A rare interleague matchup that is worth watching – a matchup of last season’s World Series.
The Astros visit the Braves for a three-game set this weekend, and everyone is excited. The Braves need to get back on track after dropping (another) series to the Mets, but they’re going up against an Astros team that just wholloped the White Sox 10-0.
So, which team has the edge in this one?
Let’s dive into the starting lineups, betting odds, and my prediction for this Friday’s matchup.
Houston Astros vs Atlanta Braves Odds
So, Lance McCullers jr. is just coming back. When at the top of his game, he’s one of the best pitchers in the American League. However, how do we value him coming off injury?
Vegas clearly is putting an emphasis on that, making the Astros +115 at open.
However, that’s not to take away from Kyle Wright and a Braves squad that is loaded with talent on every inch of the field. The Braves are easily one of the five best teams in baseball right now, in my opinion.
But it’s still worth wondering if the Astros are somewhat unervalued here?
Houston Astros Starting Lineup
2B J. Altuve R
1B Y. Gurriel R
LF Y. Alvarez L
3B A. Bregman R
RF K. Tucker L
DH T. Mancini R
SS J. Pena R
CF C. McCormick R
C M. Maldonado R
Houston Astros vs Kyle Wright
The Braves have developed two very impressive rookie pitchers in Spencer Strider and Wright. Wright has ridiculous stuff, including three secondary pitches that have combined for a -22 Run Value (slider, curveball, changeup). He ranks above the 80th percentile of pitchers in spin rate on those pitches, as well.
Do you have time to talk about the filth factory known as Kyle Wright? pic.twitter.com/r8pQ18ANnT
— Jared Carrabis (@Jared_Carrabis) April 16, 2022
While the stuff is there, Wright still hasn’t put it all together. His batted ball statistics are below average, and he pairs his impressive 3.14 ERA with a 4.07 xERA. There’s regression on the horizion for Wright.
The Astros are primed to force that regression. This is a lineup that has the third-highest wRC+ on the season (118) and the sixth highest over the past month (112). They are disciplined, hit the ball hard, and picked up two major improvements in catcher Christian Vazquez and first-basemen Trey Mancini.
The big names are Jose Altuve and Yordan Alvarez, who are mashing just as hard as they have the whole season.
Atlanta Braves Starting Lineup
RF R. Acuna R
SS D. Swanson R
3B A. Riley R
1B M. Olson L
LF E. Rosario L
DH W. Contreras R
C T. d’Arnaud R
2B V. Grissom R
CF M. Harris L
Atlanta Braves vs Lance McCullers Jr.
McCullers came back from injury and pitched six perfect innings against the A’s, allwoing just two hits. But there are three problems with his performance:
- He walked four batters to just five strikeouts.
- His BABIP in the start was just .167.
- It was the Oakland Athletics, who are the worst offense in baseball.
When McCullers is working, he’s one of the better young pitchers in baseball. He averaged almost six innings per start last season with an ERA and xERA both below 3.40. He’s been great as a second option to Justin Verlander, and the Astros won 17 of his 27 starts last season.
But we don’t know if he’s 100%. So, it’s a bit of a wildcard.
And can we trust him against the Braves? Atlanta has posted the fourth-highest OPS (.820) and wRC+ (125) over the past two weeks. Plus, they have a murderer’s row of Austin Riley, Dansby Swanson, Matt Olson, and Ronald Acuna Jr.
The development of Marcell Ozuna has been intriguing. He’s slugging less than .400 on the season and has posted a 36 wRC+ in August so far. His BABIP is just .224, but he’s striking out a third of the time and his walk rate is down to 6%, which would be a career low.
Houston Astros vs Atlanta Braves Pick & Prediction
My picks: Houston Astros ML (+116 at FanDuel Sportsbook)
The Astros are just too good to fade when they’re catching so much juice. This is a loaded lineup and bullpen that can compete with the Braves for nine innings on any field. Plus, you have to imagine the team is extra motivated to win this series after what happened last October.
The X-factor is McCullers. If he’s pitching as well as he did in the start against Oakland, the Astros win this game 60% of the time. I also think that Wright may be slightly undervalued, even for how great he has been this season.
In the end, I would make this game more of a coin flip than the line implies. I’ll take the value with the underdog.