White Sox at Astros – MLB Pick for September 19th
After clinching their first division championship in 16 years, the Houston Astros got a day off to celebrate on Monday before beginning a series with the Chicago White Sox tonight at Minute Maid Park. Right-hander Collin McHugh will make his return from a fingernail issue to start for the Astros, while the Pale Hose will counter with right-hander Lucas Giolito.
McHugh has pitched very well this season after missing the first several months of the year with an elbow injury. He was forced to leave his last start early with the aforementioned fingernail problem, but in nine starts McHugh has a 2-2 record with a 3.61 ERA.
McHugh has flyball tendencies, which can hurt him at times. The White Sox’ lineup is far from imposing these days, but they’ve quietly been playing very well of late. Chicago enters Tuesday’s game having won six of their last nine overall, and they’ve scored at least 10 runs twice in the last four games.
Jose Abreu, Avisail Garcia, Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson have been swinging hot bats all month long, and McHugh may struggle to breeze right through this lineup.
The Astros’ hitters will have to deal with Giolito, who finally seems poised to capitalize on his massive potential. Giolito has been one of the best pitching prospects in baseball for the last handful of years, but only now is he looking like a potential ace-in-the-making. Through five starts, the 23-year-old is 2-2 with a tidy 2.56 ERA. He’s only allowed more than four earned runs once, and that came in his first outing against the Twins in late August.
Walks have always been Giolito’s primary problem. He had an unsightly walk rate of nearly 12% in limited duty last season with the Nationals, and he had a 10.7% walk rate in Triple-A this season. It’s down to 8.7% through his five starts in the bigs so far in 2017, but if he’s going to succeed against a deep and talented Astros lineup, he’s going to have to keep them off the basepaths.
The Astros clinched their division on Sunday, but they still have to fight with the Cleveland Indians for the top seed in the American League playoffs. Houston enters Monday of the Tribe, and we expect them to try and fight their way past Cleveland. As a result, it seems unlikely that manager A.J. Hinch will rest a bunch of regulars in this one.
If the Astros do run out a watered-down lineup, we don’t like this bet nearly as much. However, the Astros have been swinging the bats well as a team of late, and they have yet to lose a game at Minute Maid Park since Hurricane Harvey. Vegas tabbed this game with an over/under of nine runs, which feels a bit low.
The Astros and White Sox have been two of the hottest offenses in the A.L. over the last few weeks, so it may be a struggle for both pitching staffs to keep runs off the board. McHugh and Giolito have pitched well, but we’re going to bet that this game scores more than nine total runs.