MLB Best Bets Today: Odds, predictions and picks for Sunday October 15th

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MLB schedule today has 1 game

The Astros are four wins away from their third World Series appearance in the last four years and their fifth in seven years as the ALCS against the Rangers gets underway. Texas won the AL Pennant in back-to-back years in 2010 and 2011, losing to the Giants and Cardinals in the World Series. This is their first ALCS appearance since.

 

This is the first time since 2011 that division rivals have faced off for either Pennant. The Brewers went down in six games to the Cardinals in the NLCS that year and St. Louis parlayed that into a World Series title. We’ll see if the winner of this series can do the same.

I got my Rangers vs. Astros preview and also my Diamondbacks vs. Phillies preview written up a couple days ago, but now it’s game day and it’s time to dive deep into Game 1.

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Here are some thoughts on the October 15 card (odds from DraftKings):

(odds as of 7:45 a.m. PT)

Texas Rangers at Houston Astros (-142, 8.5)

Justin Verlander will throw the first pitch of the ALCS and Jordan Montgomery will throw the first pitch against the Astros, as both teams are able to send out their aces for this Game 1 tone-setter. Verlander (3.22) and Montgomery (3.20) had virtually identical ERAs, but Montgomery (4.04) had the higher xERA (3.69). Montgomery had the better FIP at 3.56, compared to Verlander’s 3.85.

Both guys had nearly identical K% and BB% numbers, as Verlander had a 21.5% K% with a 6.7% BB% and Montgomery had a 21.4% K% with a 6.2% BB%. By virtue of a high pop up rate and a high fly ball rate, Verlander was better at limiting hits, as opposing batters hit .225, while they batted .244 against Montgomery.

Montgomery only has seven strikeouts out of 50 batters faced in the postseason, as he worked seven masterful innings against the Rays in the Wild Card Round, but struggled through four innings against the Orioles in the ALDS. Texas scored nine runs in the first three innings of that game, so Montgomery had a lot of offense to work with, but he was not sharp at all. He’ll need to button it up here because the Astros posted a 142 wRC+ over the final two months of the regular season against lefties and finished third in wRC+ for the season at 122.

Verlander tossed six shutout frames against the Twins in his Game 1 ALDS start, as he struck out six, walked three, and scattered four hits. In his playoff career, Verlander has made 35 starts and one relief appearance with a 3.54 ERA and a 3.75 FIP. He’s not the same high-strikeout guy that he was earlier in his career and even as recently as last season, but he knows how to pitch and stay out of the bad areas, which gives him more than a chance in any start.

I wrote in my series preview about how well the Rangers have done with runners in scoring position this postseason. That remains a huge part of the equation. What I didn’t write about is how Twins SS Carlos Correa gave Astros C Martin Maldonado a major endorsement after Minnesota was eliminated, as he talked with the media about how well Maldonado knows opposing hitters and how much of a weapon that is.

The difference in this series is that the Rangers don’t strike out nearly as much as the Twins do. Their hitters don’t have as many holes in terms of plate coverage. Plus, both teams should know each other inside and out. So, I don’t think that’s as much of an advantage in this series for Houston, as the Rangers are going to put a lot of balls in play, just like they are going to.

Here, though, I can’t fade Houston against a lefty, even one I really like in Montgomery. I’m also not as confident in 2023 Verlander as I would be in past Verlander, though this line would be a lot different with that guy. The total seems right at 8.5. Minute Maid Park can be finicky for offense and I’m interested to see how the relievers are deployed.

The Rangers have three lefties among their high-leverage group, which could play into a strength for the Astros. We do have two excellent managers here in Bruce Bochy and Dusty Baker, who have great feels for the game.

If you wanted a player prop to look at more, Jeremy Pena Over 1.5 Total Bases is +150. He slashed .325/.368/.466 against lefties with a .361 wOBA and a 132 wRC+ during the regular season, along with batting .362 against them over his final 62 plate appearances. Working through this lineup is hard and Pena batting in the No. 8 spot comes after battling through some really good hitters. The only downside is Maldonado is virtually an automatic out hitting behind him, but Pena is an aggressive hitter who doesn’t walk much.

I don’t have an official Game 1 bet here, just that thought on the player prop. As I mentioned on VSiN Daily Baseball Bets, I’m pretty interested in taking the Rangers series price if they lose Game 1, since I think they have some advantages as the series goes along and think the price will be good enough to take a shot with.