Thursday’s MLB Over/Under: Paxton, Verlander Open Up Crucial Mariners-Astros Series

Thursday’s MLB Over/Under: Paxton, Verlander Open Up Crucial Mariners-Astros Series article feature image

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Houston Astros pitcher Justin Verlander

Betting Odds: Seattle Mariners at Houston Astros

  • Over/Under: 6.5
  • First Pitch: 8:10 p.m. ET (MLB Network)
  • Probable Pitchers: James Paxton (9-5, 3.51 ERA) vs. Justin Verlander (11-6, 2.19 ERA)

Zylbert’s 2018 MLB Over/Under Betting Record: 76-47-3, +23.9 units

Yesterday’s Result: Pirates-Rockies Under 10, Archer vs. Marquez (WIN)

*Each bet graded as if it were to win 1 unit

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The window for consistent winning unders involving the Astros is going to close sooner than later, but in the meantime, the defending champions are still severely banged up and prone to a final score on the lower side of the spectrum.

Most of the meat in their lineup — Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve, George Springer and Brian McCann — will be sidelined again tonight as they open up a critical four-game set at home with the rival Mariners on Thursday night.

While Houston has won six of seven entering tonight’s showdown, that’s been more because of their strong starting pitching and improved bullpen, as they’ve plated three runs or fewer in the majority of those games. Furthermore, the under hit in five of those seven, and extending a little further back, unders have gone 7-2 in their past nine.

It’s only going to be more difficult for the Astros offense in this series opener when they will be tasked with trying to hit James Paxton, one of the league’s top southpaws. He has been enjoying another sensational campaign in 2018.

Although his ERA is a little higher (3.51) compared to last year (2.98), Paxton has actually registered a better WHIP (1.07) and batting average against (.219) through 22 starts while maintaining a career-best 11.48 K/9.

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Making matters even more challenging for Houston, Paxton has a very good track record against them dating back to when he first debuted five years ago. In fact, in 11 career games against the Astros, the 29-year-old Canadian native is 6-3 with a shiny 2.59 ERA and 1.06 WHIP.

This season, he’s been even better than that in his assignments opposite the world champs, limiting them to just two runs total — two­ — in three starts, spanning 20.2 innings (0.87 ERA), while pulling out the win in all three.

And all of that work came when Houston was at its healthiest. Will the likes of Tony Kemp, Jake Marisnick, Martin Maldonado and J.D. Davis suddenly flip the script? I don’t think so.

Not many pitchers have been better than Seattle’s ‘Big Maple’ this season but his counterpart this evening is one of them, as Justin Verlander has made a credible case toward claiming this year’s American League Cy Young.

While amassing an 11-6 record, Verlander ranks second in the AL in ERA (2.19), WHIP (0.88) and K/BB (7.29). He’s also third in innings pitched (156.1) and fourth in BAA (.193). And he’s on the verge of taking over the top spot on the strikeout leaderboard, being three shy of Chris Sale’s 207 K’s for the league lead.

Joe Nicholson, USA Today Sports. Pictured: James Paxton

The former Detroit Tiger has not faced the M’s yet in 2018, but in four starts against them last year, he went 2-0 with a 1.75 ERA, 0.90 WHIP and a magnificent 36/5 K/BB ratio in 25.2 innings.

Additionally, most of Seattle’s key hitters — particularly Nelson Cruz, Jean Segura, Dee Gordon, Mitch Haniger and Mike Zunino — have struggled with Verlander on the hill, collectively going 14-for-79 (.177) in their at-bats opposite the hard-throwing righty.

You may understandably be intimidated by the current line of 6.5, but that number is more than fair, given this elite pitching matchup and Houston’s injury-depleted lineup.

Totals as low as 6.5 actually used to be quite common in the recent past, so certainly don’t let it scare you off. While you can wait to see if it goes back up to its opening line of 7, you should still be on the under no matter what.

Play: UNDER 6.5/7

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