A Reliable Closer

A reliable closer is a key component for any successful team. That is part of the reason why the Houston Astros are 10 games under .500.

The Astros look to assure themselves of a second consecutive series win Wednesday night when they continue a three-game home set against the Oakland Athletics.

Oddsmakers have made Houston -110 money line favorites (MLB Odds) for todays game, the over/under has been set at 8ev total runs (Matchup). Our public betting information shows that 92% of bets for this game have been placed on Oakland +100 (View MLB Bet Percentages).

Returned recently to his role as closer, Brad Lidge served up the tying home run to leadoff batter Mark Kotsay in the ninth inning of Tuesday's series opener. Lidge was trying to close out a game for the first time since April, when manager Phil Garner demoted him from the role.

Lidge regained his old status by allowing only one earned run in his last 19 2-3 innings as a set-up man. Because Dan Wheeler had given up nine runs in his last 6 2-3 innings, Garner had little choice but to restore Lidge, who has 104 career saves, to closer duty.

"I've been feeling really good and I was still feeling good focus tonight,'' said Lidge, who is 0-for-3 in save opportunities this season. "I maybe got a little too over-amped on an 0-2 pitch. I tried to throw too good of one and probably left it up for him a little bit too much.''

Tuesday's game, though, had a positive ending for the Astros, who won it in the 11th inning when Brad Ausmus singled home Adam Everett for his fourth RBI of the game.

Ausmus, a 15-year veteran catcher and a career .253 hitter, is 8-for-16 with a homer and seven RBIs in his past four games.

"I'm just swinging the bat better lately,'' he said. "That's it. I don't know why.''

The victory was the third in five games for Houston (27-37). The Astros played without first baseman Lance Berkman, who dropped his appeal and began serving a two-game suspension for inappropriate actions during a June 5 game in Colorado.

With Berkman out, Mark Loretta started at first base and rookie center fielder Hunter Pence took over the No. 3 spot in the lineup.

Chris Sampson (6-5, 3.36 ERA) looks to win his career-high third consecutive start for Houston. The right-hander limited the Chicago White Sox to two runs and six hits over 6 2-3 innings Friday in a 5-2 victory.

Since allowing a season-high seven runs in a loss to Philadelphia on April 23, Sampson has surrendered three runs or fewer in eight straight outings while lasting at least six innings in each of his past six starts.

He has never faced the Athletics.

Joe Kennedy was reached for five runs over five innings Tuesday, as Oakland (34-29) lost for only the second time in 10 games. It also marked the first time in 14 contests that an Athletics starter surrendered more than two earned runs.

Included in that stretch were a pair of outstanding starts from Joe Blanton (5-4, 3.60), who has allowed one run and seven hits over 16 1-3 innings in his past two outings. He limited Boston to one run and four hits in 7 1-3 innings on Thursday, but was outpitched by Curt Schilling, who came within one out of a no-hitter as Oakland lost 1-0.

Blanton, who has never faced the Astros, is 4-3 with a 3.58 ERA in nine career interleague starts.

by: Michael Cash - thespread.com – Email Us

More MLB Baseball coverage from theSpread.com

 - MLB news wire
 - Current MLB Injuries
 - 2007 MLB standings
 - 2007 MLB schedule
 - 2007 MLB Umpire sheet
 - 2007 MLB stats
 - MLB scoreboard
 - Expert MLB picks
 - Accuscore predictions
 - Comments and discussion
 - Signup for theSpread.com daily newsletter
 - MLB home

Recent MLB Discussions

MLB Top Stories

Thumbnail World Baseball Classic Final Prediction Will the USA knock off Puerto Rico tonight in the World Baseball Classic Championship at 9:00PM ET?
Thumbnail Indians Win-Total Prediction After falling just shy of the World Series in 2016, can the Cleveland Indians follow it up with a better year...
Thumbnail USA vs. Japan WBC Prediction Tanner Roark’s first World Baseball Classic outing didn’t go particularly well. If Team USA wants to advance to the championship game, though, it needs the Washington...
Thumbnail Reds Win Total Prediction Is there any reason to have some optimism about the Cincinnati Reds for the 2017 season? Here’s our breakdown on their season.
Thumbnail Red Sox Win Total Prediction With a stacked rotation, will the Boston Red Sox be able to surge to the top of the MLB standings in the 2017 season?

MLB Headlines

MLB Team Pages