll the dice here.

Pick: Under 9.5 (-120)
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