Friday MLB Odds, Predictions, Preview for Astros vs. White Sox: American League Ttians Clash (July 16)
Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Adam Engel (from left) Leury Garcia and Andrew Vaughn.
- The Astros and White Sox begin the second half with a matchup in Chicago of two of the AL's top teams.
- Lance McCullers Jr. takes the ball for Houston and will be opposed by Dylan Cease.
- Kenny Ducey breaks down the matchup and makes his betting pick below.
Astros vs. White Sox Odds
|White Sox Odds||+115|
|Over/Under||9 (+100 / -120)|
|Time||8:10 p.m. ET|
|Odds updated Friday afternoon and via William Hill.|
Back from the break, we have a meeting between two titans of the American League heading in opposite directions. The Astros were slumping hard before the pause in the action, while the White Sox were hot as can be. Now, both will begin the second half in Chicago in a highly anticipated series.
With the scene being set, do the White Sox have any business being underdogs at home with Houston hurting at the dish? Let’s get into this matchup.
Astros Hitting Reset Button
It’s kind of inexplicable what happened to the Astros. One minute, they looked to be running away with the American League pennant, and the next they looked like their buzzers suddenly begun to malfunction.
All kidding aside, this team has hit .214 in July with just 13 homers and 54 runs scored, one of the 10 worst marks in baseball during that time. All of Houston’s All-Stars chose to skip this week’s Midsummer Classic, which not only has kept it free of COVID-19 protocols but also may offer the team a chance to reset mentally. We know this offense is talented, with some of the biggest names in the sport and some risers like Yordan Alvarez, it’s just about getting the timing back and starting anew.
Another guy who could probably use a break is Lance McCullers Jr., who entered the All-Star break on shaky footing. The righty only allowed two earned runs in each of his past two outings, but he gave up a whopping 13 hits and six walks over those 12 1/3 innings. Free passes have been a massive issue all season long for McCullers, who has walked 12.2% of the hitters he’s faced, as has hard contact, as evidenced by 44.6% of batted balls traveling 95 mph or more.
Plenty of Skepticism With Cease
No, I’m not a member of the Cease Army. The right-hander has flashed some real potential in this his third big-league season, but there are plenty of reasons to remain skeptical.
Cease has displayed the ability to strike out hitters at a high rate in 2021, pushing toward 30%, but his profile aside from the strikeout offers many ways to beat him. There’s his 9.8% walk rate, for example, which falls right in line with his career 11% rate. There’s also his .384 xwOBA on contact, which backs up his 10.3% barrel rate and shows that hitters have been able to make solid contact off of the righty. It’s not as if he’s getting hammered, but those numbers mixed with a high 17.6 degree average launch angle simply make him a home run threat.
Aside from some Cease skepticism, life is pretty good for the White Sox. They’ve gotten a huge lift from youngsters like Andrew Vaughn and Gavin Sheets and currently own the best wRC+ in baseball since the beginning of July. They’ve hit .304 behind a 41.7% hard-hit rate, which ranks third in baseball. They’ll be more than ready to take on McCullers, whose recent struggles we documented.
Astros-White Sox Pick
You’re not going to find a bigger advocate of fading Cease than me, but I’m enamored with the White Sox here. At the very least, it’s a great speculative play considering the Astros entered the break ice cold and the Sox red hot. Aside from recent form, there’s a great edge on the Chicago hitters.
The White Sox have ranked fifth all season long in weighted runs per 100 pitches against sinkers, which is what McCullers leans on most. They’re also eighth against sliders, which is the other pitch McCullers throws a boatload.
As for the Astros, the fastball is actually one of the few pitches they don’t really dominate against, and given their recent form and preference for lefties, I’m not totally sold on their ability to rake here.
The value’s all on the White Sox as home underdogs.
Pick: White Sox ML (+115)