Tampa Bay Rays at Houston Astros Game 1 Pick

October 4, 2:05 PM EDT

Betting Odds

Astros -220/Rays +185

The Houston Astros posted the best record in the Majors this season, 11 games better than the Tampa Bay Rays. But the upstart Rays took the season series from the Astros four games to three. Regardless, Houston is lined as a huge betting favorite over Tampa for Game 1 of their best-of-five American League divisional-round playoff series Friday afternoon in H-Town. How are we playing this game with our free MLB pick?

MLB Betting Odds

MLB's playoff betting odds opened Houston at -210 over Tampa Bay, with an over/under of seven runs. Early betting action then bumped the Astros to -220 and the total to 7.5. Houston could also be found at around -100, giving the run and a half on the MLB run line.

Rays vs. Astros Set-Up

Tampa Bay won 96 games this season to claim one of the two American League wild-card spots. The Rays used a 7-1 run to secure their playoff berth, then lost two meaningless games in Toronto to end the season. They then advanced to this ALDS by beating the A's in Oakland in the AL wild-card game Tuesday night 5-1. So Tampa is back in the divisional round of the playoffs for the first time since 2013. Houston, meanwhile, won 107 games this season, beating out the Yankees by four games for the best record in the American League and edging the Dodgers by one game for the best record in the Majors. The Astros finished with a 12-2 run to claim home-field advantage for every series they'll play in these MLB playoffs. So Houston is back in the divisional round for the third straight season.

Game 1 Starting Arms

Veteran righty Verlander, by our strict accounting, finished 24/34 on quality starts this season and two for his last three. Last Thursday, he allowed three runs and four hits through six innings, with 12 strikeouts, in a 6-3 Houston victory over the Angels. And over his last three starts, he allowed five runs and 14 hits through 17 innings, with 25 whiffs. On the season, the Astros finished 24-10 with Verlander, 6-1 over his last seven starts. Over two starts against Tampa, this season, Verlander allowed just one run and seven hits through 12 1/3 innings. Houston won both those games. Fellow righty Glasnow finished 5/12 on quality starts this year, 0 for four since returning from a long stint on the DL. But he's been used as an opener for the last month, and effectively. Last Thursday, he tossed 4 1/3 innings of hitless, scoreless ball in a 6-2 Rays win over Toronto. And over his last four outings, he's allowed just two runs and five hits through 12 1/3 innings. For the season, Tampa is 10-2 with Glasnow, 4-0 over his last four starts. In his only career start against Houston, back in March of this season, Glasnow allowed just one run and six hits through five innings of a 3-1 Rays victory.

Game 1 Batting Splits

Tampa Bay batted .253/.325/.436 against right-handed pitching this season. Houston batted .274/.349/.492 against RH pitching this season. Those numbers are why we rank this lineup as the best in Baseball in this split this year.

The Bullpens

The Rays bullpen posted a Major League-low 3.66 ERA this season and a 1.20 WHIP while holding opponents to a .694 OPS. The Astros put up a 3.75 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP while also holding foes to a .694 OPS. Both these units rank among the top three or four bullpens in Baseball this season.

MLB Betting Trends

  • Tampa Bay finished 48-33 on the road this season.
  • Tampa Bay played 62-41 against right-handed starters this season.
  • Houston finished an ML-best 60-21 at home this season.
  • Houston played 68-44 against RH starters this season.

Totals Report

  • Overs played 77-75 in Rays games this season.
  • Unders played 84-71 in Astros games this season.
  • Unders played 39-37 in games played at Minute Maid Park this season.
  • Unders played a combined 29-13 with Verlander and Glasnow this season.
  • Unders played 4-3 in Rays-Astros games this season.

Rays vs. Astros Prediction 10/4/19

We can't help but give Verlander the check-mark in the pitching match-up, and Houston owns the best lineup in baseball against right-handed pitching. The price on this game is, of course, inflated toward the Astros, so we'll take a chance and play the home team against the run line for our free MLB playoff pick here.
Free Pick: 
Take the Astros -1.5 Runs