The Houston Astros have taken the first two games of this week’s four-game set from the Boston Red Sox. That means a win on Wednesday would secure a series victory and Houston is favored to do exactly that on June 2.
It will be Nick Pivetta and Framber Valdez to start this one off and bettors have spoken and spoken loudly about that pitching matchup with a 20-cent move in favor of the Astros, who are now listed in the -145 range at MyBookie Sportsbook with a total of 8.5.
Let’s look deeper into this matchup and see if the line movement is correct.
Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox have had an impressive season so far, but they’ve also played one of the weakest schedules in the American League. Boston has yet to play the Yankees. The Red Sox did sweep Tampa Bay in a three-game series, but that happened a while ago before the current version of the Rays burst onto the scene. This has been the first series against Houston. Boston only played two interleague games against Atlanta and has not played a talented Washington team.
Stepping up in class to face the Astros has not gone well this week, as Houston owns a 16-3 edge in runs in the series. The Red Sox offense has been non-existent in this series and a reversal of fortunes for the pitching staff has taken place. We’ll see if they can right the ship for the last two games, but this felt like a long time coming given the schedule.
The Red Sox offense is starting to drop back a tiny bit, as Boston now ranks fifth in wOBA. They’ve been passed recently by some other teams and are starting to feel the effects of the low BB% that they’ve had all season long. They’ve been aggressive swinging the bats and have hit for a lot of power, but walks are guaranteed baserunners and a 7.1% BB% ranks among the lowest in the league.
Many would also say that the Red Sox have been fortunate on the pitching side. Nick Pivetta has a 3.86 ERA with a 3.41 FIP in his 53.2 innings of work. Even with the good returns of this season, Pivetta has a 5.22 ERA with a 4.47 FIP throughout his career. His HR/FB% is 16.7% over 460 MLB innings, but sits at just 6.8% this season. There are a lot of skeptics out there about his stat line, especially with a high walk rate, and we’re seeing the voices of those skeptics today.
The Red Sox do have one of the league’s better bullpens this season, as they rank sixth as a unit in fWAR and seventh in FIP. That has been a strength for the team and one that could come into play here if they can actually keep this one competitive or have a lead.
The Astros seem like a team capable of turning it on and off this season. Houston has played very well for long stretches, but was also swept by the Rangers in a weekend set not that long ago. They’ve played better here of late while getting challenged by the Dodgers, Padres, and Red Sox during a tough stretch of the schedule. It seems like they just need that additional competitive fervor to get through these games at times.
Houston’s offense has been good all season long, but the Astros are now knocking on the door of being the best offense in baseball. By wRC+, they are. By wOBA, they rank second. Houston’s power production has improved of late and they’ve spent all season riding one of the lowest K% marks in baseball, so they’ve put a ton of balls in play with great success.
Houston still sits a half-game back of Oakland, even though the Astros have the only positive run differential in the division. They’re outscoring opponents by 1.2 runs per game. By Pythagorean Win-Loss record, the Astros should lead the division by five in the win column and eight in the loss column over the Athletics. Instead they trail because baseball is weird like that.
Framber Valdez gets the call tonight for Houston. The left-hander made his season debut last week against the Padres and went four innings with a solo homer and two walks over 18 batters. He struck out four. Everything looked fine for Valdez, though his velocity was down a little as he keeps building up his arm.
The concern is that Valdez might go 4-5 innings today, which means another big workload for an Astros bullpen that is a major weakness this season. The Astros rank in the bottom five in FIP and have one of the worst bullpens in baseball by fWAR. They’ll have to score some runs and play from in front here if they want to have a chance.
Red Sox vs. Astros Free Pick
The total has been bet down a little bit from 9 to 8.5, but I’d be looking for the over here. Valdez is not going to work deep into this game, which means a steady dose of Astros relievers. Pivetta is a guy that has some walk rate issues and will also give up home runs and hard contact. He’s definitely overachieved this season. Rather than lay the -145 price with Houston’s bullpen getting half or more of the outs, let’s look over instead.
Pick: Over 8.5