Wild Card spots are on the line in both leagues as the Houston Astros (87-72) meet the Arizona Diamondbacks (84-75) for the start of a season-ending three-game series on Friday night. First pitch from Chase Field is set for 9:40 p.m. ET. Rookie J.P. France gets the ball for the visitors, while Arizona turns to its ace Zac Gallen.
After taking two of three against the Mariners in Seattle earlier in the week, Houston has a one-game lead on the M’s for the final Wild Card spot (and is just two games back of the Rangers in the AL West, with the head-to-head tiebreaker over Texas if it comes to that). The D-backs, meanwhile, dropped the last game of their series against the White Sox in Chicago but still lead the Marlins by 1.5 games for the second NL Wild Card spot.
Arizona enters as -122 favorites on the moneyline at DraftKings Sportsbook, with the Astros at +102. The run total is set at 9.5.
Astros-Diamondbacks picks: Friday, September 29
Day to day: OF/DH Michael Brantley (shoulder)
Out: RP Scott McGough (shoulder)
J.P. France vs. Zac Gallen
A god-send for Houston’s rotation for much of the summer, France has had a bumpy second half, with a 4.37 ERA since the All-Star break and a 5.75 ERA over four starts in September. Those four outings have been a roller coaster: He allowed five runs each against the Rangers and Royals, but held the Padres to one run over six innings and allowed two runs over five frames in a rematch with Kansas City last weekend. France is the prototypical kitchen-sink guy, without an overpowering arsenal but keeping hitters off-balance with a variety of offerings, but lately his command hasn’t been quite as sharp and his margin for error is pretty small given his lack of wipeout stuff.
Gallen got off to a very poor start to September — he allowed 16 runs (15 earned) across his first four starts — but the righty got back to his Cy Young form last weekend, holding the Yankees scoreless with eight strikeouts over six innings of work. Houston presents a tough matchup, but Gallen has been among the most reliable pitchers in the game all year, sitting third in baseball in innings pitched and posting 19 quality starts so far this season. When he’s keeping his fastball up and his changeup and curveball down, he’s awfully tough to beat.
Arizona has been a poor offense against righties of late, with a miserable .228/.310/.372 slash line as a team — sixth-worst in the league. France hasn’t been throwing the ball particularly well, but this is a very high number, especially with Gallen likely churning out six quality innings on the other side. I don’t think the D-backs have the firepower to reach this number.
Pick: Under 9.5
Both of these teams would very much like to take this series opener, but Arizona’s edge on the mound has me leaning towards the home team tonight. France hasn’t inspired a ton of confidence lately, and his arsenal is such that things can go very south if he’s not at his sharpest. Betting against Houston’s lineup is always a tough proposition, but at nearly even odds, I’m backing Gallen.
Pick: D-backs -122