After rallying for a big win in extra innings last night, the Boston Red Sox (67-60) look to stay afloat in the AL Wild Card race and escape with a split of their four game set against the Houston Astros (72-56) on Thursday. First pitch from Minute Maid Park is set for 2:10 p.m. ET. It’ll be a battle of rookie righties on the mound, as Boston gives the ball to Brayan Bello (9-7, 3.70 ERA) against Houston’s J.P. France (9-4, 2.75).
The Astros enter as -130 favorites on the moneyline at DraftKings Sportsbook, with the Red Sox at +110. The run total is set at 9.
Red Sox-Astros picks: Thursday, August 24th
Day to day: RP Kenley Jansen (hamstring)
Out: OF Jarren Duran (toe)
Out: RP Phil Maton (elbow), SS Grae Kessinger (health and safety protocols)
Brayan Bello vs. J.P. France
After a rough July, Bello has stabilized some, although he’s alternated good starts with bad this month. The righty was great against the Yankees last time out, firing six innings of one-run ball, but he was hammered to the tune of four runs on nine hits in just 4.2 frames the start before that against the Tigers. Bello’s lack of a true third pitch can get him in trouble: His fastball/changeup combo is legit, but his slider is more of an afterthought than anything else, the main reason he’s allowed an ugly .292/.322/.522 slash line his third time through the order.
France has been a revelation for the Astros. Thrust into the rotation back in May due to a rash of injuries, the rookie looked like he belonged from pretty much day one despite not being on too many prospect radars at the start of the season. Since June 1, he’s pitched to a 2.33 ERA, with two or fewer runs allowed in 10 of his 13 appearances over that span. The righty won’t light up any radar guns or rack up a ton of strikeouts, but he fills up the strike zone and uses five distinct pitches to keep hitters off-balance.
These teams have cracked double-digits in all three games of this series so far, and I’m banking on that trend continuing this afternoon. The Astros have been a top-five offense so far this month, and I think their penchant for grinding at-bats will help them prey on Bello the second and third time through the order — not to mention Boston closer Kenley Jansen is likely out with hamstring injury, further stressing Boston’s bullpen. If the Red Sox have get to France just a bit here, I think the over will hit.
Pick: Over 9
Houston has the deeper lineup and the starter who’s shown the most consistency of late, so why not back them in this spot? Especially with Yordan Alvarez returning, I think the Astros have just a bit too much firepower in what should be another competitive game.