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July 29, 2015 (Posted at 5:00 PM ET)

Tonight's pick is a 2% wager.

Take Houston Astros (-131) on the Money Line against LA Angels risking 2% of the bankroll.
(McCullers and Richards must start for wager to have action)

With their win over the Angels last night, the Astros moved themselves into a tie for the #1 spot in the AL West! For a team that had been at the bottom of its division for years, the resurgence that this franchise has enjoyed this season is truly impressive! We had always believed this team had talent and that has not been more evident than this season. This is a quality team that always seems to elevate their game when facing off against the best teams that the league has to offer. Last night, both Carlos Correa and Chris Carter hit home runs while Jose Altuve had three hits as the Astros scored 10 runs on 14 total hits against the Angels! This is a team that has been playing with a huge chip on their shoulders which has made them a very dangerous opponent for teams. 

The Astros have had a huge home field advantage this season and have twice as many wins as they do losses at Minute Maid Park. It's not only the Houston offense that has been producing either; defensively they are one of the better teams in the league. So far this season they have committed just 51 errors, which is impressive for this point in the season and have turned 93 double plays; that's 30 more than their opponents tonight! Because they have been a team that has struggled in the past, they have been trained in the importance of the core fundamentals of the game. They are patient at the plate, produce hits and have solid fielding. They are also the best team in the AL at stealing bases. They have more than 75 stolen bases on the year which ranks first in the American League by a wide margin. They are an incredibly balanced team which makes them a threat to win the game each and every time they step out on the field. 

We also believe that the Astros will hold the pitching edge tonight with rookie Lance McCullers. Even though he is still just a rookie and has only a handful of experience at the Major League level, what we have seen from McCullers so far has been impressive. Because he is a rookie and not many teams have become adjusted to his style as of yet, this has given him an advantage on the mound. It typically takes a rotation a few at bats to decipher his mechanics and delivery and that has played to his advantage. He has limited opponents to just a .209 batting average this season so it's evident that teams have struggled to 'figure him out'. The Angels have only faced off against him once, so they have very limited at-bats against him and it was a dominant performance by McCullers. We expect him to enjoy similar success tonight. 

Meanwhile, the Angels will send Garrett Richards to the mound. Richards is a quality pitcher and is having a rather good season, however the Astros have had a lot of opportunities against the right hander. Richards won't enjoy nearly the advantage that we believe McCullers will have tonight. He's also struggled against some of the Astros bats as both Chris Carter and Jose Altuve are hitting over .300 against him in their careers! The Angels will likely need a big outing from Richards tonight as CJ Wilson only managed to last 4 innings last night which means the bullpen took a bulk of the heavy lifting in the game and could be somewhat fatigued heading into tonight's contest. The Angels will also be without the services of Mike Trout against tonight which is a huge blow. Trout is arguably the best player in the game and not having him available could significantly hurt the Angels. The Halos are a very good team but have been mediocre on the road this season sporting just a 23-23 record. 

Last night's victory by the Astros should give this team confidence heading into tonight. Their bats are hot and they have a quality pitcher whom they have been able to lean on all season long. A win tonight will give them sole possession of first place in the division; a position that they have not been used to being in at this point in the season. We believe that will be a motivating factor tonight. Even before this season the Astros have always played their division rivals close and have managed to win 6 of the last 7 games played in Minute Maid Park. This will likely be a closely contested matchup between two top level teams, but we believe that Houston holds numerous advantages in this contest and should come away with the win. 

Other notable facts to consider:

  • Houston is 25-17 against AL West opponents this season.
  • Houston is 14-5 as a home favorite of -125 to -150 this season!
  • Houston has won 14 of 20 when playing teams with winning records.
  • Houston is a perfect 4-0 in McCuller's last four starts as a home favorite.

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