Monday is the calm before the storm in Major League Baseball with only four games on the slate as the final week of the MLB regular season begins. But everyone will be watching the Houston Astros take on the Seattle Mariners, particularly the Toronto Blue Jays and their fans, as they kick off a three-game series that has serious playoff implications.
As of Monday morning, the Mariners trail Houston by a half-game for the final AL wild-card spot with seven games to play. They have a game in hand on the Astros, who have just six contests remaining, which makes this series even more important for Houston. Both teams are riding three-game losing streaks into the series opener and still have an outside shot at chasing down the Texas Rangers for the AL West Division title. Houston is 2 1/2 games back of Texas and Seattle is three games behind the division leaders, who have won five straight games to catapult themselves to the top of the standings.
Bet on Astros vs. Mariners
This contest will be of keen interest to the Toronto Blue Jays, who currently sit idle Monday in the second AL wild-card spot with six games to play. They have a two-game lead over the Astros and their magic number to clinch a playoff berth is now three; their magic number to clinch the second AL wild-card spot is five.
Following this series, the Mariners and Rangers will play a four-game set to close out the season in Seattle, which should ultimately decide the playoff scenarios in the AL.
Astros vs. Mariners odds
|Astros Moneyline Odds||+100|
|Mariners Moneyline Odds||-120|
|Runline odds||Mariners -1.5 (+170), Astros +1.5 (-200)|
|Over/Under||7.5 runs (over +100, under -120)|
|Time/Date||Sept. 25, 9:40 p.m. ET|
About the Astros (85-71 SU, 77-78 ATS, 82-70-3 o/u)
The Astros are in a free fall after dropping their last four series, mostly to inferior opponents. They’re coming off a sweep at the hands of the lowly Kansas City Royals, who also took two of three from them earlier this month. They also got bested in a recent series by the Oakland Athletics, who own the worst record in baseball, and by the AL East-leading Baltimore Orioles.
Houston had been sitting atop the AL West standings for much of the month of September, but now it finds itself battling just to qualify for the postseason. It’s also notable that the Astros’ final six games are on the road, but that’s not a bad thing. They’re 46-29 away from Minute Maid Park and boast an American League-best 119 wRC+ hitting on the road. However, the Astros’ lineup went a miserable 8-for-52 (.153 batting average) with runners in scoring position and stranded 47 base runners across the last six-game homestand
One particular angle for bettors to target in this series is in the base running department. Astros pitchers have failed miserably at holding base runners over the last two series, as both the Royals and Orioles combined to steal seven bases on nine attempts across the last six games. In fact, Houston pitchers/catchers have allowed 54 stolen bases in 63 second-half attempts (85% success rate).
About the Mariners (84-71 SU, 75-79 ATS, 78-72-4 o/u)
The Mariners will need to find a way to rebound after getting swept by the Rangers over the weekend. According to FanGraphs, the Mariners still have a 43.9% chance of making the playoffs and a 6.3% chance of winning the AL West despite the setback.
This past weekend can be perfectly summed up with one blooper from Sunday courtesy of Julio Rodriguez:
History is on the side of the Mariners heading into this series, though, after taking eight of the previous 10 matchups with the Astros this year, outscoring them 53-27 in the process.
Luis Castillo over 5.5 strikeouts
Houston: RHP Justin Verlander (11-8, 3.44 ERA, 7.9 K/9, 1.17 WHIP)
On paper, this game should be a classic pitchers’ duel with two veteran starters squaring off against each other. The Astros will turn to their three-time Cy Young Award winner to stop the bleeding and get the team back on track. Verlander is 5-3 in nine starts since being re-acquired from the Mets at the trade deadline and he owns a sparkling 21-10 record with a 3.09 ERA in 37 career starts against Seattle. However, the righty’s splits in September have been dreadful, as evidenced by his 5.19 ERA and .267 opponents’ batting average this month. He’s also coughed up seven homers in four September starts.
Seattle: RHP Luis Castillo (14-7 3.06 ERA, 9.89 K/9, 1.05 WHIP)
With Castillo lined up to make two more starts over the team’s final seven games, the Mariners must be feeling confident about their chances of claiming a playoff spot. Castillo has the second-best odds at bet365 (+1400) to win the AL Cy Young Award behind runaway favourite Gerrit Cole (-5000) and he’s won seven of his last eight decisions, including a 7-2 victory over last-place Oakland last Tuesday. He’s 2-0 with a 2.70 ERA in three previous starts against Houston this year.
Forecasts are calling for temperatures around 13C with showers this evening in Seattle, so the retractable roof will likely be closed.
- The Mariners have won 60, or 57.7%, of the 104 games they’ve played as favourites this season.
- The Astros have been underdogs in 40 games this season and have come away with the win 26 times (65%) in those contests.
- The Astros are just 3-7 on the run line in their last 10 contests.
Player prop trends
- Luis Castillo has averaged 6.5 strikeouts over his last 10 starts and has struck out exactly eight batters in each of his last three outings. His over/under on strikeouts is 5.5 (over -135, under +105).
- Chas McCormick has hit safely in four straight games and has eight hits in his last seven contests. He’s -175 to record a knock in this one.
- Julio Rodriguez is slashing .308/.357/.673 with 10 home runs and 20 RBIs over the last 30 days. He’s hit .250 with a home run and three RBIs in 16 career at-bats against Verlander.
Wagers to consider
- As previously mentioned, the Astros have struggled to contain players on the base paths lately. Rodriguez is Seattle’s top base stealer with 36 swipes this season, and he’s +390 to steal a bag in this one. Jose Caballero also has 26 steals for the Mariners this season, but bet365 doesn’t have a market posted for him as of Monday morning. Jarred Kalenic, who has 16 swipes this year, has +675 odds to record a steal.
- Teoscar Hernandez, who swatted a solo homer and collected two hits against the Rangers on Sunday, has three hits in four career at-bats against Verlander. He’s a steep -220 to collect a hit on Monday, but his +110 odds to record over 1.5 total bases look more intriguing.
- With two aces on the mound in a pivotal game with massive playoff implications, you might want to take a look at the NRFI (No Run First Inning): -130. Verlander hasn’t allowed a run in the first inning 58% of the time this season, while Castillo has a much better 74% mark. Expect both of these elite pitchers to rise to the occasion Monday night with so much on the line and to set the tone for a low-scoring game early.