The Daily Sweat: Astros, Rangers meet in pivotal American League West series

With less than a month remaining in the Major League Baseball season, there won’t be a more interesting race than what we’re seeing in the American League West.

As of Tuesday, the Seattle Mariners (77-60), Houston Astros (78-61) and Texas Rangers (76-61) are all within one game of one another in the divisional standings.

The Rangers had been the front-runners in the division since April, but they have lost 13 of their past 17, including Monday's showdown at home with the Astros. The two teams were tied entering the seventh inning, but the Rangers’ bullpen melted down as the Astros posted six runs in the seventh and pulled away for a 13-6 win.

It was the first of a pivotal three-game series between the two teams, and the Rangers are hoping to bounce back Tuesday with Nathan Eovaldi on the mound. It could be a big boost for the Rangers. Eovaldi hasn’t pitched since July 18 but was activated from the injured list for the stretch run of the season.

An All-Star selection, Eovaldi has an 11-3 record with a 2.69 ERA. But he’ll be countered by one of the Astros’ stars — lefty Framber Valdez. Valdez has had another strong season, but he was shelled by the Rangers last time he faced them. He lasted only 3 2/3 innings while allowing eight hits and six earned runs.

For this matchup, the Rangers are -105 at BetMGM. The Astros, who were swept at home by the New York Yankees before Monday's win, have -115 odds.

The Houston Astros' Jose Altuve (27) and Yordan Alvarez (44) celebrate after Altuve's solo home run against the Texas Rangers on Monday. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
The Houston Astros' Jose Altuve (27) and Yordan Alvarez (44) celebrate after Altuve's solo home run against the Texas Rangers on Monday. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

The Mariners, meanwhile, are on the road to face the Cincinnati Reds. On Monday, the Mariners fell 6-3 to the Reds as Bryan Woo was knocked around for five earned runs. It will be Bryce Miller on the hill for the Mariners on Tuesday, and the Reds will counter with top prospect Connor Phillips in his MLB debut. The Mariners are -160 favorites, with the Reds listed as +135 underdogs at home at BetMGM.

Despite the three teams being so close in the standings, the defending World Series champion Astros are the betting favorites to emerge as division champions. The Astros are -120 at BetMGM, ahead of the Mariners at +240 and the Rangers at +290.

While the division is the priority, all three teams can reach the postseason. The Tampa Bay Rays are 6.5 games up in the AL wild-card race, but the Astros and Rangers currently occupy the second and third slots, with the Toronto Blue Jays in hot pursuit. At 76-62, the Blue Jays are 1.5 behind the Astros and just a half-game back of the Rangers. The Blue Jays are in Oakland to face the A’s on Tuesday and are big -190 favorites.

What else is going on in MLB?

It’s a busy day in baseball with 15 games on the schedule.

That includes the second game of a series between the San Francisco Giants and Chicago Cubs, both of whom are fighting for playoff berths. The Cubs (-135) won Game 1 on Monday and are now three games up for the second NL wild-card spot and only 2.5 games back of the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central. The Giants, +110 for Tuesday's game, are a game back in the wild-card race.

Elsewhere, the AL East-leading Baltimore Orioles are -175 road favorites over the Los Angeles Angels. The Tampa Bay Rays, 3.5 games behind Baltimore, are -160 favorites at home over the Boston Red Sox.

Other notable matchups include the Philadelphia Phillies (-105) on the road versus the San Diego Padres (-115) and the Los Angeles Dodgers as -150 road favorites over the Miami Marlins (+125).

NFL season only 2 days away

After Week 1 of the college football season ended Monday with Duke’s surprising upset of No. 9 Clemson, we’ve got a couple days of breathing room before the 2023 NFL season kicks off Thursday with the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs hosting the Detroit Lions.

The Chiefs are currently 6.5-point favorites at BetMGM, with the total listed at 54.5. The Lions are the betting favorites to win the NFC North (+135), but can they go into Kansas City and compete with the Chiefs?

What’s the best bet?

Fading the Chicago White Sox has been a sound strategy, so let’s do it again.

I like the Kansas City Royals as -120 home favorites over the White Sox on Tuesday. The White Sox have lost six of their past seven, including a 12-1 defeat in Kansas City on Monday. On Tuesday, the White Sox have Dylan Cease on the mound. He has been terrible lately, allowing a combined 17 earned runs over his past three starts.

KC’s Brady Singer hasn’t been much better on the whole, but he has performed well at home. In his previous two home outings, he has allowed a total of two earned runs in 15 1/3 innings pitched.