Tigers vs. Astros MLB Odds & Picks: Expect Low-Scoring Game in Houston (Wednesday, April 14)
Carmen Mandato/Getty Images. Pictured: Lance McCullers Jr.
- Michael Fulmer faces Lance McCullers Jr. on Wednesday night in Houston.
- Fulmer has looked solid in relief and now gets his first start in the rotation.
- Matthew Trebby on why he expects runs to be tough to come by in this one.
Tigers vs. Astros Odds
|Time||Wednesday, 7:10 p.m. ET|
|Odds as of Tuesday evening and via PointsBet|
Five years ago, a matchup between Michael Fulmer and Lance McCullers Jr. would have had baseball fans salivating. Both were hitting their stride in the big leagues and looking like future workhorses for the Detroit Tigers and Houston Astros, respectively.
Fast-forward to 2021 and both are looking to build back up to their past form. Both missed the 2019 season due to Tommy John surgery, and McCullers had much more success than Fulmer in last year’s 60-game season.
Both are off to fantastic starts this year and will square off at Minute Maid Park on Wednesday night. Let’s dig in and find where the value lies for bettors.
Fulmer has thrived so far in relief this season, so the Tigers are going to throw him out there against the American League’s best offense to see how real that success is.
Fulmer was the key prospect sent by the Mets to Detroit in 2015 for Yoenis Cespedes, and it looked like a deal that worked out for both sides early on. Fulmer won the AL Rookie of the Year Award with a 3.06 ERA in 2016 and was an All-Star in 2017.
Then a shaky 2018 (4.69 ERA, 4.52 FIP) derailed the momentum Fulmer had built. Tommy John surgery followed and he missed all of 2019. The Tigers had nothing to play for last year, so they fed Fulmer to the wolves for 10 starts, during which he accumulated an 8.78 ERA.
He’s allowed just two runs in his first seven innings this season in three relief appearances, striking out 10 and walking zero. Fulmer’s fastball velocity is up to 95 mph from 93.2 last season. The spin rate and whiff percentage on his slider are up.
Maybe Fulmer is back? We’ll know a bit more after this outing.
At the plate, the Tigers are relying on Wilson Ramos and Akil Baddoo, just as everyone expected.
Ramos entered Tuesday’s game with four home runs in eight games, while Baddoo’s 1.381 OPS through his first 19 at-bats is incredible. Jeimer Candelario and Robbie Grossman are on-base machines, but they need help at the top of the order from Miguel Cabrera and Willi Castro, neither of whom entered Tuesday with an OPS over .550. Cabrera was placed on the 10-day IL on Sunday.
Detroit scored just 35 runs in its first 10 games, and those weren’t against a pitcher the quality of McCullers.
After missing the 2019 season due to Tommy John surgery, McCullers returned with a consistent and reliable 2020 campaign. He registered a 3.70 FIP and 3.93 ERA, with the biggest concern being that he walked 20 in 55 innings. McCullers’ walks per nine innings is up so far this season, from 3.3 in 2020 to 5.4 so far this season.
While there are questions about whether the Astros’ rotation can lead them to the promised land, there is no doubt about their lineup. Houston entered Tuesday night’s game against Detroit ranked second in MLB in wRC+, trailing only the Dodgers.
Among the Astros’ seven regulars this season (not including Martin Maldonado or Myles Straw, the Nos. 8 and 9 hitters who I’m not going to try to pretend are any good at the plate), Yordan Alvarez’s .789 OPS entering Tuesday night was the lowest.
Kyle Tucker has kept hitting. Carlos Correa is playing like he wants to get paid (we’ll see if his body cooperates). Michael Brantley’s OPS is over 1.200. José Altuve and Alex Bregman look like they’re going to return to normal after horrific 2020 campaigns. And lastly, Yuli Gurriel has nine walks in his first 10 games.
The Astros are going to be a problem in the American League. They might not have externally replaced George Springer, but they’ll be fine.
The Astros entered Tuesday night with an odd .719 OPS against right-handed pitching in 196 at-bats as a team. They were shut down by Casey Mize’s stellar outing in Game 1. The former No. 1 overall pick obviously has more upside than Fulmer, but their pitching arsenals are similar with a four-seam fastball and slider leading the way, although Mize does throw a splitter often, too.
Fulmer has earned this opportunity and while Houston has thrived at the plate this season, there’s reason to believe it will not feast against the Detroit right-hander. I also expect McCullers to pitch well because he’s a big league-caliber pitcher and that’s what those kinds of arms generally do against the Tigers.
The listed total for this game is 9.0 at PointsBet. Fulmer might not go more than four innings, but it’s reasonable to see him pitching well the first time through the order and into the fourth or fifth inning. I see a low-scoring game with these two strong arms on the mound and will back the under.
Pick: Under 9 runs (-115)