Yankees vs. Astros Odds, Predictions & Preview: Back Gerrit Cole or Zack Greinke?

Yankees vs. Astros Odds, Predictions & Preview: Back Gerrit Cole or Zack Greinke? article feature image
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Getty Images. Pictured: Gerrit Cole, Zack Greinke

  • Is this small number worth taking a chance on the Yankees and Gerrit Cole despite the ace's recent struggles?
  • MLB betting analyst Tanner McGrath thinks so. He previews their Saturday matchup against the Astros below.

Yankees vs. Astros Odds

Yankees Odds -110
Astros Odds -105
Over/Under 8.5
Time 7:15 p.m. ET
TV FOX
Odds as of late Saturday morning and via DraftKings.

This season has not gone the way Yankees fans had expected. New York is just three games over .500 and sitting in fourth place in the AL East standings in mid-July.

The one silver lining of the first half of the season is that the Yankees are 3-1 against the Astros and are coming off a 4-0 victory in Game 1 of this series.

The Astros have been otherwise dominant this season with a 54-35 record, good for second in the American League and third-best in all of baseball. Their +136 run differential is best in the league by 18 runs and gives them the best expected record in the league.


New York Yankees

New York feels like a sleeping giant that the rest of the league hopes will not wake up. As a team, the Bronx Bombers have a .315 wOBA that ranks 13th in the league. However, their xwOBA is .336 would rank them fifth.

New York still leads the league in Hard Hit% and has an average Exit Velocity tied for second in the league with 89.9 mph. The Yankees have a lineup full of guys capable of going on torrid stretches.

Aaron Judge is having another All-Star season this year and has a .904 OPS with 20 home runs. He is batting .311 with a 1.012 OPS over the last two weeks.

Don’t look now, but it looks like D.J. LeMahieu is finally starting to return to LeMachine we are used to. After an uncharacteristic start, he is batting .333 over the last two weeks and looks much more comfortable at the plate. If he gets going, it completely changes the Yankees offense.

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Elsa/Getty Images. Pictured: Aaron Judge and DJ LeMahieu

Starting Pitcher: Gerrit Cole (RHP)

It sure seems like Cole was cheating.

Cole is the heavy betting favorite to win the AL Cy Young, and he’s got a 5.24 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP since June started. The Yankees, who desperately need Cole to stay afloat in the division race, are just 2-4 in his last six starts.

Curious enough, Cole’s last six outings haven’t been all that different from the rest of his season, except for two stats in particular: His strikeout and home run rate. While Cole is striking out close to 12 batters per nine on the season, that number has dropped to under 10 since the start of June. His season-long HR/FB rate is around 14%, but over his last six starts, that number has ballooned to 24%.

Other than that, though, things have been relatively normal in Cole’s world — at least statistically. He pairs that pathetic ERA with a 4.04 xFIP, so I believe he’s due for a certain amount of positive regression.

When it comes to spin rate, the numbers are down, but I wouldn’t say considerably so. The only pitch for which the average spin rate is significantly down is his sinker, which he has abandoned and hasn’t thrown in three starts.

I genuinely believe that Cole is in a slump while getting a bit unlucky. I won’t predict whether he’ll return to Cy Young form, but I do believe he’ll start to pitch better in the second half.


Houston Astros

Speaking of cheating… let’s talk about the Houston Astros.

The way their offense has looked this season, I am not sure why they ever needed to cheat in the first place. Houston leads the league in runs per game and ranks first in batting average, OPS, wOBA and wRC+. The ‘stros also strikeout the fewest and are probably the best at ping pong and corn hole and everything else, too.

Michael Brantley is fourth in the league with .327 batting average and Brantley, Yordan Alvarez, Carlos Correa, Yuli Gurriel and Jose Altuve all have a wOBA over .360 and a wRC+ over 130 this season.

Starting Pitcher: Zack Greinke (RHP) 

After 17 years in the big leagues, I’m not sure what to make of Greinke anymore. Sometimes it slips my mind altogether that he’s an ace for one of the best teams in baseball.

Greinke and the Astros are a match made in heaven. Their offense is so overly impressive, that they don’t need Greinke to be superhuman to win games. Instead, Greinke pitches a lot of innings (6 1/3 per start) while pitching to contact (6.63 strikeouts per nine) and recording an ERA under 4.0.

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Abbie Parr/Getty Images. Pictured: Houston Astros starting pitcher Zack Greinke.

Guess what? The Astros are 13-5 in games started by their ace. He is not the Greinke of old, but he’s doing exactly what the Astros have asked of him, and what the Astros need him to do.

Greinke continues to throw his soft fastball complemented by his changeup, and the combination has been effective in suppressing exit velocity (87.6 mph on average) and hard-hit balls (33.4%). Additionally, hitters have posted just a .159 wOBA on his changeup this season.


Yankees-Astros Pick

Cole’s numbers in a post-Spider Tack world are no doubt a cause for concern, but he is still Gerrit Cole, and I believe he will make an adjustment and return to form at some point.

As good as the Houston offense has been this season, the Astros have suddenly gone cold at the plate. Over the last two weeks, the Astros rank 29th in the league in wOBA and 28th in wRC+. They also will be without All-Star shortstop Carlos Correa.

In Greinke’s start against New York earlier this season, he allowed three runs in just four innings including a massive long ball to Stanton. He has allowed at least three runs in four of his last five outings.

The Yankees have a very right-handed lineup, and Greinke has a 4.57 ERA against right-handed batters this season, compared to his 2.13 ERA against lefties.

Even with Cole’s recent struggles, it is very rare to get hit at a number this small, so I can’t pass it up — I’ll back the Yankees as a small favorite with their ace on the mound.

Pick: Yankees ML (-110)

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