The Houston Astros travel to the Oakland Coliseum on opening night to renew their rivalry with the Oakland Athletics in a matchup of the top two teams in the AL West division.
Eight out of their 10 regular season meetings last season was played in Oakland with the A’s going 7-3 during their head-to-head showdown during the regular season. The A’s won the division title with Houston finishing seven games back. However, the Astros defeated the Athletics 3-1 in the AL Division series in the playoffs.
Oakland outscored Houston 38-25 during the regular season with their series earning notoriety after Oakland outfielder Ramon Laureano charging Astros hitting coach Alex Cintron in an incident that led to a four-game suspension for Laureano and a 20-game ban for Cintron.
The Houston Astros will try to start their season on a positive note after a rough offseason. Houston lost George Springer to the Toronto Blue Jays while pitching ace Justin Verlander is out after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Upcoming P Framber Valdez may also be out for a significant period for Houston. At 9-23 away from home, the Astros were the only team with a losing record to make the playoffs.
Carlos Correia, Jose Altuve, and Michael Brantley will return for Houston. The three combined to four seven home runs during their playoff series. Corra drilled three homers while Altuve and Brantley had two home runs apiece against Oakland. However, George Springer won’t be here for the Astros as he left for the Toronto Blue Jays during the offseason. Springer was a pain in the behind for the A’s with a batting average of .296 with two home runs in seven games played.
Zack Greinke will open for the Astros on Thursday. Greinke is 9-3 with an ERA of 2.92 in 21 games, including 17 starts against the Athletics during his MLB career. He went 3-3 last season with an ERA of 4.03 and a WHIP of 1.13. Houston was 2-2 with Greinke as the starter against Oakland. He was the Game 4 starter when the Astros eliminated the A’s. Greinke gave up four runs in 4 ⅔ innings but got a lot of help from his offense to win that game 11-6.
Odds from BetOnline as of 04/01/2021
Although they swapped slugger Kris Davis for Elvis Andrus, the A’s were one of the few teams that didn’t make too many changes to their lineup during the offseason. The A’s also kept their pitching staff which ranked 5th in the majors in ERA. Oakland won the AL West for the first time since 2013 while making the playoffs for the third straight season.
Oakland will have Matt Chapman back for this series. Chapman dominated the Houston pitching staff, batting at .450 with three home runs and seven RBIs in five games against the Astros. He missed the last 23 games of the season as well as Oakland’s two playoff series with a torn left hip labrum. Another player to watch is Matt Olson who only had four hits in 36 at bast against Houston but three of those hits were home runs.
Right-hander Chris Bassitt will take the mound for the A’s. Bassitt had a solid year last campaign with a 5-2 record and an ERA of 2.29 and a WHIP of 1.16. The A’s were 2-2 against the Astros when he started although he did not do well during his only playoff start against Houston. Bassit is 3-2 with an ERA of 3.53 ERA in nine career games, including eight starts against the Astros.
The Astros are 13-7 SU in their last 20 April games. Houston is 4-0 SU in their last four Thursday games, 4-0 SU in their last four games against a starter with a WHIP lower than 1.5, 6-2 SU in their last eight games against a right-handed starter, 59-20 SU in their last 79 Game 1 of a series. However, Houston is just 11-23 SU in their last 34 road games, 5-12 SU in their last 17 road games against a right-handed starter, and 3-9 ATS in their last 12 games when the total is set at 7.0 to 9.0.
On the other hand, the Athletics are 0-5 SU in their last five April games, 2-5 SU in their last seven games against the AL West, and 2-5 SU in their last seven Game 1 of a series. Oakland is 13-4 SU in their last 17 home games with the total set at 7.0 to 8.5, 9-3 SU in their last 12 games as home favorites, 19-7 SU in their last 26 Thursday games, 5-2 SU in their last seven games against a right-hander, 50-22 SU in their last 72 home games.
Houston had the worst record in Spring Training while the Athletics had one of the best. Oakland is also coming off a very successful 2020 campaign where they finally topple the Astros in the AL West. I like to see them set the tone early using this opening game and series.
Bassitt had a very good 2020 and looked great during Spring Training, on the other hand, Greinke has been notoriously a poor starter, especially during opening day games.
Houston was miserable during their first season after the sign-stealing scandal. It will be interesting to see if last year’s poor offense across the board was just an outlier or their new reality. Unless I answer that question, there is no reason to doubt Bassitt and his strong performances. The A’s are 9-4 in their last 13 head-to-head meetings in Oakland. I’ll go with the home team and the stronger pitcher.
Prediction: Oakland Athletics (-106)
The total has gone under in six out of the last seven games played by the Astros. The under is 4-1 in Houston’s last five games played on the road, 4-0 in their last four games against a right-hander, 6-2 in their last eight games when the total is set between 7.0 to 8.5, 18-7-2 in their last 27 games played on grass, 5-2-1 in their last eight games as road underdogs, and 11-5-1 overall in their last 17 games as the betting underdog.
The total has gone under in four out of Oakland’s last even Game 1 of a series. The under is also 4-1-1 in their last six days after an off day, 5-2 in their last seven games against a right-hander, 17-7-1 in their last 25 games as the betting favorite, and 15-7-1 in their last 23 home games.
Odds from BetOnline as of 04/01/2021
Bassitt is playing terrific baseball right now and is coming off a very good 2020 season and the under is 6-1 in his last seven starts during game one of a series so I expect him to be in his element in limiting a Houston team that struggled to score in Spring Training. Greinke won’t be having a good start here but I don’t see him giving up too many runs either against an Oakland team that has some issues at the dish. Plus both teams are adding new pieces to their offense which might take some time to work out. This game is also played at the Oakland Coliseum which takes away some of the impacts of long balls due to deep outfield dimensions, thus causing low-scoring games. Head to head, the total has gone under in seven out of their last 10 meetings in Oakland. It’s opening day and I don’t expect teams to be at their best form yet.
Prediction: Under 8.5