Tampa Bay Rays vs. Houston Astros: MLB Over/Under Picks
First pitch: 8:40 p.m. ET
Venue: Petco Park (San Diego)
Probable pitchers: Ryan Yarbrough (1-4, 3.56 ERA) vs. Jose Urquidy (1-1, 2.73 ERA)
Tampa Bay Rays vs. Houston Astros Predictions
One of the main reasons for Houston’s final 29-31 record in this shortened campaign could be tied to their surprising large dip in production at the plate when dealing with left-handed pitching.
After finishing first or second in baseball in team OPS against southpaws for each of the past three seasons, the Astros saw that mark dip by a wide margin — from being above .840 in all of those years to almost below .700 (.702) in 2020. They had hit above .270 off lefties as a team from 2017-19 as well before registering a puny .232 average this season.
Point being, you knew those numbers would start to return closer to their norm, and that they have in the playoffs thus far. Houston owns a team .857 OPS against left-handlers — fourth-best among all 16 postseason clubs — while hitting at a .283 clip, and I foresee this trend continuing. They’ve also cranked out six homers in 92 at-bats.
That would indicate they’re about to do some raking tonight at the expense of Rays left-handed starter Ryan Yarbrough, who is making his first career playoff start. He basically served as the starting pitcher his last time out against the New York Yankees, following up an opener, and he did fare well, ultimately holding the Bronx Bombers to two runs in five innings.
But he also recorded only one strikeout. This is the area of Yarbrough’s game — his lack of punch-outs — that can enable Houston to potentially get to him for a crooked number, or at least something beneficial for an over/under of 8.5, especially as they’re trending up when squaring off with southpaws.
Jose Urquidy gets the ball for Houston, seeking better results than his first rough outing of the year as a whole. After all, Urquidy hadn’t yielded more than a pair of runs in any of his six assignments until getting tagged for four solo homers his last time out against the Oakland Athletics. Notably, he had previously allowed only four home runs total this year — including his Wild Card Round start.
To me, that’s a sign Urquidy is vulnerable right now, as I don’t expect him to suddenly snap back into form. The four taters he surrendered were by far a career high — he had never given up more than two since first debuting last season — and it’s that little gun-shyness that could inhabit his game and throw him off.
Tampa Bay’s bats are relentless as it is, and this tendency could aid in them making it a difficulty evening for the right-hander. Either way, some offense should get going in tonight’s Game 3.
2020 MLB Over/Under Betting Record*
Regular season: “19-42-4,” -28.91 units
Postseason: 8-3, +2.95 units
Last Result: Braves-Dodgers Under 8 (WIN)
*Each bet graded as if it were to win one unit (postseason 0.5 unit except first one)