Houston southpaw Dallas Keuchel continues to be one of the best arms in Major League Baseball, going 7-1 with a 1.85 ERA and 0.92 WHIP this season. The talented hurler is also 4-0 with a 1.90 ERA and 1.00 WHIP at night, 2-1 with a 2.56 ERA and 0.85 WHIP on the road and 1-1 with a 2.35 ERA and 0.78 WHIP over his last three starts. Keutchel has also enjoyed success against the White Sox, posting a 2.21 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in three career starts, including throwing a complete game shutout earlier this season (9 IP; 4 H; 0 R; 0ER; 11 K; 0 BB).
I also like the fact that Keuchel is supported by an excellent Houston bullpen that boasts a 2.46 ERA and 0.88 WHIP in 2015, including a 2.41 ERA and 0.86 WHIP at night and a 2.70 ERA and 1.00 WHIP away from home. I expect Houston’s talented pitching staff to have success limiting an anemic Chicago lineup that is batting .242 with a .289 on base percentage this season (3.6 runs per game), including hitting .233 with a .285 on base percentage versus left-handed starters (3.4 runs per game) and .193 with a .240 on base percentage over the last ten days (2.4 runs per game).
Most importantly, Keuchel’s peripheral statistics are fully supported by his underlying metrics: 2.79 FIP; 2.93 xFIP; 2.96 SIERA; 0.31 HR/9; 64.2% GB%. Meanwhile, Chicago sends left-hander Carlos Rodon to the mound, and while he boasts a 3.12 ERA this season, his underlying metrics tell a much different story: 4.34 xFIP; 4.51 SIERA; 5.71 BB/9; 14% BB%; 43.8% GB%. Rodon is attempting a very rare transition.
Less than a year removed from starting at North Carolina State, he is attempting to navigate major-league lineups at just 22 years old. Rodon has yet to challenge hitters consistently or rely on an offspeed pitch, leading to almost a walk per inning.
Rodon’s inability to command his fastball has caused him to rely upon another pitch – his slider – that also moves outside the zone. The result has been an alarming WHIP and an increasingly-patient opposing lineup. I’m also not sold on Chicago’s bullpen that owns a pedestrian 3.96 ERA and 1.42 WHIP this season, including a 4.87 ERA and 1.57 WHIP over the last seven games.
From a technical standpoint, the White Sox are a money-burning 3-7 in their last ten games as underdogs, 1-6 in their last seven during game 2 of a series and 0-5 in their last five following a loss. In contrast, Houston is 14-3 in Keuchel’s last seventeen starts, including 6-0 in game 2 of a series, 6-1 in his last seven road outings, 17-5 following a loss and 24-8 with at least four days of rest between outings.
The excitement within Houston’s clubhouse continues to grow with the arrival of Carlos Correa, the team’s No. 1 pick in the 2012 draft. Correa was with Triple-A Fresno after beginning the season with Double-A Corpus Christi and was hitting a combined .335 with 10 home runs, 44 RBIs and 21 doubles with 18 stolen bases. In his MLB debut last night, Correa went 1-for-4 and drove in Houston’s lone run in the Astros’ 3-1 loss at U.S. Cellular Field. “He handled himself as expected,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “He’s a big leaguer for the first day, and he looked the part in every facet. We’re happy to have him. He makes us better. He’ll fit in nicely.”
“He’s one of the most polished 20-year-olds you’ve ever been around,” Hinch said. “To have him up here at this age, to be the youngest Major Leaguer, he’s answered every question along the way to earn the promotion. We put any challenge in front of him, he’s responded.” Hinch continued: “There’s genuine excitement,” Hinch said. “I think part of that is because we watched Carlos in Spring Training carry himself in a mature way, work his tail off. He does everything right. He gains a lot of respect from his teammates by doing that. From a psychological standpoint, this is a nice boost for us, the type of player we’re welcoming to our team.”
The excitement described by Hinch grew even greater with the arrival of the team’s No. 4 prospect, Vincent Velasquez, who went 3-0 with a 1.37 ERA in five starts at Double-A Corpus Christi. With Chicago standing at 4-12 in its last sixteen games with umpire Larry Vanover behind the plate, take the Astros in this Major League Baseball clash and invest with confidence.
Free Major League Baseball Pick: Houston Astros (-132)