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Verlander and Astros are Game 5 Favorites

Justin Verlander #35 of the Houston Astros talks with the media during a press conference before Game Four of the American League Championship Series against the Boston Red Sox at Minute Maid Park on October 17, 2018 in Houston, Texas.

Backs against the wall. There’s no tomorrow. Do or die. Win or go home. Anyone have any more? The Houston Astros open as a big favorite (-195), once again, behind their ace Justin Verlander. David Price will get his second start of the series as he is still looking for his first playoff win as a starter. The Red Sox opened as +165 underdogs as they try to close out the series.

SHARK BITES
  • The OVER has hit in every game of this series with an average combined score of 11.25.
  • Houston is 9-1 SU in Justin Verlander’s last 10 starts.
  • The Astros pitching staff has a 5.91 ERA in the ALCS.

 Red Sox vs Astros Game Center

Verlander is Like a Fine Wine

It’s becoming clear that the 1983 vintage from Manakin Sabot, Virginia could be one of the finest harvests on record. Verlander has gotten better with age and he’s better in September and October than most pitchers in the history of the game.

In his career, Verlander has a 1.11 WHIP and 2.90 ERA in 494 innings pitched in September and October. The only other pitchers with a better career WHIP are Clayton Kershaw (0.98), Johan Santana (0.99), Randy Johnson (1.05) and Cliff Lee (1.09) (minimum 200 innings – via FanGraphs).

In Game 1 of the series, Verlander pitched six innings and gave up two earned runs on two hits in Houston’s only win of the series.

Price is a Little Closer to Being Right

David Price was one out shy of being the winning pitcher in Game 2. He was lifted after 4.2 innings after allowing four runs on five hits and issuing four walks. Those numbers will not exactly set the world on fire.

Price gets the opportunity to close out the series for the Sox in Game 5 because Chris Sale, the Red Sox ace, is still recovering from a stomach issue that put him in the hospital this past weekend.

It’s not a bad call for Alex Cora to go with the high-priced (pun not intended) left-hander. The AL East champs have three shots to close out this series and still have Sale and Nathan Eovaldi to fall back on if the Astros push the series back to Massachusetts.

Does it Matter Who Pitches?

The ALCS has been an offensive exhibition between two stacked lineups. There have been 45 combined runs scored through four games despite Joe West’s best efforts in Game 4. Sorry, Joe, I had to.

Through the first four games of the series, the Astros and Red Sox have 32 hits apiece; Boston has three home runs while Houston has swatted five. Interestingly, the Red Sox are hitting .234 in the ALCS compared to .214 in the ALDS even though pitching was supposed to be the strength of the Astros. Houston’s staff has a 5.91 ERA through four games.

My Pick for Game 5

I won’t be picking the Red Sox to finish this series tonight. I just don’t see Price rising up to outduel Justin Verlander. It’s the third game in three days and the Boston bullpen is getting a little worn out, especially with Cora having to use another five relievers in Game 4. I look for Verlander to give the Houston pen a bit of a break and go at least six innings, maybe more.

The thing is, there’s not a lot of value in picking Houston on the moneyline, despite it being a safe bet, so I’m probably going to make a totals bet on this game. With the number of runs scored already in the series, I’m sticking with an OVER bet on a total OVER 7.5 runs.

Additionally, while runline bets are dicey at best, especially in the playoffs, I can get behind Houston -1.5 runs in a Verlander vs Price matchup.

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