By Adam Thompson | | 3 mins
Astros vs Rays Picks, ALCS Odds & Complete Betting Guide
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The Houston Astros finished the regular season with a losing record. They dealt with hisses and intentional beaning all season. They lost ace Gerrit Cole to free agency and Justin Verlander to injury. But here they are, four wins from reaching another World Series.
The Astros and Tampa Bay Rays face off in the American League Championship Series. Game 1 is Sunday at Petco Park in San Diego. Houston is the underdog in the latest MLB odds.
Experience counted for the Astros, the defending American League champions who despite their subpar year are back in the ALCS for the fourth consecutive year. It’s the first championship series since 2008 for the top-seeded Rays.
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ALCS Astros vs Rays Odds & Pick
THE ODDS: Rays -167, Astros +135
The great thing about the baseball postseason is any team that gets hot can make a run. That’s the case with the Astros, who were averaging just 3.8 runs per game in September; only the Pirates scored fewer. But against Oakland’s top-shelf corps, the Astros plated 8.8 rpg over five games.
As great as Oakland’s pitching was, the Tampa staff takes it up a notch. The Rays earned the No. 1 seed in the AL with their arms. They ranked just 12th in MLB in scoring and 14th in home runs, however their pitchers ranked third in overall ERA and they have three aces in Tyler Glasnow, Blake Snell and Charlie Morton.
The hot/cold Rays bats scored seven-plus runs in three of their seven playoff games, but three runs or less in the other four. They went 2-2 when they scored three or less; 3-0 when they didn’t.
The Rays had to use up Glasnow in Game 5 to advance. That means less of him vs. Houston. That could loom large. But Tampa’s depth is too much, its strategies too diverse, its options too numerous. Houston needs its bats to beat you. The Rays (40-20 in the regular season) have found myriad ways to beat everyone.
THE PICK: Rays in 6
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3 NLCS Betting Tips
1. Homers Uptick: The Astros bashed 12 homers in the five-game NLDS, tying the A’s for a record. The Padres proved this season that Petco can be a HR park when HR-hitting teams embrace it – the Yankees and Rays combined for 21 homers in five games at Petco for their ALDS. Look for more homers, perhaps more than oddsmakers expect.
2. Favor Pitchers: The offense of the Astros and Rays came through when needed in their divisional series. But among the final eight teams in the playoffs, these were the two coldest-hitting teams, combining for an average of 8.0 runs per game. Each team had better pitching than hitting. Over/Unders at or above 8.5 could offer opportunity to go low.
3. One-Run Wonders: If the Rays have the lead after six or seven innings, expect them to hold onto it. They were 14-5 in one-run games this season, the best mark in the majors. The Astros played more one-run games than any team in the regular season – 24 of their 60 contests – but went just 10-14 in them.
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Adam Thompson’s AL Playoffs Betting Recap
AL Wild-Card Picks: Rays (-210) over Blue Jays, White Sox (+110) over A’s, Twins (-120) over Astros, Yankees (-135) over Indians. Record: 2-2 (-20)
ALDS Picks: Rays (+120) over Yankees, A's (-118) over Astros. Record: 1-1 (+2)
Overall record: 3-3 (-18)