Friday, September 22, 2017

MLB Game Preview: Minnesota Twins vs. Detroit Tigers - 9/22/2017 - 7:10 PM EST

MLB Game Preview: Minnesota Twins vs. Detroit Tigers - Date: 9/22/2017 Twins face Tigers with focus on field, not scoreboard 8h ago. 2 min read DETROIT -- Winning is more important than scoreboard-watching for the Minnesota Twins as they seek to stave off the competition for the second American League wild card.Minnesota enters its Friday game against the Detroit Tigers with a 2 1/2-game lead over the Los Angeles Angels and Texas Rangers in the wild-card hunt."We talked the other day," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "We've got to try to win games. What they do is obviously going to be a factor."Shoot, one of those teams behind us (like) the Angels could win nine out of 10 or something. You just don't know. We've got to try to win today." Minnesota will send right-hander Kyle Gibson (11-10, 5.07 ERA) to protect its position in the standings on Friday.Gibson is 1-2 with an 8.20 ERA against the Tigers in four starts this season and 5-7 with a 5.66 ERA when pitching against them over his career. He is 2-4 at Comerica Park.Tigers manager Brad Ausmus waited until after Minnesota's 12-1 win over Detroit on Thursday night to reveal that he would return lefty Daniel Norris to the rotation on Friday.Norris (4-7, 5.38 ERA) threw 58 pitches last Saturday in a three-inning relief appearance and would in theory match up well against a Minnesota team heavy with left-handed hitters.Norris has not faced Minnesota this season but is 1-0 with a 2.76 ERA against the Twins in three career starts.Ausmus is impressed with the Twins' unlikely bid for a postseason berth."No question," he said, "I don't think you imagine that a team that lost 100 and something games is going to bounce back and make the playoffs the next year."I just think they've got a lot good athletes over there that have gained a year of experience. Guys like (Max) Kepler, (Byron) B uxton, even (Eddie) Rosario who had been up a couple three years, has gained another year of experience. He's a much more mature player now."The most remarkable thing is that they're doing a lot of this damage offensively without (Miguel) Sano, recently." Sano hasn't played since Aug. 18 after fouling a ball off his left shin, and Molitor said he is doubtful Sano would return by the end of the regular season."Obviously with 10 games to go, I don't think there's a very high percentage chance we'll see him before that last game against the Tigers," the Minnesota manager said. "He's just got to keep working like he's got a chance." Molitor feels he has the proper perspective on scoreboard-watching and trying to win games."I went to bed pretty early last night after a short night the night before," he said Thursday afternoon. "Woke up this morning and started my routine, went and got coffee, took a litt le hike and thought, 'Oh yeah, I should check and see what the (Angels') result was.' So I guess that's a good sign, I'm not consumed by it."


MLB Game Preview: Colorado Rockies vs. San Diego Padres - 9/22/2017 - 10:10 PM EST

MLB Game Preview: Colorado Rockies vs. San Diego Padres - Date: 9/22/2017 Padres' Lyles looks to extend Rockies' skid 2h ago. 2 min read SAN DIEGO -- The San Diego Padres will turn to Jordan Lyles to stifle the Colorado Rockies on Friday. And that reminded San Diego manager Andy Green of a recent conversation he had with catcher Austin Hedges.Lyles was rocked by Colorado on Saturday, allowing seven runs on eight hits over four innings. When Green took the ball from the right-hander, the manager asked Hedges for report."His stuff is really good," Hedges told Green.However, Lyles (1-3, 7.35 ERA) was getting the stuffing knocked out of him.So Lyles and pitching coach Darren Balsley got busy. Best Sports Picks of the Day. They worked in between starts in effort to put a wrinkle in Lyles' easy delivery."They have done some serious work in the bullpe n, which is good for me," Green said. "And I talked to Jordan quite a bit about how he pitches and what he features. Sports Handicapping Monitor. The truth is his stuff is alive, it's good stuff. But it tends to get hit a little bit more than it should."There has been talk about trying to create some deception, trying to do some subtle things that might make it a little more tougher on hitters. We like his pitch mix, it just hasn't played quite effectively, honestly through his career, as well as it maybe could have." Anything that is different from his last outing against his former team works for Green. Lyles went 0-1 with a 6.94 ERA in 33 relief appearances for Colorado earlier this season before he was released. San Diego signed him to a minor league deal in August, then called him up on Sept. 1.Maybe Lyles' new look will produce fresh results. He is 0-2 lifetime against the Rockie s with a 7.27 ERA.Despite a four-game losing streak, the Rockies (82-71) enter play Friday with a one-game lead over the Milwaukee Brewers for the second National League wild-card spot.The St. Louis Cardinals are 1 1/2 games back of Colorado.San Diego (69-84) is eliminated from the postseason picture, but the Padres are trying to make the most of the spoiler role.The Padres beat the Rockies 3-0 on Thursday in the opener of the four-game series."It's a good win for the team, first win of the series against a good team battling for the playoffs," said Padres starter Clayton Richard, who pitched 7 1/3 innings for the victory. "These games mean a lot to them, and we are going to play them like they mean a lot to us." Colorado will try to bounce back behind Jon Gray (8-4, 3.75 ERA).Gray has won five of his last seven starts, and he hasn't allowed more than three runs in any of his past 11 starts. In his latest outing, he didn't get the win, but he threw five innings of scoreless ball against the Padres on Sunday. He is 3-2 with a 2.50 ERA in his career against San Diego."Jon is throwing the ball great, has a lot of momentum, and hopefully it continues that's way," Rockies manager Bud Black said. "The fastball location, the good slider, throwing the curve. He's putting three quality ... pitches in play the last number of starts. He's really in a good spot."


