Astros vs. A’s

Astros vs. A’s | 2021 MLB Expert Analysis

Written by on April 2, 2021

The Houston Astros were heavy favorites to win another AL West title last year, but they were dethroned by the Oakland A’s. It figures to be a two-team race in the division again and the clubs meet on Thursday in the regular-season opener with the Astros as slight favorites on the MLB odds.

How to Bet Astros at A’s MLB Odds & TV Info
  • When: Thursday, 10:07 PM ET
  • Where: Oakland Coliseum
  • Probable pitchers (away/home): Zack Greinke/Chris Bassitt
  • TV: ESPN
  • Stream/gameday audio: ESPN app
  • Opening MLB Lines: Astros -107, A’s -103
Why Bet on Houston? | 2021 MLB Expert Analysis

The Astros finished 29-31 last season, second in the AL West but it was good enough to reach the playoffs as a wild-card team. The Astros matched the Marlins by using an MLB-high 15 rookie pitchers in 2020, including five rookie starters. Of those 15 rookies, 10 made their Major League debuts. Prior to this season, the most rookies to pitch for the Astros in a single season in club history was 13 back in 2011.

Astros hitters combined for the fewest strikeouts in the Majors with 440 on the season. The team also had the fewest strikeouts in the AL in 2017 and 2019, while finishing with the second fewest in 2018. The Astros led the AL in 1st-inning runs, posting a healthy 47 runs in their 1st innings, besting the Yankees (42) and Mariners (42) in that category. Outfielder George Springer was the catalyst for this, posting a 1.008 OPS in his 50 1st-inning plate appearances this season, which included three leadoff homers. However, Springer left this offseason in free agency for Toronto.

Houston led the majors in 2020 with a .991 fielding percentage, committing just 20 errors in their 60 games this season. That .991 fielding percentage was the second-best team fielding percentage in MLB history, trailing only the 2013 Baltimore Orioles (.991).

It’s Zack Greinke on the mound here. The 37-year old made a club-high 12 starts in his first full-season with the Astros and was 3-3 with a 4.03 ERA. He ranked second among American League pitchers in Fangraphs WAR (2.1), trailing only Shane Bieber (3.2). Also in the AL, Greinke ranked second in walks per 9.0 innings (1.21), third in strikeout to walk ratio (7.44), tied for fourth in HR/9.0 innings (0.81), 10th in WHIP (1.13) and tied for 10th in innings pitched (67IP).

He posted a career-low 3.3% walk rate, as he walked just nine batters in 67.0 innings pitched and 273 batters faced. Greinke walked two batters-or-fewer in all 12 of his starts. He also went the entire season without making an error and was one of four qualifying AL pitchers to not make an error.

Greinke is Major League Baseball’s active leader with 459 career starts. It will be the fifth Opening Day assignment for Greinke, who started for the Royals in 2010 and the D-backs in ’16, ’17 and ’19. He’s never won on Opening Day, though, going 0-1 with an 8.20 ERA.

Why Bet on Oakland? | 2021 MLB Expert Analysis

The A’s finished the 2020 season with a 36-24 record for a .600 winning percentage to win the AL West. That record tied for the second-best record in the American League, tied for fourth best in the majors and tied for eighth best in Oakland history. It was the A’s best since the 2002 club finished 103-59 (.636). It marked just the second time in Oakland history (1988-90) and fourth time in Athletics history (1928-32, 1909-11) the A’s finished with a .599 winning percentage or better in at least three straight seasons.

Oakland spent 97.0% of the season with at least a share of first in the AL West, which was the second highest percentage in a season in Oakland history. The A’s went 22-10 (.688) in Oakland compared to 14-14 (.500) on the road. They had the sixth best home record in the majors and posted a winning record at home for the fourth consecutive season. The.688 winning percentage was the second-best home mark in Oakland history to the 2003 A’s, who went 57-24 (.704).

The A’s led the majors in walk-off wins (6) and extra-inning wins (6), tied for second in last at bats wins (10) and tied for sixth in comeback wins (16). Oakland beat Chicago in the wild-card round but then lost in four games to Houston in the ALDS.

Burch Smith has secured the final spot in the Athletics’ bullpen. Smith has struggled this spring in allowing six runs on 13 hits including two homers in 8 1/3 innings, but he put up an 8/1 K/BB ratio during that time and pitched well during his time with the A’s last year.

Veteran journeyman Chris Bassitt gets the Opening Day call. Last year, he spent the entire season on the active roster for the first time in his six-year career and went 5-2 with a 2.29 ERA in 11 starts. His ERA

ranked second among pitchers in the West divisions (Lamet, SD 2.09) and sixth in the majors. It Lamed was fifth lowest in Oakland history among pitchers with at least 10 starts.

Bassitt had career lows in ERA and opponents on-base percentage. He walked 17 batters in 63.0 innings for a career-low 2.43 walks per nine innings and struck out 55 for a career best 3.24 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He led the A’s in innings pitched and tied for the lead in games started. He is now 15-7 with a 3.35 ERA in 39 games, including 36 starts, over the last two years. This will be the first Opening Day start of Bassitt’s career.

Expert Prediction
  • A’s 5, Astros 4
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