It appears first-place Houston made a solid move in acquiring Scott Kazmir prior to the trade deadline, and the Astros hope the investment continues to pay dividends when they visit the Texas Rangers on Wednesday for the finale of their three-game series. Kazmir, the American League Pitcher of the Month for July whose 0.26 ERA during that period was the third-lowest in the month’s history, has yet to allow a run in two starts since joining his hometown team and has dominated Texas.
“He was great coming out of the draft. He had a really good start to his career. He traveled different roads to get to where he is today,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch told the Houston Chronicle about Kazmir, who was 2-0 in five starts with the Astros and Oakland in July. “Now he’s in the thick of the pennant race pitching for a team that acquired him at the deadline to be a force in his hometown. The story continues to get better. We hope to add another chapter in the rest of the year.” Kazmir on Wednesday must play the role of stopper as the Rangers made it two straight over Houston with a 4-3 victory Tuesday to climb within two games of Toronto for the final wild-card spot and six of the first-place Astros in the AL West. Nick Martinez takes the ball on his 25th birthday Wednesday after snapping a six-start winless streak (0-4) in his last turn for Texas, which has won three straight and five of six while already extending their unbeaten series string to five (4-0-1).
TV: 8:05 p.m. ET, ROOT (Houston), FSN Southwest (Texas)
LINE HISTORY: The Rangers have held steady at their opening number of +134. The total has also stayed put at 9.5 runs.
Astros – RF G. Springer (Mid Aug, wrist), SP B. Peacock (60-day DL, abdominal).
Rangers – RP T. Scheppers (15-day DL, knee), C R. Chirinos (15-day Dl, shoulder), C C. Corporan (15-day DL, thumb), 1B K. Blanks (15-day DL, Achillies), SP N. Tepesch (60-day DL, elbow), SP D. Holland (60-day DL, shoulder), RF A. Richardson (60-day DL, back), 2B J. Profar (60-day DL, elbow).
WEATHER REPORT: There should be a moderate pitchers wind gusting in from right field at 10 miles per hour. Otherwise, expect clear skies and temperatures in the high 90’s at game time.
UMPIRE REPORT: The MLB’s best home team ump, Jim Reynolds, will be calling strikes for this game. The home team is 17-4 in the 21 games he has been behind home plate. The over is 17-12-2 in Reynolds’ games and he also has a strike rate of 63.23 percent.
HOT FAN WAR:
PITCHING MATCHUP: Astros LH Scott Kazmir (6-5, 2.10 ERA) vs. Rangers RH Nick Martinez (6-6, 4.01)
Kazmir immediately got a taste of the pennant race when he received a no-decision after allowing three hits and three walks while striking out five in 7 2/3 innings of a 3-0 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Thursday. That performance – his first in an Astros uniform at Minute Maid Park – followed up a 4-0 victory at Kansas City on July 24, when he permitted three hits in seven frames. The 31-year-old is 11-5 with a 2.98 ERA in 21 starts versus Texas, including 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA in three turns this season while with Oakland, and has little trouble with Prince Fielder (2-for-16), who is second in the AL in batting with a .329 average.
Martinez yielded two runs in 6 1/3 innings of a 6-3 victory over San Francisco on Friday. The Florida native gave up 27 runs in 34 2/3 frames over his previous six starts, with the last five turns during that stretch coming on the road. Martinez is 2-1 with a 1.80 ERA in five games (three starts) versus Houston – all last season.
* Astros are 1-8 in their last nine road games versus a right-handed starter.
* Rangers are 5-0 in their last five games as an underdog.
* Under is 9-1-1 in the Astros last 11 road games.
* Over is 9-1-1 in the Rangers last 11 games versus a left-handed starter.
COVERS CONSENSUS: The public is backing Houston in this AL West showdown, with 63.98 percent of wagers taking the favored Astros.