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Struggling Astros to get back on track vs. Rangers

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We put together another 3-0 card Wednesday night, pushing our weekly MLB record to 8-1.

We'll look to keep the momentum going with three more plays for a busy Friday in the majors.

JP France: Over 17.5 outs

France is off to a rocky start, but the numbers under the hood indicate he hasn't pitched as poorly as it seems. France has posted a solid .279 xwOBA, but opponents are hitting .360 on balls put in play. That's an unsustainably high rate, especially for someone not allowing a ton of good contact.

Regression should work in France's favor sooner rather than later. He'll also be given every opportunity to grind out as many innings as he can in this game.

The Astros have only gotten four innings from their starting pitchers over the last two games and have taxed their bullpen. They'll want to - perhaps even need to - lighten the load for a day or two.

France has pitched very well at home, completing six innings or more in nine of his last 12 regular-season starts. He came one out short in the most recent exception against an excellent Yankees team in his first start of the season.

France has reliably given the Astros a lot of length at home, and they're desperate to get it in this game.

Odds: -115 (playable to -130)

Rangers (+110) @ Astros (-130)

I like France to hold his own against the Rangers, which is obviously part of the handicap. I also believe in Houston's chances of getting the offense going against Dane Dunning.

He's been very lucky thus far. Dunning has posted an alarmingly high .385 xwOBA and a barrel rate of nearly 17%. Both metrics are in a completely different stratosphere than the league averages.

It's only a matter of time before that catches up to him - and the Astros can make that happen.

The Astros rank third in xwOBA, fourth in batting average, and fifth in contact rate against right-handed pitching. They've also hit for power, with only five teams totaling more homers against righties.

If France can give the Astros some much-needed length in this game, the offense should give him plenty of run support against Dunning.

Look for the Astros to end their three-game skid and get back in the win column Friday night.

Bet: Astros (-130)

Brandon Pfaadt: Under 1.5 walks

In 11 games against right-handed starting pitchers this season, the Cardinals have earned multiple walks only once.

They're struggling mightily to earn free passes. Their 6.1% walk rate versus opposing righties ranks them dead last in the majors.

It's the perfect storm for Pfaadt to put together another clean outing. Pfaadt has thrown balls at the lowest rate among all the day's projected starting pitchers. He has also walked only 2.1% of opposing batters, tying the lowest mark using the same criteria.

Pfaadt is hammering the strike zone right now and wasting very few pitches. That should set him up for another successful outing against a Cardinals team that simply isn't drawing walks.

Odds: -125 (playable to -145)

Todd Cordell is a sports betting writer at theScore. You can follow him on X at @ToddCordell.

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