Rangers at Cardinals Picks and MLB Betting Odds
by Alan Matthews - 6/21/2013
Very often, the word "classic" is vastly overused when it comes to a great sports game. Just going from this week, was Wednesday night's Chicago Blackhawks 6-5 overtime win over the Boston Bruins a classic? Great game, yes. Classic, no. How about Game 6 of the NBA Finals on Tuesday night? Now that was a classic as arguably no team had come closer to a championship and lost it than the San Antonio Spurs.
I mention this because the best baseball game I can remember in recent memory involved the Texas Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals, who open a three-game series at Busch Stadium on Friday night. This is the first time these two have played since the 2011 World Series, and Game 6 of that Fall Classic was truly a classic.
Remember, Game 6 was actually postponed a night. So it was played Oct. 27, 2011 at Busch. The Rangers were up 3-2 in the series and poised for the first World Series title. Things sure looked good when Texas scored three runs in the seventh inning for a 7-4 lead. Allen Craig's solo homer in the eighth began the Cardinals' comeback. In the ninth, the Cardinals had two runners on and still down 7-5 and David Freese was down to his final strike against overpowering Texas closer Neftali Feliz. Freese would triple in the tying runs, sending the game into extras. That would hardly be the end of the dramatics.
Rangers star Josh Hamilton homered in the top of the 10th for a 9-7 lead. Once again the Cardinals got two runners on but were down to their final strike when Lance Berkman brought both home with a single. Freese then opened the bottom of the 11th with a homer to win it, becoming just the fifth player in WS history with a walk-off homer in Game 6 or 7. I guarantee you remember the other four guys and when they did it: Bill Mazeroski, Carlton Fisk, Kirby Puckett and Joe Carter. The Cardinals were the first team in postseason history to score in the eighth, ninth, 10th and 11th inning in one game. Because of that rainout, it allowed the Cardinals to bring back ace Chris Carpenter for Game 7, and he beat the Rangers, with Freese winning World Series MVP honors.
It almost seems like Texas still hasn't recovered from that defeat. Meanwhile, the Cardinals just keep rolling -- staging yet another incredible comeback in Game 5 of last year's NLDS against the Nationals -- and with the best record in baseball in 2013.
Rangers at Cardinals Betting Story Lines
Of course, the two best players on those teams, the Rangers' Hamilton and Cardinals' Albert Pujols, are no longer with those clubs but now on the disappointing Los Angeles Angels (and both looking old and vastly overpaid). Berkman is with the Rangers. But most of the other big names are still around.
The Rangers had been slumping of late and have been overtaken by Oakland heading into Thursday's series finale between those two. Texas is even money to win the AL West at Sportsbook.ag, with the A's at -150. The Cardinals are atop the NL Central, which is the best division in baseball this year (at least at the top) with both the Reds and Pirates playing terrific baseball. St. Louis is the -150 division favorite. A Cardinals-Rangers rematch this October is +2400.
Texas is 6-12 this month entering Thursday, and the offense is averaging less than three runs per game in June. The good news is that Texas scored eight runs in the series opener against Oakland and nine more on Wednesday, so maybe that lineup is waking up. In addition, first baseman Mitch Moreland will return from the DL for Friday's game. He has been out since June 5 with a hamstring injury. He was hitting .288 with 12 homers and 29 RBI and provides some needed left-handed pop that the Rangers lost when Hamilton left. Moreland will start Friday, meaning Berkman would be relegated to pinch-hitting with no designated hitter in the NL park.
The Rangers start lefty Derek Holland in this one, the only pitcher other than Yu Darvish the team can generally count on at this point with so many other starters on the DL and some young pitchers struggling. Holland (5-4, 3.30 ERA) hasn't been sharp the past two times out, allowing eight runs and 19 hits over 10.1 innings. Holland started Game 4 of the World Series against St. Louis and was brilliant, blanking the Cards on two hits over 8.1 innings and striking out seven. He pitched two innings of relief in that epic Game 6 and allowed Craig's eighth-inning homer.
St. Louis starts another one of its rookies in left-hander Tyler Lyons (2-3, 4.65). The 25-year-old Lyons was a ninth-round draft pick in 2010 out of Oklahoma State. He may be in danger of being sent back to Triple-A as the Cards have lost his past three starts. Lyons has allowed at least four runs in all of them and has lasted just 5.1 innings in each of the past two. Obviously, no Rangers have seen him in the majors.
Rangers at Cardinals MLB Betting Odds and Trends
At BetOnline, St. Louis opened at -118 and Texas at +108 with a total of 8.5. All trends entering Thursday: The Rangers are 26-42-4 “over/under” (16-18-2 on road) and 33-39 on the runline. The Cardinals are 37-32-3 O/U (17-16-1 at home) and 41-31 on the runline.
Texas is 6-2 in its past eight interleague games vs. lefty starters. The Rangers are 1-6 in their past six interleague road games. Texas is 9-2 in Holland's past 11 Friday starts. It is 6-2 in Holland's past eight road starts. The Cardinals are 6-1 in their past seven interleague games and in past seven Friday games. St. Louis is 7-3 in its past 10 interleague games against lefty starters. The over is 5-1 in Holland's past six road starts. The over is 6-1 in the Cardinals' past seven series openers.
Rangers at Cardinals Picks and Betting Predictions
Holland actually has been better on the road this season: 3-1 with a 3.20 ERA. He'll need to be careful with Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, who might be the NL MVP leader right now. He's hitting .400 with 14 RBI in June and leads the majors in batting average and multi-hit games overall. Molina is also the best catcher in baseball -- is there a more valuable overall player in MLB right now? Molina has never faced Holland in a regular-season game.
The Rangers are a solid 19-17 on the road, but St. Louis has the majors' best home record at 25-13 entering Thursday's finale against the Cubs. Still, I would roll the dice on Texas here. Moreland's return boosts the lineup, and I have a feeling this series will have some significance to those Rangers from the 2011 team. Love the over.
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