The Astros and Braves are meeting this weekend for the first time since the World Series last fall, but Saturday night’s matchup features a dynamic arm Houston didn’t face last year: Spencer Strider. The strikeout artist will get the ball for the Braves as he aims to boost his Rookie of the Year case, while Cristian Javier – known for his swing-and-miss ability as well – starts for the Astros.
Let’s take a look at starting lineups, betting odds, and predictions for Saturday’s matchup.
Houston Astros vs. Atlanta Braves Betting Odds
The Braves enter as slight favorites at -135 on the moneyline after gaining serious momentum in their series win over the Mets. Atlanta has won 9 of its last 10 and is still fighting hard for the NL East crown at 3.5 games back. The spark for the defending champs? Rookies Michael Harris II and Vaughn Grissom, who weren’t around for last season’s World Series run.
The over/under is set at just 7 runs with a pair of strikeout masters on the mound. Notably, the Braves are among baseball’s most strikeout prone teams while Houston trails only Cleveland for the fewest Ks.
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. Spencer Strider
Spencer Strider is a serious contender for NL Rookie of the Year, and only his teammate Michael Harris II can stop him. A 4th-round pick out of Clemson just two years ago, Strider has a 3.04 ERA, dominant 1.98 FIP, and 1.04 WHIP over 94.2 innings this season. He’s tied for 7th in the NL with 142 strikeouts despite such an innings gap, averaging 13.5 K/9. Walks have been an issue at times, but he’s allowed just 5 home runs all season.
Strider has been prone to a few blowups this season – his terrific numbers tell you how dominant he’s been outside of those moments. The rookie allowed 4 ER over 2.2 innings against the Mets earlier this month, and he was hit hard by the Giants and Nationals before the trade deadline. That could be a red flag against an Astros team with such intelligent hitters who don’t strike out often.
Houston piled 21 runs on the White Sox to close out their series Thursday, getting 4-hit games from a third of their lineup. Alex Bregman has been playing like a superstar of late, batting .432 with 5 home runs and a 1.512 OPS over his last 10 games. Kyle Tucker has similarly been on a tear, hitting .390 in that span.
The Astros haven’t hit for a ton of power in August, with only 18 home runs in 17 games, but this is a lineup that can string together hits and is batting .280 since the month began. Saturday will be the Astros’ 12th consecutive day with a game, so it’s possible the offense takes a step back this weekend before Monday’s off day.
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. Cristian Javier
Cristian Javier has quietly pitched like an ace for the Astros this season, even if his stretch of 27 strikeouts over two starts earlier in the summer wasn’t sustainable. Javier has a 2.96 ERA across 106.1 innings, with a 3.38 FIP, 1.03 WHIP, and 11.7 K/9. Like Strider, he didn’t open the season as a starter but has quickly made himself indispensable to a World Series contender.
While Javier hasn’t had as many shutdown starts as Strider, you could argue he’s been more steady. Javier has allowed more than 3 earned runs in just one of his last 11 starts, allowing more than 5 hits just once in that span. It’s worth noting Javier has been markedly better at home than on the road as he goes into what will be a raucous environment in Atlanta.
The Braves have an .809 OPS in August and are second to only the Dodgers with a season-long .761 mark. Like last season, they’re winning with their depth right now. Over their last 10 games, their top five OPS leaders are all players who weren’t part of last year’s run to a title. That includes Vaughn Grissom, who’s hitting .406 with a pair of home runs since debuting less than two weeks ago. Many pitchers simply don’t have any experience against Grissom or Michael Harris II, and Javier will have to navigate those two young hitters for the first time.
That’s not so easy when Ronald Acuna Jr., Austin Riley, and Matt Olson afford you little room for error. The Braves rose to the challenge in their home ballpark and outplayed the Mets. There’s no reason to believe they can’t do the same against the Astros.
Houston Astros vs. Atlanta Braves Picks & Prediction
My pick: Over 7 Runs (-105)
Oddsmakers might’ve overestimated two great (but still largely inexperienced) pitchers. Strider has been excellent and Javier hasn’t gotten the credit he deserves, but this line is so low for such powerful, deep offenses that I would take my chances with 7 or more runs. I’d lean toward the Braves staying hot and winning this one, but you couldn’t be blamed for rolling with the Astros as a better value at +115 on the moneyline.