Oakland will be in another must-win situation when it hosts Houston on Saturday afternoon. The Athletics lost all four of their games against Seattle earlier this week, putting their playoff hopes on life support. Houston has a chance to clinch the American League West this weekend. This story was published prior to Friday night’s series-opener.
Astros can trim magic numberHouston has one of the best records in the MLB during the month of September, only losing consecutive games once. The Astros have won seven of their last nine games, taking three out of four at the Angels earlier this week. Los Angeles was able to salvage the series with a 3-2 win on Thursday. Houston’s magic number is now four as it heads into this series. The Astros are seven games ahead of Seattle in the AL West standings. Their offense leads the MLB with a team batting average of .270. First baseman Yuli Gurriel has a team-high 161 hits and a .317 average.
Second baseman Jose Altuve has 158 hits, including 29 home runs. Designated hitter Yordan Alvarez has crushed a team-best 32 homers. Shortstop Carlos Correa and left fielder Michael Brantley have been key weapons offensively as well. They will be facing an Oakland pitching staff that is No. 12 with a team ERA of 3.94. Left-handed pitcher Framber Valdez is going to start for Houston on Saturday. He threw seven shutout innings against the Angels in his last start, allowing six hits and three walks. Valdez had allowed eight combined runs over his previous two outings, but he bounced back with his fifth quality start since the beginning of August. He has a 3.16 ERA in his last eight starts.
Athletics have backs against the wallOakland picked the wrong time to get swept in a four-game series. The Athletics were essentially playing a playoff game in all four of their contests against Seattle earlier this week, but they came up short in all four games. They are now four games back of the Yankees for the final AL Wild Card spot, while Seattle is just two games behind. Oakland is nine games back of Houston in the AL West, which puts them in third place in the division. The Athletics have been let down by their offense this year, where they rank No. 22 with a team batting average of .237.
deep and gone 💣 pic.twitter.com/JAPVUtSVZb— Oakland A's (@Athletics) September 23, 2021
First baseman Matt Olson leads Oakland with 145 hits, including a team-high 38 home runs. He has driven in 105 runs and is batting .273. Shortstop Elvis Andrus has 118 hits, while left fielder Mark Canha has 114 base knocks. Second baseman Jed Lowrie and third baseman Matt Chapman have contributed as well. They will be facing a Houston pitching staff that is fourth in the majors with a team ERA of 3.68. Left-hander Sean Manaea will start for Oakland on Saturday. He allowed four runs across five innings against Seattle in his last appearance. Manaea has now given up nine runs over his last two starts. He has allowed three or more runs in six of his last nine outings, giving him a 6.95 ERA over that span.
The Astros are:
- 5-1 in their last 6 road games
- 40-18 in their last 58 vs. American League West
The Athletics are:
- 3-8 in their last 11 during game 2 of a series
- 0-6 in their last 6 home games
- 0-5 in their last 5 home games vs. a left-handed starter
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
This is the type of line I would expect if Houston was resting multiple starters, but the Astros have not announced any plans of doing that. In fact, I expect them to be motivated in this game. They not only have a chance to trim down their magic number, but they can also help knock a division rival out of the playoffs. This is an advantageous pitching matchup for the visitors, as Valdez has been pitching well over the last two months. The same cannot be said for Manaea, who is in his worst form of the season.
Full-Game Total Pick
While I do have faith in Valdez, this total has been set too low. The Astros have the best offense in baseball and have now gone over the total in five of their last six games. They have cashed the over in five of their last eight road games as well. Manaea is struggling to regain his early-season form, so this is the last lineup that he wants to face. Oakland is in a do-or-die spot, so I expect its lineup to be fully focused. The Athletics have gone over at an 11-4 clip in their last 15 Saturday games.