MLB Game Preview: Texas Rangers vs. Oakland Athletics - 9/22/2017 - 10:05 PM EST

MLB Game Preview: Texas Rangers vs. Oakland Athletics - Date: 9/22/2017 Rangers visit A's with wild-card berth in sight 2h ago. 2 min read OAKLAND, Calif. -- The Texas Rangers hope to use a break in the schedule to creep closer in the American League wild-card picture when they open a three-game series against the last-place Oakland Athletics on Friday night.Thanks to a three-game sweep in Seattle, the Rangers (76-76) will take the field in Oakland 2 1/2 games behind the Minnesota Twins (79-74) in the race for the AL's second wild-card spot, tied with the Los Angeles Angels (76-76).Texas has some catching up to do but has a favorable schedule to potentially make it happen. After facing fellow playoff contenders over the past 13 games, the Rangers will see the A's in six of their last nine.However, the A's have been tough on the Rangers so far this season, especially at home. Oakland swept a three-game series agains t them at the Coliseum in August, evening the season series at 6-6.Rangers right-hander Nick Martinez (3-6, 5.47 ERA) and A's righty Kendall Graveman (5-4, 4.39) will open the series, just as they did on a Friday night last month.Graveman got the better of the previous head-to-head, holding the Rangers to one run despite giving up nine hits in seven innings in a 3-1 win.Martinez gave up only four hits in his seven innings, but two were Khris Davis solo home runs. He yielded three runs and struck out seven.The A's (69-83) open a six-game homestand playing arguably their best ball of the season. Football Picks. They went 6-3 on an Eastern swing through Boston, Philadelphia and Detroit, winning the last four.Powering the surge was first baseman Matt Olson, who homered in five consecutive games before going 0-for-3 on Wednesday in the trip finale against the Tigers. He now has 23 homers in 56 games th is season.Olson's past six hits have been home runs, dating back to a single in the trip opener at Boston on Sept. 12."It's been pretty spectacular," Oakland manager Bob Melvin said during the trip. "The expectations are a little unfair, but he's taken off and run with it. He's really turning into a guy that we're going to build around." The A's hope to say the same about Graveman, who was off to a nice start Saturday before a 1-hour, 46-minute rain delay ended his night after two one-hit innings.His previous start was a good one, as he limited the Houston Astros to one run and five hits in six innings in a 10-2 win.Graveman is 3-2 with a 4.57 ERA in seven career starts against the Rangers.Martinez likewise has accumulated a winning record in his career against the A's, going 4-3 with a 2.71 ERA in 13 games, including nine starts.He hasn't beaten anyone in his past nine outings, allowing 28 earned runs in 35 innings. He is 0-3 over the stretch that dates back to June 25.The Rangers can only hope for the type of performance left-hander Cole Hamels delivered Thursday in a 4-2 win at Seattle.Hamels limited the Mariners to one run and three hits in eight innings."When you do get into September, you kind of do see the light at the end of the tunnel. Sports Handicapping Monitor. That's when you kind of make your push," Hamels said after the win. "That's just something I've always had."


