MLB Betting Notes: Streaking Yankees Seek Revenge vs. Astros
The Yankees will take on the Astros on Monday for the first time since their season-ending 2017 ALCS Game 7 loss. Houston’s starting pitcher that night? Charlie Morton, who got the win after pitching five innings of two-hit shutout ball.
Morton was nothing more than a journeyman before arriving in Houston, which worked its magic on him. He pitched brilliantly that October night and hasn’t really slowed down with the turn of the calendar.
Speaking of brilliance, the Yankees have won nine consecutive games to pull within two games of Boston in the AL East. Even with that winning streak, New York is a decided underdog in Game 1 of what should be a very fun series. Let’s take a look at why.
New York Yankees (+141) @ Houston Astros (-157) | O/U: 8.5
Sonny Gray (1-1, 7.71 ERA) vs. Charlie Morton (3-0, 1.86 ERA)
8:10 p.m. ET
Murderers’ Row: Talk about an underdog story — the Yankees’ offense leads the major leagues in just about every category. Shocker. The Bombers rank first in:
- Home runs (41)
- Runs scored (163, next closest is Atlanta with 151)
- Slugging (.466)
- OPS (.822)
- Weighted runs created plus (119)
- Weighted on-base average (.351)
Even more impressively, they’ve put up those gaudy numbers despite an ugly start by Giancarlo Stanton.
Luckily for manager Aaron Boone, Didi Gregorius has played at an MVP level, Gary Sanchez has a red-hot bat and young Miguel Andujar has added even more length to a lineup that already dripped with sluggers.
Things will get naughty when Stanton inevitably catches fire. Really naughty. — Michael Leboff
Judged Worthy: The Yankees will give Aaron Judge the night off and bettors were quick to move when the news broke. Almost immediately after Judge was announced out, the line moved from +135 to +141 and the under was juiced to -125 and will likely fall to 8.
Charlie In Charge: Since the Astros have such a loaded rotation, Morton doesn’t get talked about as much as he should. That’s just the nature of the beast. However, he could easily serve as a front-end starter on just about any other team.
Coincidentally, that elite Houston rotation possesses an extremely effective variety of pitchers. It features a sinkerballer in Dallas Keuchel, two power arms in Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole and two starters in Lance McCullers Jr. and Morton who rely on their curveballs. Morton’s was actually the fifth-most valuable hurler among all pitchers last season, per Fangraphs’ linear weights tool. The 34-year-old vet throws his deuce almost 30% of the time, compared to only about 20% before he joined the Astros. Consequently, his K/9 has risen from 5-7ish earlier in his career to more than 10 with Houston.
Unfortunately for Morton, the Yankees rank fifth in MLB against curves this season and toward the bottom of the league in swinging at pitches out of the zone. That won’t play into his hands tonight. — Mark Gallant
Gray Skies: Gray has looked awful through his first five starts, posting an eye-popping 7.71 ERA. Walks have played a major role in those struggles, as he’s walked 6.9 batters per nine innings, more than double his career average of 3.0. All of those free passes have contributed to his horrendous 2.14 WHIP (Walks and Hits per Inning Pitched) — by far the worst among all starters with at least 20 innings pitched this season.
While he hasn’t had much luck — as evidenced by his .375 BABIP (Batting Average on Ball in Play) — his 5.58 xFIP (Expected Fielding Independent Pitching) still clearly shows he has been one of the worst starters in all of baseball this season.
And maybe the problem goes more deeply than just walks. Considering Gray’s great reputation, it may surprise some that he has the ninth-highest ERA among all qualified starters since 2016. Over that span, the former 2011 first-round draft pick is just 16-24 with a 4.67 ERA. Yikes.
For what it’s worth, in three career starts at Minute Maid Park, Gray is 0-1 with ugly splits: 5.28 ERA, 1.83 WHIP, .328 BAA. In his lone regular-season start against Houston last season, he allowed five runs over five innings. — Stuckey
Waitin’ On A Sonny Day: On DraftKings, Gray’s salary has dropped from $9,700 to $6,900 since the start of the season, which doesn’t happen very often. Out of nearly 20,000 pitcher starts on DraftKings since the start of 2014, only 240 pitchers have had a salary drop that steep over the course of a month. Those 240 have actually performed well from a value standpoint, posting an average plus/minus of +1.16 points with a 57.5% consistency. Good buy-low opportunity in DFS, but maybe not against the Astros. — Mark Gallant
Bad Dogs: While the Yankees have a 17-7 record as a favorite this season, they are 1-2 as an underdog, losing on average by five runs. — John Ewing
Did You Know?: The Yankees average more than six runs per game, making them baseball’s most prolific offense in terms of run production. In Morton’s career as a starter, he has excelled against bad offenses, but struggled against the cream of the crop. — Evan Abrams