Athletics vs. Astros MLB Odds & Picks: Cristian Javier Gives Houston Early Value (Thursday, April 8)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images. Pictured: Cristian Javier.
- Houston hasn't missed a beat since nearly making the World Series in 2020, jumping out to a 6-1 record.
- The A's were the last team to record a win this season and have struggled at the plate.
- Kenny Ducey doesn't expect things to change in Thursday's matchup.
Athletics vs. Astros Odds
|Time||8:10 p.m. ET|
|Odds as of Wednesday evening and via FanDuel.|
After picking up their first win of the season in a hard-fought, extra-inning affair with the Dodgers on Wednesday, the Athletics will turn right back around and try to build on the win against the Astros, a team they were swept by to begin the 2021 season.
Since that four-game set, Houston’s split its last two games against the Angels and will hope the exciting right arm of Cristian Javier can help it retain the strong form it’s began the season with. Will the Astros stretch it out to 6-1, or is it time to believe in the Athletics’ bats? Let’s look into the numbers and see if we can find the answer.
Well, that took a while. Through six games, the A’s were the last winless team in baseball, but on their seventh time of asking they finally picked up their first win. It’s hard to blame Oakland, who had a face Houston team that was a game away from the World Series last season, and then had to go play the defending champions in the Dodgers. Despite some heavy competition, though, there was certainly some fair reason to be concerned.
For starters, though the A’s faced some tough pitching, it wasn’t nearly enough to excuse their extreme lack of offense. I’ll give them a pass for losing to Clayton Kershaw, and maybe Dustin May, but Zack Greinke was a pitcher they were able to touch up last October. Aside from that group were some good-not-great arms.
The numbers have been downright horrifying so far. Oakland has just a 55 wRC+ through seven contests, the third-worst mark in baseball, with a below-average 25.7% strikeout rate. Scarily enough, Chad Pinder and Jed Lowrie have actually been some of their most reliable bats, which says it all. The only other guy worth writing about has been Ramon Laureano, but after beginning the season on a torrid pace, he injured his wrist and has played just three games as a result.
Cole Irvin, who has been drafted more times than recorded wins in his three big-league seasons, will start for Oakland after giving up an alarming 58.8% hard-hit rate in his first outing of the season against these same Astros. All told, he gave up seven hits on the day, and was relatively fine until he allowed the first two runners to reach in the fourth.
Given the amount of hard contact, you’d have to say Irvin was fortunate to head to the dugout having allowed just two runs, though I’m sure the A’s would sign up right now for two runs over four innings given Irvin’s career 6.89 ERA.
After a so-so regular season at the plate, the Astros found another gear offensively in last year’s postseason. Despite losing their leadoff man George Springer in free agency they appear even stronger than we saw them last October.
Through six games, in which they’ve produced five wins, the Astros rank third in baseball with 7.5 runs and 10.8 hits per game. Their wRC+ sits at a gaudy 147, which also happens to rank third, behind the Dodgers and Reds, and most impressively they have the fourth-lowest strikeout rate in the league.
Houston’s bats will be backing up right-hander Cristian Javier, who will get the ball for his second outing of the season. He started back last Friday against the A’s, allowing two runs on three hits over 3 2/3, striking out four. The performance was hardly an inspired one, but Jesús Luzardo did his best to give the game away for the A’s by allowing five runs through four innings before Javier could even make a misstep.
Thursday could prove to be a similar game for Javier with a similarly weak pitcher on the hill for Oakland; the youngster may not be asked to do a whole lot. To his credit, Javier did his best to deliver for all those in the Astros organization who were excited about him in his rookie campaign with a 129 ERA+ in 54 1/3 innings. It will be interesting to see if he improves upon his first outing of the year and continues to grow in his second year after posting a 3.02 xERA and impressive .185 xBA in a small window last season.
There are some redeeming qualities when it comes to this Oakland offense. They’re top-10 in contact rate and actually have ranked sixth in barrels so far. They’ve also welcomed back Ramon Laureano in the last two games. That said, the contact and hard-hit balls haven’t translated to hits, and they’ve been awful at getting on base (.257 OBP).
I do think that the A’s will be able to hit going forward. I don’t, however, think it will come here against a pitcher that has dominated them, really, the last four times he’s faced them (two of those outings came as a reliever in the postseason last year).
I’m going to back Javier’s peripherals and take the Astros to lead after five innings, though I think Oakland should be in play the rest of the series. Javier might turn out to be Houston’s best pitcher this year if everything goes according to plan. There’s also the fact that Cole Irvin is a virtual lock to allow at least three runs in the first four innings.
Pick: Astros First Five Innings -0.5 (-122)