MLB Game Preview: Miami Marlins vs. Arizona Diamondbacks - 9/22/2017 - 9:40 PM EST

MLB Game Preview: Miami Marlins vs. Arizona Diamondbacks - Date: 9/22/2017 D-backs begin final homestand against Stanton, Marlins 38m ago. 3 min read PHOENIX -- The Arizona Diamondbacks begin their final homestand Friday swimming in possibilities.Can they use their final six home games to clinch a National League wild-card berth? Can J. D. Martinez maintain his record home run pace? Can Zack Greinke continue to patch his Cy Young resume?And more important, can they do anything to slow Giancarlo Stanton?Arizona (88-65) will open a three-game series against the Miami Marlins (72-80) with a firm hold on the first NL wild-card spot. Sports Handicappers Rankings. The team that winds up in that position will own home-field advantage for the Oct. 4 winner-take-all play-in game.The Diamondbacks have a six-game lead over the Colorado Rockies (82-71) for the top wild-card spot wit h nine games remaining. Arizona's magic number to clinch its first playoff berth since 2011 is three. Sports Picking Services. The D-backs would host a wild-card game if they finished tied with Colorado because they won the season series, 11-8.Arizona enters its series with Miami after avoiding a three-game sweep in San Diego on Wednesday. Free Guaranteed Sports Picks. The Diamondbacks overcame a 6-2 deficit against the Padres with 11 runs in the last four innings of a 13-7 victory."To not get swept, and to go home into an off day with a win, regroup and finish off these last six at home ... it's go time," said Arizona setup man Archie Bradley, who pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings Wednesday and also added a two-out, RBI single in a two-run eighth inning for a 9-6 lead.Bradley added: "It's a great day to be a D-back." It has been a great month to be a D-back for right fielder Martinez, who is slashing .380/.416/.958 with 12 homers and 25 RBIs in 17 September games. Martinez has won the last two NL Player of the Weeks awards, and he has 25 homers in 54 games since joining Arizona on July 18. He has a career-high 41 this season, in which a record number of homers were hit throughout the majors.Martinez's two-run, opposite-field homer tied the game at 6 in the sixth inning Wednesday, one of nine homers hit by the two teams at normally pitcher-friendly Petco Park."I think the game has adapted," Martinez said. "Pitchers are always ahead of hitters. I think hitters are starting to catch up with pitchers. You don't see too many sinker guys anymore. Everyone wants to throw four-seamers. Everyone wants to throw the ball up. If you throw the ball up, that ball's going to get hit." Martinez is one homer short of tying Luis Gonzalez's franchise record for homers in a month. Gonzalez had 13 in April 2001, the year in which the Diamondbacks won their only World Series championship.Greinke (17-6, 2.87 ERA) is set to oppose left-hander Adam Conley (7-7, 5.20 ERA) in the first game of the series Friday at Chase Field.The Arizona right-hander is tied for the major league lead in victories with Clayton Kershaw, Zach Davies, Corey Kluber, Jason Vargas and Chris Sale. His 2.87 ERA is fifth among NL qualifiers behind Kershaw and the Washington Nationals trio of defending champion Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez.Greinke is third in the NL in WHIP (1.02) and fifth in strikeouts (208). He is 3-0 with a 1.56 ERA in his past four starts, and he would tie Randy Johnson for the franchise record for single-season home victories (14) with his next win at Chase Field.Greinke is 5-0 with a 2.75 ERA in nine career appearances (eight starts) against the Marlins, the only team that has not beaten him.Stanton leads the majors wi th 56 homers after hitting one when the Marlins completed a three-game sweep of the New York Mets on Wednesday. He is one of 14 players to have as many as 56 homers in a season, and he has said that he is shooting for one-time season record-holder Roger Maris' total of 61, set in 1961."I'm getting up there with some great company," he acknowledged after tying the biggest years of Ken Griffey Jr. and Hack Wilson on Wednesday.Stanton has 120 RBIs, second in the majors only to Colorado third baseman Nolan Arenado's 125. Stanton is 3-for-15 with one homer, two RBIs, three walks and seven strikeouts in 18 career plate appearances against Greinke."I've got 10 games left," Stanton said. "The season's not over. Once you get to the end of the season, you look back. But I don't go each day, 'Hey, I've got this or that.'"Conley can tie career high in wins set last year. He is 4-3 with a 3.33 ERA on the road this year. He has not faced the D-backs this season and is 1-1 with a 4.35 ERA against them in his career.


