MLB Regular Season

Matchup: Houston Astros at Cleveland Indians

Date/Time: July 9, 7:10 p.m. ET

Pitching Matchup: Brett Oberholtzer (2-1, 4.32) vs. Cody Anderson (1-1, 0.76)

MLB Betting Odds From BetDSI Sportsbook

Moneyline: Cleveland -120

Total: 7.5

The door has opened wide in the American League Central for the Cleveland Indians. Winning a series over the Houston Astros would give them a big step towards walking through the door. Brett Oberholtzer and Cody Anderson are the listed pitchers for Thursday night’s series finale between the Astros and the Indians. The Indians dropped the first game of the series as Carlos Carrasco and the bullpen were knocked around, while the Indians offense continued to sputter. The Indians only scored six runs in their two wins, and only had one RBI hit on Wednesday night, but they are still in a position to take their second straight series over a division-leading team.

Nobody within the Houston Astros organization or dugout is panicking about the fact that the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have cut their division deficit to 1.5 games, but it will be interesting to see how this young Astros team responds. The Astros have lost four of their last five after rebuilding their division lead up to five games. They scored nine runs in Monday’s win, but have combined for seven runs in their four losses. The Indians, on the other hand, are still desperately crawling to get to the .500 mark. The Indians have not been a .500 or better team since the fourth game of the season.

The Indians started the season with two wins in three games against the Astros. That was their only series win until they took two of three from the Texas Rangers May 15-17. The Astros were 6-6 over their first 12 games before they went on a 19-7 run over their next 26 games. As you would expect with a team constructed like Houston, with a lot of power, but a lot of swing-and-miss, the Astros have been a very streaky team over the last six weeks, with two five-game winning streaks, but also a seven-game losing streak.

Brett Oberholtzer has been recalled from Triple-A to make his eighth start of the season. This looks like a difficult spot for Oberholtzer. He has had a hard time throwing strikes at the Major League level this season. Oberholtzer walked just 28 batters in 143.2 innings last year, but has already walked 16 in just 33.1 innings in 2015. He has mostly abandoned the knuckle-curve that he relied on 20.8 percent of the time last year in exchange for a slider/cutter. The results have not been positive. Oberholtzer enters this start with a 4.32 ERA with a 4.34 FIP and a 4.71 xFIP. He better hope that his control improves in a hurry because the Indians boast the highest walk rate in baseball against lefties this season at 10 percent. Their .319 wOBA is good enough for seventh.

Cody Anderson’s first three Major League starts could not have gone any better, except for the lack of offense. Anderson has received seven runs of support in his three starts, with a win, a no-decision, and a loss. The loss was a complete game defeat on Sunday against Pittsburgh. In the no-decision, Anderson didn’t allow a run over 7.2 innings. There are some red flags for Anderson in that he hasn’t missed many bats, with an 11.9 percent K%, but he has only walked one of the 84 batters he has faced and has induced a lot of weak contact on the ground. With Francisco Lindor and Giovanny Urshela on the left side of the infield, the Indians defense has improved dramatically throughout the season. Anderson’s small sample size numbers show obvious regression, especially with a 95.6 percent strand rate, and it will be interesting to see how he handles a very aggressive lineup that swings and misses more than the others that he has faced.

Pick: Cleveland Indians

The Indians feel like a team on the verge of turning things around. They have struggled offensively, but David Murphy got a huge hit, off a lefty no less, to win the game in Cleveland’s last at bat on Wednesday. Brett Oberholtzer is the type of pitcher that they have had success against this season and forcing the Astros to put the ball in play on the ground is the way to beat them. The Astros rate well in walks and home runs, but Anderson has shown very good control and command this season.