Thursday MLB Odds, Pick, Prediction: Yankees vs. Astros Betting Preview (May 6)
Mike Stobe/Getty Images. Pictured: Gerrit Cole.
- The Astros look to avoid a sweep at the hands of the Yankees on Thursday afternoon, but Gerrit Cole stands in their way.
- Lance McCullers Jr. will get the ball for Houston as a nearly 2-1 underdog.
- Tanner McGrath breaks down Astros vs. Yankees and explains why there's value on Houston as heavy underdogs.
Astros vs. Yankees Odds
|Over/Under||7.5 (-106 / -114)|
|Time||Thursday, 1:05 p.m. ET|
The New York Yankees continue to play really good baseball, having scored three in the eighth inning on Wednesday night to clinch a series win over the Houston Astros. The Bronx Bombers will go for a sweep on Thursday afternoon with their ace on the mound.
However, the Astros will be desperate to avoid a sweep. While the Yankees have a Cy Young Award candidate on the mound, Houston’s starting pitcher is having a pretty good season himself so far.
I’m overly excited for this series finale and think it will be a hard-fought, back-and-forth game. Given that, it’s a great opportunity to target the heavy underdog.
The Astros’ 2021 season has been a roller-coaster. Specifically, the Astros season has been the Kingda Ka, which is the tallest rollercoaster in the world at the Six Flags in New Jersey. It’s 45 stories high and travels at a top speed of 128 mph.
After winning six of their first seven games, the Astros ran into some COVID-19 issues and lost eight of their next nine. Houston then won eight of its next 12 games before dropping the first two in the Bronx while taking a verbal beating from Yankees faithful.
However, over the past 15 games, the Astros rank sixth in wRC+ (113) and ninth in FIP (3.51). They’ve played solid team baseball all around and have accumulated a season-long run differential of +25.
Yuli Gurriel paces the team in OPS, Alex Bregman has heated up in recent games and Christian Javier has surprisingly been Houston’s best pitcher.
It’s been a wild ride for the Astros this season, but they have a lot of potential for the rest of the season. Thursday’s starter is a reason why.
Starting pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr. (RHP)
Lance McCullers Jr. is a solid starter who’s having one of the best years of his career. He’s currently on pace to post career lows in WHIP (1.05) and HR/9 allowed (.34).
McCullers has made five starts this year, and if you exclude one bad start against Detroit — where he was apparently “sick as a dog” — he’s allowed just four runs on 14 hits while striking out 27 over 23 innings.
However, there are three main issues I see with McCullers’ performance this season.
- His walk rate would be the highest of his career. McCullers is walking 12.7% of batters faced this season and has walked three batters in every start this season.
- His average exit velocity against (90.5 mph) would also be the highest of his career.
- His .215 BABIP is very low and is likely to regress towards league average (about .300).
McCullers throws primarily a sinker-curveball mix, which has been effective. However, he’s started throwing a slider this season, and its wicked horizontal movement has been wreaking havoc on hitters — McCullers is allowing just a .100 BA on the pitch.
New York Yankees
After a wretched start, the offense has finally found itself. Over the past seven days, the Yankees are fourth in wOBA (.356) and second in wRC+ (133). Moreover, they seem to have rid themselves of the swing-and-miss woes, as they’re striking out the second-lowest rate (18.8%) during this stretch.
Plus, the big sluggers in their lineup are starting to find themselves again:
Oh G, oh my. pic.twitter.com/aryjIsMlUb
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) May 6, 2021
For all the trouble the Yankees went through in the early going, their batted-ball stats are still elite. Both Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge have hard-hit percentages above 60%, and the Yankees are third as a team in that statistic this season (42.9%). Predictably, New York’s lineup ranks very high in average exit velocity, as well (89.8 mph, fourth).
However, there has been one constant for the Yankees during their up-and-down start: the Bullpen.
New York’s bullpen has been the best in baseball, hands down. Chad Green and Jonathan Loaisiga have combined for 35 innings in relief and have a combined 1.03 ERA. Meanwhile, Aroldis Chapman has made 10 appearances this season, recorded six saves and is yet to allow a single run. Plus, he’s struck out 24 batters over his 10 total innings.
The Yankees’ bullpen is second in FIP on the season (2.83) and second in FIP over the past seven days (1.82).
Starting pitcher: Gerrit Cole (RHP)
Gerrit Cole has been an elite pitcher for years. However, he’s never been as good as he is right now. So far, this is the best year of Cole’s career.
Cole isn’t just a Cy Young Award candidate; he’s an MVP candidate. This season, he’s currently tied for second in WAR with Mike Trout and Byron Buxton, who are only trailing Jacob deGrom. He’s the anchor of the Yankees’ rotation, and New York has won four of Cole’s six starts.
In those starts, Cole has struck out 44.3% of batters faced while only walking 2.1%. Plus, he’s on pace to post the lowest ground-ball rate of his career at 36.5%. He’s posted a 1.43 ERA, .48 FIP and .72 WHIP.
Cole throws his four-seam fastball about half the time, and he’s boasting the highest average velocity of his career on it (97.2 mph) while allowing just a .212 wOBA. Meanwhile, he’s posted a 51.6% whiff rate on his secondary slider and is allowing just a .208 wOBA on it.
His curveball has been as lethal as ever. But the big change Cole has made this season is on his changeup, which he’s throwing more than ever.
He’s registering a 47% whiff rate and allowing a measly .050 wOBA on it. Here’s an awesome article that dives much deeper into his changeup use on FanGraphs.
Obviously, Cole knows Houston very well. However, he’s made just one start against the Astros, and that came back with the Pirates in 2016.
Initially, I leaned under in this game since we’re getting two pitchers having career years and an under-leaning umpire (Dan Iassogna, 241-216 to the under +12.91 units). However, at 7.5, that number is a little too low for me.
I do expect this to be a relatively low-scoring, tight affair. These two teams took a 3-3 tie into the bottom of the eighth last night, and I expect a similarly hard-fought battle today.
Given this expectation, I think the value lies with the heavy underdogs. The Astros probably shouldn’t be as high as +175 in this game, even against Cole.
However, that’s not the only reason I’m leaning Houston today.
Firstly, I think the Houston lineup will match up better with Cole than the Yankees’ lineup with McCullers. The Astros are ninth in MLB in weighted fastball runs created at 10.5, and they should have some success against Cole’s four-seamer. Meanwhile, the Yankees have posted a combined -0.8 weighted curveball and sinker runs created and may struggle with McCullers’ arsenal.
Secondly, while Cole has been otherworldly, McCullers has had a very good season himself and should hold his own at Yankee Stadium. Also, the Astros have posted much better offensive numbers against righties than the Yankees have.
It’s tough to fade a team as hot as the Yankees with a pitcher as good as Cole on the mound, but I think the Astros aren’t properly priced here. I’m looking to play Houston at anything better than +160.
Pick: Astros +180 (Play down to +160)
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