MLB Opening Night odds: Texas Rangers at Houston Astros
Texas Rangers (0-0) at Houston Astros (0-0)
The Major League Baseball season opens Sunday night in Houston as the Astros make their American League debut by facing their in-state rival Texas Rangers , who are solid favorites on WagerWeb.com. Check our current lines.
Houston was the worst team in baseball the past two years and could even be worse this year – their team payroll is $20 million. More than a handful of single players in baseball will make more than that this year. The Astros are making no bones about the fact that they are tanking for a few years to pick up top draft picks. They didn’t even bother trying to sign a single prominent free agent this winter.
The Astros lost a franchise record 106 games in 2011, then broke that record with 107 last season. Another record-breaking finish could be in store playing in the high-rent AL West with the Rangers, Angels and A’s.
One of the few recognizable names in the Astros’ clubhouse is Carlos Peña, who can play first base but will likely be the designated hitter as the team jumps to the AL. Peña, who turns 35 in May, has showed an appreciable decline in power since mashing an AL-high 39 homers with the Rays in 2009. He hit 28 in 2010 and 2011, and dropped off to 19 last season while hitting .197 and striking out a career-high 182 times.
Manager Bo Porter also makes his debut Sunday and will start “ace” Bud Norris. He went 7-13 with a 4.65 ERA, 1.37 WHIP and 165 strikeouts in 168 1/3 innings last season. So he’s the ace of a staff that includes Lucas Harrell, Phil Humber and Erik Bedard. Pretty sad. Norris will be the Astros’ fourth different Opening Day starter in four years. He has never faced Texas.
“I’ve always been kind of the ‘B’ player who’s been chasing the lead dog, but I’m excited,” he said of starting Opening Day. “This is something I’ve always wanted. It’s something I talked with Roy Oswalt about back when I was a younger player.”
As for Texas, last year was a disappointment after leading the AL West much of the year only to collapse and lose it to Oakland. The Rangers then were shocked in the one-game wild-card playoff by Baltimore. Jon Daniels, the Rangers’ 35-year-old general manager, spent the winter rather quiet. Josh Hamilton signed with the Angels. Zack Greinke signed with the Dodgers. Justin Upton was traded to the Braves. All were linked to Texas at one time or another.
The biggest addition was 36-year-old catcher A.J. Pierzynski to replace Mike Napoli. Last year, Pierzynski exceeded Napoli in home runs (27 to 24), RBIs (77 to 56), batting average (.278 to .227) and OPS (.827 to .812). Of course, Pierzynski had never before hit more than 18 homers.
Texas will start lefty Matt Harrison in this one. He allowed four runs on seven hits in his final spring tune-up Tuesday. Harrison wasn’t displeased with his 81-pitch outing, which lasted only until the fourth inning as the Rangers cut him short to make sure he isn’t too taxed for the season opener Sunday at Houston. He has never pitched in March but is 7-6 with a 4.89 ERA in 17 career starts in April. That’s his highest ERA of any month. He is 0-1 with a 5.14 ERA in two starts.
Harrison, 27, will be the team’s fifth different opening-day starter in the last five years, joining Kevin Millwood (2009), Scott Feldman (2010), C.J. Wilson (2011) and Colby Lewis (2012). Harrison went 18-11 with a 3.29 ERA last season, which earned him a five-year, $55 million contract extension this winter.
WagerWeb.com trends: Rangers are 1-5 in their last 6 games vs. a right-handed starter. Rangers are 0-4 in their last 4 road games vs. a right-handed starter. Astros are 4-17 in Norris’ last 21 starts. Rangers are 10-2 in the last 12 meetings in Houston. Under is 4-1 in the last 5 meetings in Houston. Rangers are 20-6 in the last 26 meetings.