It may only be September 2, but Justin Verlander and the Houston Astros are officially ready for October. The 36-year-old ace had the finest outing of the season on Sunday as he tossed a no-hitter against the overmatched Toronto Blue Jays. The 120 pitch, 14 strikeout gem was the third no-no of Verlander’s career and is the latest evidence yet that he’s found a new gear in his 15th season.
— Ari Alexander (@KPRC2Ari) September 1, 2019
The eight-time All-Star now leads the American League in wins, games, innings pitched, ERA, ERA+ and strikeouts. If he can keep it up he’ll become just the fourth player in AL history to win pitching’s Triple Crown on multiple occasions.
Verlander’s dominance is just one reason why the Astros have maintained the top spot on the World Series odds board above the Los Angeles Dodgers. Houston’s odds have remained unchanged at +225 for the past 10 days while the Dodgers remain stuck at +235.
2019 World Series odds
|Team||World Series Odds|
|Los Angeles Dodgers||+235|
|New York Yankees||+450|
Houston has baseball’s best 1-2-3 punch
Another reason oddsmakers are sticking with Houston is because of the rest of the team’s phenomenal starting rotation. In addition to Verlander, the Astros boast two more bona fide Cy Young candidates in Gerrit Cole and Zack Greinke, whom Houston acquired from Arizona on July 31. Cole hasn’t lost since May 22 and recently established a new franchise record with his 15th double digit strikeout game. Greinke, meanwhile, is unbeaten in five starts with Houston and is 4-0 with a 3.45 ERA since arriving in the Lone Star State.
🚨 TOP 5 STARTING PITCHERS IN MLB🚨
According to @DTrainMLB
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) August 27, 2019
All three pitchers have benefitted enormously from Houston’s advanced metrics department, which has helped to refine their mechanics, improve their delivery and optimize their pitch selection. All teams have access to the kinds of analytics that Houston delves into, of course, but the Astros do a better job of putting them into practice.
Verlander and Co. are backed by a prolific offense that ranks in the top three in the American League in batting average, on base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS. They are, without question, baseball’s most complete team and the one club that no one wants to face in a seven-game series.
The Dodgers are still formidable
L.A. may not have the shortest odds to win the World Series anymore, but they’re far from an afterthought. The Dodgers have the best record in the National League and hold a commanding 18-game lead over the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NL West.
However, there are some reasons for concern, particularly on the injury front. Slugger Max Muncy is expected to miss up to two weeks with a wrist fracture, leaving the Dodgers precariously thin at first. L.A. is also without the services of left-hander Rich Hill, who is out until mid September with a forearm flexor strain. Rookie hurler Dustin May also remains doubtful after being hit in the head by a line drive in his latest start against Arizona.
The Max Muncy hit by pitch. Looks like it wasn’t as bad as Chris Taylor’s injury.
Let’s just hope x-rays come back negative. pic.twitter.com/l4ugXDehN6
— Dodgers Nation (@DodgersNation) August 29, 2019
Every team goes through ebbs and flows over the course of a long 162-game season, but L.A. has looked particularly shaky lately, losing six of its last 10, including three straight against the D-backs. Thursday’s lopsided 11-5 loss was particularly disconcerting for a playoff-bound team that should be rolling rather than reeling at this late in the season.
Astros are ready for liftoff
No one will dispute the fact that the Dodgers are an elite club, but they appear to be hitting the skids just as the Astros are ascending. Take Houston at plus odds while you still can.