MLB Game Preview: Cleveland Indians vs. Seattle Mariners - 9/22/2017 - 10:10 PM EST

MLB Game Preview: Cleveland Indians vs. Seattle Mariners - Date: 9/22/2017 Mariners hope to stay alive against surging Indians 14m ago. 3 min read SEATTLE -- Just as the Seattle Mariners are looking for any break they can muster to remain in the postseason race, they get to welcome one of the hottest teams in baseball history -- not the sort of break they needed.The Cleveland Indians (96-57) come to Safeco Field on a tear, boasting a 27-1 record over their past 28 games, a run that featured an American League-record 22-game winning streak as they ran away with the AL Central division title."They've got a good squad," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "They've played great. Watching the game today, they're not backing off at all." It isn't surprising to Cleveland manager Terry Francona that his club would just keep on winning."I never thought there would be a letdown," Francona said. "All the things that I say, and I know sometimes people roll their eyes, but it's why we do it. We play the game today. If you do that, there's no reason to have a letdown." Meanwhile, Seattle is licking its wounds having lost a season-worst six straight. Professional Handicappers. The Mariners (74-79) were just swept by the Rangers in a three-game series at Safeco Field, capped by a 4-2 Texas win Thursday.The Indians might be on a historical tear, but the Mariners have held their own the past two seasons against the defending AL champions: Cleveland and Seattle are 5-5 head to head in 2016 and 2017.Cleveland has made a couple of improvements however, adding slugger Edwin Encarnacion (.254, 37 home runs, 96 RBIs) in the offseason and outfielder Jay Bruce (.257, 34 home runs, 96 RBIs) in a trade with the New York Mets on Aug. 9."We've played pretty well against them," S ervais said. "Obviously, Encarnacion has added a nice element to their lineup." With a victory against Seattle on Friday, the Indians could match the 1884 Providence Grays -- the team that featured 59-game winner Old Hoss Radbourn -- for baseball's best 29-game stretch. More practically, the Indians are a game behind the Los Angeles Dodgers for the best record in baseball and home-field advantage throughout the postseason."It's refreshing to see that we have a chance to overtake them and hopefully have that best record," Indians pitcher Josh Tomlin said Wednesday night. "If you're going to get to the World Series, home-field advantage will help." The Mariners are still trying to stay in the chase for the second AL wild-card spot, sitting five games behind the Minnesota Twins.Right-hander Trevor Bauer (16-9, 4.41 ERA) takes the mound in the series opener for Cleveland. Bauer took the loss when the Indians' 22-game winning streak w as snapped against Kansas City on Sept. 15, pitching 5 1/3 innings and allowing four runs on nine hits.Prior to that, Bauer had won his last nine decisions, a streak that dated back to July 21.Bauer has not enjoyed great success against the Mariners, going 1-4 with a 5.52 ERA in 31 innings. Kyle Seager has hit .400 (6-for-15) with a homer and five RBIs against Bauer in his career, while Nelson Cruz is 6-for-10 with a homer and three RBIs.Right-hander Erasmo Ramirez (5-6, 4.56 ERA) will start for the Mariners, having gone winless in his past five starts. However, Ramirez has been solid of late, notching quality starts in six of seven outings for a 3.54 ERA over his past 40 2/3 innings.In six career appearances (three starts) against the Indians, Ramirez is 1-2 with a 4.58 ERA, though he hasn't faced them this year.Ramirez has had some success against Encarnacion, limiting him to a .235 average (4-for-17) in his career -- but that has come with two home runs.


