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Two of baseball’s hottest teams, the Houston Astros (66-38, won seven of last eight) and St. Louis Cardinals (55-47, won eight of last nine), collide at Busch Stadium for a crucial three-game interleague series that begins Friday night. Here’s what bettors should be looking for throughout.

Friday, 8:15 p.m. ET

Jose Urquidy (1-0, 5.54 ERA) (HOU) -105 / -1.5 runs (+145) / Over 8.5 runs (-120)
Jack Flaherty (4-6, 4.24 ERA) (STL) -105 / +1.5 runs (-175) / Under 8.5 runs (EVEN)

MLB free play: Cardinals moneyline

The Cardinals offer value on the moneyline as the home team with “toss-up” odds in the series opener.

Jack Flaherty has a 3.22 ERA in 10 starts at Busch Stadium this year with a .202 batting average against, much lower than his 4.24 and .235 marks for the entire season. He’s been in great form in his last three outings, where he has allowed just two earned runs over 18 1/3 innings (0.927 WHIP in that span). The Cardinals’ bullpen has been reliable over the last 30 days, with a 3.47 ERA, fourth best in the majors.

Jose Urquidy has had an uneven first three starts in the big leagues for Houston, as he was tagged by the Rockies and Angels before he fired seven strong frames against the Rangers on July 20. The St. Louis lineup has been better with the bat in recent days and ranks 14th by batting average in July. First baseman Paul Goldschmidt (1.203 OPS last seven days), second baseman Kolten Wong (1.059 OPS same span) and left fielder Marcell Ozuna (1.054 OPS) should have a say in the outcome.

Saturday, 7:15 p.m. ET, FS1

Astros starter Gerrit Cole (11-5, 3.03 ERA) has thrown his hat into the ring for American League Cy Young honors by allowing one earned run or fewer in six of his last seven starts. Cole is the MLB leader in strikeouts (205), and his prowess in that department will help against one of the more disciplined lineups in baseball.

The Newport Beach native has seen St. Louis plenty from his days with the Pirates. Wong, shortstop Paul DeJong and catcher Yadier Molina are a combined 9-for-66 (.136) against Cole all-time. Having the Astros’ seventh-ranked bullpen by ERA (3.45) in the last two weeks behind him doesn’t hurt.

The Redbirds will counter with swingman Daniel Ponce de Leon (1-0, 2.82 ERA). The Embry‑Riddle product, who holds a home ERA of 3.62 for his career, has never faced a single player on the Astros. Houston is third in batting average this month, but it could take a while for them to get settled in Saturday night.

Sunday, 2:15 p.m. ET

Two starters with high walk rates, the Astros’ Wade Miley (2.8 per nine innings) and the Cardinals’ Dakota Hudson (4.1 per nine innings), will square off in Sunday’s finale. This game figures to break Houston’s way, as the Astros are third at drawing the free pass this season, while the Cardinals are 16th, and they drop to 26th against lefties. Miley (8-4, 3.18 ERA), a southpaw, has a 2.42 ERA through four starts in July, while Hudson (10-4, 3.61 ERA) owns a 4.43 ERA this month, also through four starts.

Houston’s lineup, like with Ponce de Leon, has never seen Hudson. But it’s a tall task to keep outfielder Michael Brantley from doing damage for an entire series. He’s batting .421 over his last 15 games, with four home runs. First baseman Yuli Gurriel is at .400, with seven home runs in the same span.


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