July 14 MLB Preview — Houston Astros (58-35) at Texas Rangers (50-43)

(Justin Verlander photo courtesy Ken Blaze/USA TODAY Sports)

When and Where: Sunday, July 14, Globe Life Park at Arlington, Texas, 3:05 p.m. EDT.

Justin Verlander has done his part to try and help the Houston Astros maintain Lone Star state bragging rights against the Texas Rangers, and he looks to beat them for the third time this year as their series concludes Sunday in Arlington.

Verlander out to extend mastery of Rangers

The AL Cy Young Award frontrunner made waves during All-Star festivities in Cleveland by saying Major League Baseball is juicing up the baseballs to enhance offensive production.

The claim that was quickly rejected by MLB’s offices, though The Athletic reported that Verlander told teammate Gerrit Cole he was “chewed out” by MLB executive Joe Torre and former Tigers manager Jim Leyland for going public.

The right-hander may have been aggravated by the fact he had served up 12 gopher balls in his last five starts, and the 236 he has yielded overall is just four shy of his single-season career worst of 30 set in 2016.

Verlander (10-4, 2.98 ERA) has recorded 15 career wins against the Rangers are the most over any non-AL Central opponent, which is logical considering he pitched for the Detroit Tigers until being acquired by the Astros on Aug. 31, 2017.

He is 31-13 since joining the Astros and has maintained his strong track record against the Rangers, going 5-2 with a 2.29 ERA in nine starts while striking out 70 in 55 innings.

After not factoring in the decision of a 6-4 Houston loss April 2 in which he was reached for four runs and six hits in four-plus innings, the right-hander has bore down to stifle the Rangers on one run and four hits in 14 innings to win back-to-back starts.

Verlander allowed a fifth-inning single to Asdrubal Cabrera and two walks over seven innings of a 3-0 home win. After limiting Texas to one run in seven frames of a 7-2 road win April 19, the righty is 4-0 with a 3.10 ERA in five starts at Arlington since joining Houston.

Elvis Andrus has been a tough out for Verlander, going 18 for 56 (.321) in their matchups. Joey Gallo does have a homer but also has whiffed 10 times while going 3 for 26.

Rangers hoping Jurado can contribute to wild-card push

Ariel Jurado (5-4, 4.23) is making his first start against the Astros this year after a pair of relief appearances spanning 3 2-3 innings in May. In the latter outing, the right-hander was reached for four unearned runs in 1 2-3 innings.

Jurado should be well-rested given his only action in the past 11 days was a relief appearance of 2 1-3 scoreless innings versus Minnesota last Sunday. He dropped to 4-3 with a 5.15 ERA as a starter this season after the Los Angeles Angels knocked him around for six runs and seven hits — including a pair of home runs — in six innings of a 6-2 defeat.

Jurado did beat the Astros as a starter during his rookie season last year, working around a fourth-inning homer by George Springer to allow one other hit in six innings of a 2-1 victory over Verlander on July 28.

Notable Trends:

The Rangers are:

  • 7-20 in their last 27 during game 4 of a series.
  • 1-4 in their last five home games vs. Verlander.

The Astros are:

  • 22-5 in Verlander’s last 27 road starts.
  • 9-1 in Verlander’s last 10 road starts vs. above-.500 teams.
  • 22-7 in Verlander’s last 29 starts vs. AL West teams.

5-Star Pick!!!!!

Astros -1.5 runs (-140)

Whether his claim about juiced baseballs was a self-motivational ploy or otherwise, Verlander has been one of the best pitchers in the majors. His track record on the road for the Astros as well as in Arlington, makes Houston the pick over Jurado.

4-Star Pick!!!!

Astros -0.5 runs first 5 innings (-160)

A confidence pick in Verlander, who had a five-inning lead in each of his last two starts against the Rangers. The Astros have also had a lead after five innings in 12 of his last 16 starts, a run that includes seven of the last nine on the road.

The Rangers have also been behind after five innings in four of Jurado’s last five starts at home. They also have held a five-inning lead in just two of their last 11 (2-5-4) overall.

3-Star Picks!!!

UNDER 10.5 runs (-110)

Verlander’s most recent two starts against the Rangers offer confidence for the under delivering as well as his big-game pitching. While the over is 4-1-1 in his last six starts, the under is 8-2 in his last 10 against teams with winning records and 4-1 on the road against above-.500 teams.

Additionally, Jurado has been tough at home, helping the under deliver in his last five starts in Arlington. Lastly, the hook offers just enough resistance to help the under in this instance.

Rangers UNDER 4 runs (-115)

While Verlander has allowed five homers in 29 innings in Arlington since joining the Astros, the two he allowed this year accounted for only three runs. Two of the four times Houston held Texas to four or fewer runs this year came in Verlander’s wins.

OVER 6 runs first 5 innings (Even)

This is a confidence pick in Houston’s offense, which has backed Verlander with four or more runs in the first five innings in eight of his 19 starts. The five-inning over has gone 7-6 in the season series thus far, including the last two games in which both teams combined for eight runs on both occasions.

Rangers opponents have also scored three or more runs in the first five innings in five of Jurado’s nine starts.

Astros OVER 1.5 runs first 3 innings (-131)

The Astros have put up three-spots in the last two games of this series after being handcuffed by Lance Lynn in Thursday’s opener. While Jurado has been a solid first-inning pitcher with a 2.00 ERA in nine starts, the second and third have left much to be desired as the Rangers righty has a 7.00-plus ERA in both frames while opponents are hitting above .316 and better in those innings.

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