MLB Regular Season

Matchup: Houston Astros at Kansas City Royals

Date/Time: July 24, 8:10 p.m. ET

Pitching Matchup: Scott Kazmir (5-5, 2.08) vs. Jeremy Guthrie (7-5, 5.36)

MLB Betting Odds From BetDSI Sportsbook

Moneyline: Kansas City -130

Total: 8.5

Scott Kazmir will make his Houston Astros debut on Friday night against Jeremy Guthrie and the Kansas City Royals. This is a big series for both teams. The Astros got a shot in the arm on Thursday with the Kazmir acquisition. Young teams that are part of teams that are acquiring pieces at the MLB Trade Deadline sometimes get a bump from the organization’s belief in their chances and that could be the case in this series as the Astros take on the team with the best record in the AL. As for the Royals, they haven’t missed a beat without Alex Gordon and just continue to win games.

If the playoffs started today, the Astros would play the Minnesota Twins for the right to play the top-seeded Royals, just like we all expected. The Astros have decimated expectations this season and have been proactive in the process. It’s no coincidence that the Astros moved players like Carlos Correa, Lance McCullers, and Vincent Velasquez to the Major Leagues and are having success. The Royals excel defensively and shorten games with an elite bullpen. Their offensive improvements that began about two calendar years ago have been sustainable and they are currently the AL favorites to represent the Junior Circuit in the World Series.

For Kazmir, this has to be an emotional time. Kazmir grew up in Houston and attended Cypress Falls High School, so the chance to pitch for his hometown team has to be an incredible feeling. After all that Kazmir has gone through to get back to the big leagues and have success, this is the icing on the cake. Kazmir gets thrown right into a playoff race and he belongs. His 5-5 record is hardly indicative of his performance, with a 2.38 ERA, 3.09 FIP, and a 3.51 xFIP. Kazmir has improved his command this season and this season’s increase in ground balls should make the transition to Minute Maid Park from Coliseum a little bit easier.

While on the mound, the A’s only scored 51 runs in 18 starts for Kazmir. Kazmir did leave a couple of starts early with triceps soreness, so the Astros are taking a little bit of a gamble on his health. For the most part, his velocity has been good and the stuff has been sharp. His 10.8 percent whiff rate is in line with the numbers he posted as a much younger pitcher with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. The Astros are a considerable upgrade defensively, so Kazmir should be able to sustain a similar level of performance.

Jeremy Guthrie is what he is and that’s clearly enough for the Royals. Guthrie will make at least 26 starts for the ninth straight season, barring an injury. In five of those seasons, Guthrie threw at least 200 innings. That’s basically how Guthrie derives his value because the run prevention stats are not impressive. He’s even regressed this season with a 5.36 ERA, 4.70 FIP, and a 4.84 xFIP. Guthrie has allowed a .320 BABIP this season, which is the worst of his career by a large margin.

The surprising part about the BABIP increase is that Guthrie has become a fly ball pitcher this season for the first time in four seasons. Fly balls lead to home runs, but they usually lead to low BABIPs. The high BABIP comes from a 27.7 percent line drive rate, which suggests a major drop in command from Guthrie. Even the elite Royals defense cannot be in the way of every line drive that gets hit. At this point, Guthrie is a five-and-fly starter without a whole lot of upside.

MLB Prediction: Kansas City Royals

Despite that, the Royals must have a witch doctor that puts a hex on every team they play. This could be a bit of a difficult start for Kazmir, who is a very high-strung guy on the mound with lofty expectations. Kansas City has the luxury of shortening games because of their tremendous bullpen. In all seriousness, the Royals are in a great groove right now and manage to be in the top-10 in wOBA against lefties, even though they are very left-handed heavy. Houston is the value side, but I’ve been burned by Kansas City too much.