MLB picks Wednesday 10/18: YRFI & NRFI best bets today: Expect early runs in crucial Game 3
The Texas Rangers are a perfect 7-0 this postseason after winning Games 1 and 2 in Houston and now they bring the ALCS home to Arlington with 3 chances to move on to the World Series in front of the Rangers’ faithful. Tonight, Max Scherzer makes his long-awaited return from a muscle strain and the Astros rely on right-hander Cristian Javier, who is no stranger to the postseason. Will either team strike early, or will tonight be a classic pitchers’ duel in a crucial Game 3? You can read our Astros vs Rangers predictions but now let’s look at my first-inning bet.
Houston Astros vs Texas Rangers: YRFI (-125)
The game total for Game 3 is set at 9 runs, and the way I see it, most of those will come in the early going. Having Max Scherzer as your starting pitcher up 2 games to none is obviously an ideal spot for the Rangers to be in, but Scherzer’s time in between starts must be discussed. His last start came back on September 12 as he has continued to work his way back in order to contribute in the postseason. It’s impossible to predict how that will affect his start tonight. What I can say, is that in 8 starts with the Rangers, Scherzer has been quite impressive, posting a 3.20 ERA and 0.96 WHIP. However, one start that sticks out and that was September 6 at home against the Houston Astros. The Astros scored 7 runs (including 2 in the first inning), on 6 hits and 3 home runs in just 3.0 innings of work for Scherzer. While he is still a dominant pitcher, his metrics are beginning to slide. Scherzer’s strikeout rate (28.0%), walk rate (7.2%), and hard-hit rate (36.9%), while still better than league average, are personal worst marks since 2015.
If Scherzer makes it past the top of the first unscathed, I also have some real concerns with Houston right-hander, Cristian Javier. In recent years, Javier has excelled in the postseason, posting a remarkable 1.91 ERA across 37.2 innings, dating back to 2020. And even though Javier tossed 5.0 scoreless innings with 9 strikeouts against the Minnesota Twins in Game 3 of the ALDS, it wasn’t smooth sailing. Javier finished the game with 5 walks and 1 hit batsman, constantly putting himself in positions to work out of – which he did – but it’s not a recipe for long-term success. Javier has walked 9% of the batters he has faced on the year, but over his last 3 starts that number has jumped to 15.6%. The Rangers are typically aggressive early in the count, but they may force Javier to show he can throw strikes before they attack. When the Rangers do go on the offensive, Javier’s 26.1% ground-ball rate sticks out like a sore thumb, especially when you compare it to Game 2 starter Framber Valdez, who owns a 55.2% ground-ball rate. The Rangers had no issues scoring 4 first-inning runs off Valdez and I like their chances to get at least one tonight against Javier.