MLB Game Preview: Chicago Cubs vs. Milwaukee Brewers - 9/22/2017 - 7:35 PM EST

MLB Game Preview: Chicago Cubs vs. Milwaukee Brewers - Date: 9/22/2017 Brewers aim to rebound from heartbreaker vs. Cubs 1h ago. 2 min read MILWAUKEE -- Chicago right-hander John Lackey takes the mound Friday as the Cubs try to push the Milwaukee Brewers further back in the National League Central.Chicago pushed its lead over Milwaukee to 4 1/2 games Thursday, rallying late for a 5-3, 10-inning victory. Sports Betting Leads. The Cubs snapped a three-game losing streak to the Brewers, who had outscored Chicago 20-3 during that stretch."This is a fun time of year, September, it's getting late in the year," said Kyle Schwarber, who got the Cubs started Thursday with a home run, his 29th of the year. "To be able to have the kind of race we're in now, it's exciting and it's good for baseball, I think." Lackey (11-11, 4.62 ERA) will be making his first start since being ejected for arguing balls and strikes after 4 2/3 innings last Friday against the St. Louis Cardinals. He is 1-2 with a 3.79 ERA against Milwaukee this season, and he beat the Brewers July 30 at Miller Park.For his career against the Brewers, Lackey is 6-4 with a 3.39 ERA in 14 starts.Milwaukee turns to rookie Brandon Woodruff, who has as many big league starts -- seven -- as Lackey has made in the postseason over the past three years.Woodruff, 24, is 2-2 with a 3.28 ERA in his first major league season. He bounced back from his first rough outing by pitching well his last time out, holding the Miami Marlins to three runs over seven innings on Sunday at Miller Park.He has never faced the Cubs before.Like most of his teammates, Woodruff finds himself in the thick of a playoff race for the first time in his career, but Brewers manager Craig Counsell has been impressed that the pressure and spotlight isn't stunting his young roster."These ar e the games you want to play in," Counsell said. "You feel like you're playing for something. You've worked really hard to get to this point. You've been on a long journey and have earned the right to play in these games, but you feel like there's a lot ahead of you."More than anything, I think you feel like you've earned the right to play in these games, and that's what makes it exciting. Everybody looks ahead a little bit, everybody knows what's at stake and what could happen. You should allow yourself to do that." Milwaukee has dropped two in a row -- in heartbreaking fashion -- but if there is a bright side to the last two nights it is that the Brewers still have a decent chance to make the playoffs. Free Guaranteed Sports Picks. The Colorado Rockies dropped their fourth consecutive game Thursday, and they lead Milwaukee by just one game for the second NL wild car d."It's two tough (losses), but we're still sitting in a pretty good spot," Counsell said. "We can play well for the last nine days and still do something good. Every loss is going to be incredibly tough right now. We just have to wipe it away."


MLB Game Preview: Kansas City Royals vs. Chicago White Sox - 9/22/2017 - 8:10 PM EST

MLB Game Preview: Kansas City Royals vs. Chicago White Sox - Date: 9/22/2017 Royals visit White Sox with slim playoff hopes in tow 2h ago. 2 min read CHICAGO -- The Kansas City Royals will try to preserve their slim hopes for a wild-card playoff berth when they open a three-game road series against the Chicago White Sox on Friday night.Kansas City (75-77) is 3 1/2 games behind the Minnesota Twins with 10 games remaining in the race for the American League's second wild-card spot. Todays Free Sports Picks. The Royals will aim for their third consecutive victory after posting back-to-back wins over the Toronto Blue Jays, 15-5 and 1-0.An up-and-down season coupled with a tight playoff race has the Royals in a strange position. Best Sports Picks of the Day. They are trying to secure their third playoff appearan ce in the past four years while simultaneously trying to avoid their first sub-.500 season since 2012."The goal for everybody is just to keep pressing forward and keep playing good baseball," Royals left-hander Jason Vargas said to the Kansas City Star. "That's all we can control." Meanwhile, Chicago (61-91) is looking to close out its final homestand of the season on an upbeat note. Track Handicappers. The rebuilding White Sox are coming off a 3-1 victory over the Houston Astros, but Chicago has dropped three of four contests.Right-hander Jason Hammel (8-12, 5.05 ERA) is scheduled to make his team-high 31st start for Kansas City. The 35-year-old has given up 24 home runs, which is one shy of his career high. He will try to bounce back after allowing 11 earned runs on 21 hits in his past two starts covering 9 1/3 innings.In 11 career games (six starts) against the White Sox, Ha mmel is 2-3 with a 4.30 ERA.The White Sox will counter with right-hander Reynaldo Lopez (2-3, 4.84 ERA), who is slated to make his seventh start of the season. The 23-year-old has walked 12 and struck out 23 in 35 1/3 innings with Chicago.Lopez will face the Royals for the third time in 2017. He is 1-0 with a 3.75 ERA in his first two appearances against Kansas City."He shows a tremendous sense of maturity," White Sox manager Rick Renteria told the Chicago Tribune. "He's kind of a fiery guy, even though he's really quiet. You guys see him on the mound and he's just quiet, but internally he has some drive." White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson enters the series looking to build upon a career-high, 12-game hitting streak. Anderson, who ripped his 17th home run against the Astros on Thursday night, is hitting .426 with two home runs, three doubles and six RBIs during his streak.For the Royals, first baseman Eric Hosmer and second baseman Whit Merrifi eld will try to get back on track after watching their six-game hit streaks fizzle Thursday in the series finale against the Blue Jays.The series marks Melky Cabrera's second return visit to Guaranteed Rate Field since the White Sox shipped him to the Royals just before the July 31 trade deadline. In 49 games since joining his new team, Cabrera is hitting .275 with four home runs and 26 RBIs.The Royals and White Sox have split their first 16 matchups of the season series. Chicago has outscored Kansas City 90-74.


