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Astros vs Cardinals – 7/26/19 MLB Pick, Odds, and Predictions

Houston Astros vs St Louis Cardinals, Friday July 26, 2019 (8:15pm et) Current Odds: Cardinals -104 Total Runs 8.5

For the moment, the Houston Astros’ rotation concerns have been assuaged, even against the backdrop of their pursuit of a starting pitcher prior to the upcoming trade deadline.

Houston just completed a 5-1 homestand on the back of exceptional starting pitching, with right-handers Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Jose Urquidy and Rogelio Armenteros plus left-hander Wade Miley finishing a combined 5-0 with a 1.62 ERA.

Scheduled off days will allow the Astros, who open a three-game interleague series against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on Friday, to utilize a four-man rotation until they need a fifth starter Aug. 3 against Seattle.

“One of the calling cards we’ve had the last few years has been always putting up a pretty good start,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “We rarely have the blowup start, and we did a few times, which does not make it our norm. It just kind of made it how we entered the second half of the season with a couple bad starts. We now are going to shrink that, only going with the four starters for the next week or so. I like where we’re at.”

Urquidy (1-0, 5.54 ERA) on Friday will make his fourth start of the season in the series opener. He has issued just one walk against 17 strikeouts over 13 innings this season. Urquidy notched his first career victory in his latest outing, limiting the Texas Rangers to one run on two hits while striking out nine over seven innings in a 6-1 victory on Saturday.

This will mark his first career appearance against the Cardinals and second interleague start. Urquidy allowed two runs on six hits and one walk with four strikeouts over 3 2/3 innings against Colorado Rockies in his major league debut on July 2. He did not factor in the decision of that 9-8 victory by the Cardinals in Denver.

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Right-hander Jack Flaherty (4-6, 4.24 ERA) will start the series opener for the Cardinals. He is 1-2 with a 5.59 ERA over seven career interleague starts, including a 7.63 ERA over three appearances against the American League this season.

Flaherty, who will face the Astros for the first time in his career, posted a 1.761 WHIP against the Texas Rangers, Oakland Athletics and the Mariners this season. He is 0-3 with a 4.15 ERA in his last 11 starts overall, but he has pitched to a 0.98 ERA while allowing opponents to bat just .172 over his past three outings. The Cardinals have dropped two of those three games.

The red-hot Cardinals completed a four-game series sweep of the Pirates on Thursday with a 6-3 victory in Pittsburgh. St. Louis has won five consecutive games and eight of the past nine, improving to 11-3 since the All-Star break to capture a share of first place in the National League Central with the Chicago Cubs.

It marks the first time that the Cardinals have held at least a share of first place since their 11-1 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies on May 7 dropped them into second.

Successful second halves are old hat for the Cardinals. St. Louis went a combined 164-125 following the All-Star break from 2015-18 and has won at least 40 games in the second half in seven of eight seasons. In 2014, the Cardinals finished 38-28 following the midseason break.

“This group is a second-half group, I guess. The last two years that’s been our M.O.,” Cardinals right-hander Miles Mikolas said. “We’re going to roll with that right now and try to have as strong a second half as we possibly can.”

411Winners Pick and Prediction: Astros -112

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