Rob Senior previews the Tampa Bay Rays vs. Houston Astros, Friday, July 28. He provides his expert prediction as well as best bets.
Date & Time: Friday, July 28, 8:10 P.M. Eastern
Moneyline: Tampa Bay Rays (-118) vs. Houston Astros (+100)
Runline: Rays -1.5 (+142)/Astros +1.5 (-172)
Total: Over 8.5 (-108)/Under 8.5 (-112)
Where: Minute Maid Park, Houston, TX
Weather: Retractable Roof Stadium
Rays vs. Astros: Preview and Picks
The marquee series for MLB this weekend takes place at the home of the defending champions, as the Astros welcome the team that’s led the American League most of the season in the Tampa Bay Rays.
Recently, the orioles have overtaken Tampa for that top spot, and the Rays look to regain their momentum in a three-game set in Texas. They get to start with their ace on the mound Friday.
Tampa Bay Rays Preview
Shane McLanahan has as good a chance as anyone to be this year’s American League Cy Young Award winner. At a record of 11-1 and an ERA of 2.89, McLanahan is averaging more than a strikeout an inning and anchoring the deep Tampa pitching staff.
He is, however, coming off his worst outing of the year last Saturday against Baltimore where he allowed five runs in just over four innings. An increase in walks may be a slight reason for concerns as well.
McLanahan’s struggles, however, are just a blip on the radar compared to the Rays as a whole. They’re just 2-8 in their last ten games. Also, the offense that led the American League for the first half of the season is sputtering to the tune of just three runs per game since the All-Star Break.
1B Yandy Diaz continues to pace Tampa Bay in most statistical categories, with OF Randy Arozarena providing consistent support. CF Jose Siri doesn’t hit for average, but his 20 home runs are tops on the team.
Houston Astros Preview
He’s back! Yordan Alvarez, Houston’s devastating cleanup hitter, returned from a seven-week absence Wednesday and is back to anchor a lineup that includes power from RF Kyle Tucker, 3B Alex Bregman, and a bit of a breakout season from CF Chas McCormick in center field.
Better still, leadoff hitter Jose Altuve’s back from his own three-week absence, which restores the Astros to potentially having the American League’s deepest batting order.
If offseason acquisition and 1B Jose Abreu gets on track, watch out! He’s struggled to the tune of only eight home runs and 51 RBI this season.
But a bigger concern is the starting pitching, and Friday’s starter Cristian Javier is a prime example. Javier made a name for himself last year, pitching the first six inning of the Astros’ combined no-hitter in Game 4 of the World Series.
2023 has been a struggle though, despite a 7-2 record he sports a 4.32 ERA. Houston’s deep bullpen negates some concerns about Javier routinely leaving games in the fifth or sixth inning. However, the Astros would likely prefer to get at least six frames from the 26-year-old on Friday.
FanDuel Sports SPECIAL OFFER
Tampa Bay Rays vs. Houston Astros Prediction
Lots of question marks, but a big series like this one demands our attention.
In McLanahan, we have one of baseball’s best coming off a bad start and facing a suddenly healthy and rejuvenated offense.
In Javier, we have a struggling hurler brimming with potential against an offense having plenty of its own problems.
The game is more or less a pick ‘em in the odds, so let’s take the champions at the slightly longer price to get the series started on the front foot.
Prediction: Houston Astros (+100) over Tampa Bay Rays