Houston Astros vs. Tampa Bay Rays, AL Championship Series: Tips, Odds & Predictions

Astros vs Rays ALCS
Houston Astros vs. Tampa Bay Rays, MLB, Houston Astros vs. Tampa Bay Rays

For the fourth straight year, the Houston Astros are back in the AL Championship Series, and yet again they face off with an opponent from the AL East. The Tampa Bay Rays had the best record in the AL this season with 40 wins, but this is the first time the franchise has played in the ALCS since 2008. The Astros defeated the Rays 3-2 in last season’s AL Divisional Series, but this year’s squad was two games under .500 during the regular season.

Tips & Predictions

Tampa Bay earned a hard-fought series win over the Yankees, which should set up well when facing a team that has played in two of the last three World Series. The Rays’ bats really struggled at times against the Yankees’ pitching, especially the final two games when Tampa Bay scored three combined runs. This series, though, will be decided by the Rays’ bullpen after the Yankees scored 11 runs in the sixth inning or later, oftentimes turning a close game into a blowout with those late runs. Houston’s offense isn’t as dangerous top-to-bottom as New York’s, but the Rays will benefit if they can keep the games low scoring and put a premium on quality at-bats.

What we saw in the divisional round was how much postseason experience seemed to matter for the Astros. Houston struggled for much of the regular season, but everything seemed to click for the Astros once the playoffs began, especially at the plate. Houston scored at least seven runs just 14 times in 60 games during the regular season, but they scored at least seven runs in three of the four games against Oakland. Where the Astros did struggle was on the mound as three of their four starters allowed four or more earned runs in less than five innings on the mound. It will be an interesting matchup for Houston against a Tampa Bay lineup that seems to be very streaky at the plate.

I am rather surprised that Tampa Bay is the favorite to win this series given the disrespect it was shown in MLB postseason betting in the last round. The shortest odds are on Tampa Bay to win in six games, but I feel like this series is headed the full seven games, which is being offered at +210 odds. I do expect the Rays to win the series because I don’t trust Houston’s pitching, but Tampa Bay’s bullpen is a worry against this dangerous Astros lineup. I’ll try to hedge my bets instead at the New Jersey online sports betting sites by picking the Rays in seven games at +470 odds and the Rays in six at +380 odds in order to maximize my chance at a payout.

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Josh Walfish is an award-winning journalist who has been covering college and professional sports in the United States. He holds a journalism degree from Northwestern University and his work has appeared in the Miami Herald, Chicago Sun-Times and Providence Journal. He most recently chronicled the UMass hockey teams rise to prominence over the last two years for the local newspaper

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