Astros vs Guardians Picks and Predictions: Verlander Delivers Another Gem

Houston ace Justin Verlander is defying all the odds coming off Tommy John surgery, and in a great matchup against Cleveland tonight, expect another gem. Our MLB betting picks for the Astros vs. Guardians breaks it all down.

Last Updated: Aug 4, 2022 4:17 PM ET Read Time: 4 min
Justin Verlander Houston Astros MLB
Photo By - USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Astros avoided a sweep earlier in the week in the final game of their series with the Red Sox, moving their record to 30 games above .500. That mark is typically astonishing for the start of August, yet in a year in which that record is only good for third-best, Houston bolstered its roster at the trade deadline. 

The Astros will now open a four-game road set with the Cleveland Guardians, who are just one game back of the final AL Wild Card spot. 

Can the Guardians win this pivotal series? Continue reading for free MLB picks for the Astros vs. Guardians on August 4. 

Astros vs Guardians odds

This odds widget represents the best odds available for each betting market from regulated sportsbooks.

The Astros opened as -195 favorites and current prices range just above and below that. The total opened at 7.5 and has since moved to an 8.0, with most books showing a juiced Over.

Use the live odds widget above to track any future line movements right up until first pitch and be sure to check out the full MLB odds before placing your bets.

Astros vs Guardians predictions

Picks made on 8/4/2022 at 4:00 p.m. ET.
Click on each pick to jump to the full analysis.

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Astros vs Guardians game info

Location: Progressive Field, Cleveland, OH
Date: Thursday, August 4, 2022
First pitch: 7:10 p.m. ET
TV: AT&T Sportsnet, Bally Sports

Astros vs Guardians betting preview

Starting pitchers

Justin Verlander (14-3, 1.81 ERA): Verlander is one of baseball's few players that likely needs no introduction. The nine-time All-Star, two-time Cy Young winner, Rookie of the Year, and MVP winner has been a Hall of Fame lock for quite some time yet in his 17th season he is astonishingly putting together arguably his best season yet, with a career-best 1.81 ERA and a blazing 14-3 record coming off of Tommy John surgery.

Zach Plesac (2-9, 4.33 ERA): Plesac has largely served as a solid middle-of-rotation arm in his four years with the Guardians, pitching to a 24-23 career record and 4.03 ERA. He is certainly better than his 2-9 record in 2022, although he is coming off a relatively rough July during which he posted a 5.84 ERA. That includes his last start, in which he allowed seven hits and five earned runs in five innings of work against the Rays in a 6-4 loss on July 30.

Weather

Be sure to monitor the gametime conditions with our MLB weather info.

Key injuries

Find our latest MLB injury reports.

Betting trend to know

The Astros have gone 8-1 on the run line in Verlander's last nine starts and 12-3 in his last 15. Find more MLB betting trends for Astros vs. Guardians

Astros vs Guardians picks and predictions

Our side and total predictions are based upon our analysis of the line and total in this game. Our best bet is our favorite pick across all markets.

Moneyline analysis

If you could tell anyone that their ballclub would be 30 games above .500 by the start of August, they would be beyond ecstatic. 

That's where the Astros find themselves today heading into their four-game road set with the Cleveland Guardians, yet despite that excellent mark, there is still some sense of unrest given that their record is good for just third-best in MLB with the Yankees at the top and the Dodgers just behind them.

If there's one singular element of the team that they can feel confident in, it's the career year that Justin Verlander is having in his 17th season coming off of Tommy John surgery as a 39-year-old. The nine-time All-Star, two-time Cy Young winner, and former MVP has put together 14 wins and a 1.81 ERA, both marks that lead the league. If that 1.81 number holds, it would mark Verlander's career-best and by a wide margin (2.40 being his previous best). 

Verlander has always been a crafty player and in a situation where most try to replicate their pre-injury form and approach, he has shifted entirely to become a new pitcher altogether. In his previous two full seasons, Verlander was hitting 12.2 strikeouts per nine innings pitched. He was a bit prone to giving up the long ball, allowing a 13.6% homerun-to-flyball ratio.

Instead of trying to be that same super live arm and gassing batters to strikeouts, he now sports a much lower 8.8 strikeouts per nine rate and has focused on generating soft contact. His groundball percentage is up, his home run-to-flyball ratio is down to 8.5%, and he has kept his elite command with him, ranking in the 94th percentile in walk rate.

That type of approach could be particularly great against Cleveland, who has the second-worst hard hit percentage in the league at 26.5%, trailing only the Tigers. The Guardians generate the sixth-highest amount of soft contact at 17.1%, and while that approach isn't strictly an indictment on a team's ability to win games, it does serve more as a red flag for tonight's matchup. Same goes for their eighth-worst walk rate (7.6%), which just further limits their offensive ceiling.

Prediction: Astros moneyline (-179 at WynnBet)

Over/Under analysis

Houston has the friendliest Unders record in the league at 65-38-3 (63.1%), while Cleveland has the fourth-best Overs record at 52-46-6 (53.1%). As for recent form, the Astros have gone four straight to the Under now, while the Guardians have gone five straight the other way.

Zach Plesac will take the mound opposite of Verlander tonight and is coming off a rough July, during which he pitched to a 5.84 ERA. Plesac is more of a contact pitcher, with just 6.8 strikeouts per nine innings pitched, but also shows excellent command with just 2.4 walks per nine. In other words, Plesac is good at keeping the ball in the zone and forcing batters to put the ball in play.

That may not play favorably against this Astros lineup. Houston ranks fourth-best in strikeout rate and eighth-best in walk rate, while ranking fifth in slugging percentage. In essence, the Astros are very good at making sure you pitch to them favorably and when you do, they make sure to make the most of it in terms of power.

That approach will be further assisted by the projected weather, which has the humidity reaching as high as 85% during the game.

Prediction: Over 8 (-110 at WynnBet)

Best bet

This four-game series between the Astros and Guardians is one of the weekend's best and features teams that could realistically be facing off in the postseason. And, although the Astros have played to a much better mark this season so far, the Guardians are not to be taken lightly.

The opening game of the series should paint a picture that doesn't play to that reality, however, given that the Astros will be sending arguably the league's best pitcher to the mound. Verlander brings a level of excellence and a particular approach that should play very favorably against this Cleveland lineup.

That same lineup has seen just a combined 37 plate appearances against Verlander, and all were against the previous and much different version of the future Hall of Famer. Expect Verlander to put together a gem and for the Astros to win the opening game of the series in convincing fashion.

Pick: Astros -1.5 (-112 at UniBet)

MLB parlays

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