2019 Opening Day: Astros vs Rays Preview and Prediction
Astros vs Rays Preview
The 2019 MLB season kicks off on Thursday with a matchup of Cy Young winners (they also finished 1-2 in last year’s race) and two teams with playoff aspirations.
Verlander will be making his 11th Opening Day start of his career as he takes the mound for the Astros who are looking not only for another AL West crown, but another World Series title that eluded them in 2018.
Snell is 2-1 with a 4.10 ERA in five career starts against the Astros while Verlander is 8-4 with a 3.42 ERA and one complete game in 18 starts versus Tampa Bay.
Tampa Bay will not be sneaking up on anyone this season–they finished 90-72 last year, getting better every month. The team also made solid trades and free agent signings including Charlie Morton, who helped bring the World Series title to Houston in 2017.
“We’re not going to walk up on someone anymore,” outfielder Tommy Pham told MLB.com. “Teams know us. They know that we’re young, and they know that we’re good. We’re going to have to bring it, because they’re coming for us now.”
In addition to the talent already in the majors, the Rays’ farm system ranks second in baseball according to Baseball America, and it has nine top-100 prospects.
Behind Snell, Morton and one of their mid-season acquisitions last year, Tyler Glasnow, fill a three-man rotation. It is expected the Rays will utilize the opener strategy in their other games (their bullpen is talented enough to handle the task well).
For Houston, Spring Training seemed almost like a formality. Most of the jobs were locked in place–the only battle had to do with the No.5 starter in the rotation. As most know, Josh James was the favorite but an injury derailed that hope (he did earn a job in the bullpen with the big league club), so it came down to veteran Brad Peacock versus youngster Framber Valdez, who looked solid in limited action last season. The veteran won the job, for now.
“Position player-wise, it played out exactly how we expected,” manager A.J. Hinch told the Houston Chronicle. “Pitching-wise, maybe Framber in the bullpen is a little bit of a surprise. It wasn’t something we set out as a goal if he didn’t win the rotation, but he’s got great stuff and we need to utilize that in the big leagues.”
Going into the season with very little question marks speaks to the roster construction GM Jeff Luhnow has put together and the continuity between front office and coaching staff with manager AJ Hinch at the helm.
Dan’s Bet: TBD
This will be a pitchers duel to open the season, but I am confident more in the Astros offense to find success en route to the victory.
Score Prediction: Astros 4 Rays 2