Rivals from the American League West Division collide on Thursday’s MLB betting card, and the Oakland Athletics will be looking for some revenge in Houston against the Astros.
Oakland Athletics vs. Houston Astros
Thursday, April 8, 2021 – 8:10 PM ET at Minute Maid Park
Oakland and Houston were co-favorites for the division title according to the preseason baseball futures, but are instead on opposites ends of the standings coming into this early rematch. The Astros packed their brooms for the season-opening series out in Oakland last weekend, and enter their home opener on top of the AL West. The A’s, meanwhile, just picked up their first dubya of the year to sit in the division basement.
A’s Have Dropped Their Last 4 Series Openers
Expectations are for about 20,000 fans at the game in Houston, no doubt some of them joining the national craze and hoping to smuggle their own trash cans into the contest. Yawn. The initial mound duel is between Cole Irvin (0-1, 8.31) and Cristian Javier (0-0, 4.91), and US betting sites such as Bet365 are carrying Javier and the Astros as -150 favorites. Most shops are selling the total at 9.5 while juicing the ‘over’ a little extra.
Oakland picked up win No. 1 of 2021 yesterday in a matinee at home, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 4-3 in 10 innings. The six-game losing streak to begin the season was a true team effort with shoddy pitching and a slumbering offense to blame. Only the Pittsburgh Pirates have a higher ERA than the 7.17 that A’s pitchers bring into this series, and a .528 OPS only bests the Milwaukee Brewers.
Irvin was no mystery to Astros hitters last Saturday, the lefthander allowing single tallies in the first and second innings before Houston finally chased him in the fifth. Astros hitters made him work through 46 pitches in the first two innings alone. Sold from Philadelphia to Oakland in January, it looked like a great buy for the A’s when Irvin had a solid spring, making three starts and two relief appearances with a 1.00 ERA and 18 strikeouts over 18 frames. Last Saturday was his first start against the Astros, and Thursday will be his first time on the Minute Maid mound.
‘Over’ Cashes Astros’ Last 5 Vs. Lefty Starters
Houston enjoyed a day off following a 6-game swing out west, coming home with a 5-1 record and owning the largest run differential (+27) in the majors through Tuesday. The Astros scored 7.50 runs per game on the trip, cracking an MLB-best 12 homers in the six contests with Kyle Tucker going deep in each of the final three games.
The offense hasn’t been the only facet of the game responsible for Houston’s quick start with the pitching staff posting a 2.72 ERA over the first half-dozen games. Javier is hoping to contribute to that side of the equation in his second start, the first being last Friday in Oakland against the A’s. The 24-year-old Dominican was a +115 underdog on the MLB odds board, and breezed through the first three innings retiring 9-straight. Javier ran into trouble in the fourth, however, and was lifted before he could factor in Houston’s 9-5 triumph. The Astros won four of his five home starts last season while Javier pitched to a 2.17 ERA at Minute Maid (29 IP).
‘Over’ Joins Astros in Last Weekend’s Sweep in Oakland
None of the booing, taunting and trash can props troubled the Astros in Oakland last weekend, and it will be interesting to see how the home fans treat them at the first game played in front of fans at Minute Maid since the fines and suspensions were handed down for the sign-stealing scandal.
Oakland won the season series a year ago, 7-3, but dropped the only two games played in Houston. The Astros own an 87-64 advantage in the rivalry dating back to when the two clubs were interleague rivals, and are 44-29 in the contests played in the Bayou City.
Houston might be down a key stick on Thursday, and possibly beyond, with Michael Brantley listed as questionable. He was plunked on the wrist last Saturday in Oakland by Irvin, and has been out of the lineup since. Most of the Astros’ dominance in this rivalry has actually taken place out in Oakland, and since things have a way of evening out – especially in baseball – my crystal ball says to run with the A’s for a free MLB pick.
MLB Pick: Athletics (+130) at Bet365