Guardians vs Astros MLB Expert Picks, Money Line and Key Factors for Tonight's Game

Guardians vs Astros MLB Expert Picks, Money Line and Key Factors for Tonight’s Game

Houston Astros right-hander and three-time Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander got a late start to the season but the future Hall of Famer has looked in his prime at age 41 as he takes the mound Wednesday as a home favorite on the MLB odds against the Cleveland Guardians.

Houston needs points to climb out of the bottom of the AL West Division standings, can it take a 2-0 lead in Game 2 of the series?

MLB Lines Astros -178, Guardians +127 (total 4.5)
What´s the Score? Astros 4, Guardians 3
 

Cleveland Guardians MoneyLine +127

After entering the 2024 season projected to miss the playoffs, the Guardians have been MLB’s biggest surprise thus far as they are near the top of the AL standings. Offensively, Josh Naylor has really raised his game. Naylor was already a strong player in 2023, his second season as a full-time starter. He finished 22nd in AL MVP voting, and had career highs in just about every offensive stat. But thus far in the admittedly small sample size of 2024, he’s taken his game to a new level. He has an .895 OPS thus far, one of numerous metrics in which he’s currently setting a new career best.

Among MLB’s 280 qualified hitters entering, Naylor is one of only seven to rank in the 90th percentile or better in both strikeout rate and expected slugging percentage. In four of his prior five seasons, his chase rate (i.e., percentage of out-of-zone pitches swung at) was at least 31%. This season, though, that’s taken a sharp turn, as Naylor has gotten his chase rate all the way down to 27.7%.

It’s righty Triston McKenzie on the hill Wednesday. McKenzie (2-2) McKenzie did not factor into the decision last Thursday against Boston, allowing two runs on six hits and two walks over four innings. He struck out seven. McKenzie had to deal with plenty of traffic, though he was ultimately able to mitigate the damage thanks to a season-high seven strikeouts. He’d fail to qualify for a win, however, only making it through four innings after throwing 75 pitches, as Cleveland continues to monitor the 26-year-old’s workload after he made just four starts in an injury-plagued 2023 campaign. Overall, McKenzie has a 4.91 ERA, 1.68 WHIP and 18:17 K:BB through four starts (22 innings) this season.

McKenzie’s fastball velocity is down considerably from when he was fully healthy two years ago. His slider remains effective and the spin rates on his curve remain similar, but the fastball is McKenzie’s primary pitch and it’s getting hammered. He isn’t getting batters to chase like he once did. His walk rate has spiked. The Guardians have been cautious not to place too much on his plate. He was the last starter to pitch in a spring training game and a regular season game.

Nearly half the time this season, McKenzie has started an at-bat in a hitter’s count of 1-0. In his last full season in 2022, that number was at 37.5%. Obviously, this is a small sample size, but it’s a starting point for what’s gone wrong for McKenzie this season. With his velocity down two ticks and the frequency of him falling behind in counts, McKenzie has seen a drop-off in strikeouts.

This game will be a great test entering May to see what McKenzie can provide the Guardians against good lineups. He is 2-2 with a 4.13 ERA in four career starts vs. the Astros.

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Houston Astros MoneyLine -178

The Astros lost 18 of their first 25 games, tied for the second-worst mark in their franchise’s history. Only two teams — the 1981 Kansas City Royals, in a strike season, and the 1914 Boston Braves — have overcome such a start to make the playoffs. However, Houston may have started to turn things around after sweeping Colorado two games over the weekend in Mexico City. The Astros carry the unwavering confidence of a club that has appeared in each of the past seven AL Championship Series.

Ahead of Tuesday’s series opener, the Astros called up prospect Joey Lopefido from Triple-A Sugar Land. Loperfido was slashing .287/.393/.713 in 101 at-bats for Sugar Land this year with 37 strikeouts and 16 walks. He went 2-for-3 with a homer and two walks on Sunday as the starting center fielder. He’s started 15 games in center, three in left and seven at first base.

The arrival of Loperfido, a left-handed bat, could have a major effect on Houston’s roster. The Astros are the only team in MLB without a home run by a first baseman with veteran José Abreu having a woeful April (.099/.156/.113) and Jon Singleton not providing any power. Loperfido’s presence at first base would make the Astros much more athletic defensively.

To make room for him on the roster, outfielder Trey Cabbage was sent down. Cabbage served as the Astros’ 27th man for the club’s two-game series in Mexico City versus the Rockies over the weekend, going 1-for-2 with a double and an RBI while starting in left field in Saturday’s 12-4 win before heading to the bench for Sunday’s 8-2 win.

It’s future Hall of Famer Justin Verlander on the hill for the disappointing Astros. Verlander (1-0) didn’t factor into the decision last Thursday, allowing three hits and four walks with seven strikeouts over 4.1 scoreless innings against the Cubs. Verlander couldn’t complete five innings, getting pulled after 95 pitches. His inefficiency and lack of control led to four walks, but he kept each baserunner from reaching home plate. Through two starts Verlander owns a 1.74 ERA with 11 strikeouts across 10.1 innings.

Verlander is 23-24 with a 4.45 ERA in 55 career starts vs. Cleveland. Houston’s pitching won’t be getting a break against the Guardians, who are batting .305 with runners in scoring position, third-best in MLB. They’re averaging 5.1 runs scored per game, which ranks seventh in the league. The Astros have uncharacteristically struggled to hit with runners in scoring position this season as they are now batting .262 with runners in scoring position, which ranks 15th.

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Guardians at Astros Info

When: Wednesday, 8:10 PM ET
Where: Minute Maid Park
Pitchers (away/home): Triston McKenzie/Justin Verlander
TV: MLB Extra Innings

 

Injuries to Consider

Cleveland Guardians

DatePlayerPositionStatus
Apr 25Nic EnrightRPDay-To-Day
Apr 24Gavin WilliamsSP15-Day-IL
Apr 19Sam HentgesRP15-Day-IL

Houston Astros

DatePlayerPositionStatus
May 1Cristian JavierSP15-Day-IL
Apr 30Grae Kessinger3B10-Day-IL
Apr 30Chas McCormickLFDay-To-Day
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