MLB Game Preview: Los Angeles Angels vs. Houston Astros - 9/22/2017 - 8:10 PM EST

MLB Game Preview: Los Angeles Angels vs. Houston Astros - Date: 9/22/2017 Angels look to halt Houston starters' domination 1h ago. 3 min read HOUSTON -- While Astros left-hander Dallas Keuchel failed to keep an impressive streak going for the rotation, what Houston starters have done recently qualifies as a positive development.Before Keuchel allowed two runs over six innings in a 3-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox on Thursday, Houston starters had recorded the decision in six consecutive wins.The Astros will aim to bounce back Friday when they open a three-game series against the Los Angeles Angels.Including Keuchel's loss Thursday, the rotation has allowed just nine earned runs on 26 hits and 13 walks with 42 strikeouts over the past 42 innings, good for a 1.93 ERA during that stretch.Houston starters are trending in the right direction at the most opportune time with the postseason upcoming."A lot of that comes with the health, too," Astros manager A. J. Hinch said. "There were times this year where we weren't rolling the same five guys or six guys out in a row, and these guys come out and stay in games long enough."I remember the stretch in the season where the starter wouldn't get through five innings. I remember the part early on where we had a really strong top end of the rotation and we scuffled in the back, and then it flipped when the top of our rotation got hurt. Rolling out a good starting pitcher every game is key for a winning ballclub." Right-hander Justin Verlander (3-0, 0.86 ERA with Houston; 13-8, 3.50 ERA for overall) will make his fourth start for the Astros (93-59) in the opener against the Angels.Verlander is 1-1 with a 2.57 ERA over two starts against Los Angeles this season and 7-8 with a 3.55 ERA over 18 starts in his career. While pitching for the Astros on Sept. 12, Verlander tossed eight shutout innings in Anaheim, allowing just one hit.The Angels will counter with right-hander Garrett Richards (0-2, 2.00 ERA).The injury-plagued Richards has made just four starts in 2017 and 10 total over the past two seasons. He took a 1-0 loss against the Astros on Sept. 12 despite allowing just a run on four hits and no walks over five innings.For his career, Skaggs is 5-4 with a 3.58 over 13 appearances (10 starts) against Houston.The Angels (76-76) will arrive in Houston reeling from four consecutive losses and facing a 2 1/2-game deficit behind the Twins in pursuit of the second American League wild card. Sports Handicappers. The Texas Rangers are also 2 1/2 games back of Minnesota.The Twins had lost five of six games before beating the Detroit Tigers 12-1 on Thursday.After losing the past three games to the visiting Cleveland Indians, including a 4-1 setback on Thursday, the Angels now need help."That's neither here nor there, that's a distra ction," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "We know we do (have to rely on other teams), but we have to focus on our nine innings, what we need to do on the field, don't be distracted by numbers and this and that and where teams are and who's playing who. We'll figure that out after our game."What we need to do is go out there and start to get games on our terms, and part of it's on the offensive side and we've struggled a little bit. NBC Sports Picks. The only way we can change the momentum is to focus on how we need to play the game and what we need to do. Sports Handicapping Monitor. That's what we're going to do when we get on this plane to Houston and hopefully pick it up (Friday)." The Astros' motivation for the remainder of the regular season involves the race for the top record in the AL and home -field advantage in the playoffs. Houston sits 2 1/2 games behind Cleveland for the league's top spot.