Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 10:02 AM

Friday's Diamond Notes

Hottest team: Astros (5-0 last five)

Houston and Boston are on a collision course to face each other for the right to capture the American League pennant. The Astros travel to Beantown on Friday for the start of a three-game series as Houston has caught fire over the last three weeks by winning 12 of its past 15 contests, including a home sweep of Minnesota this week. The pitching has come back to its usual form by allowing three runs or less in each of the past six games, while the lineup is healthy again with Jose Altuve, George Springer, and Carlos Correa all back from injury.

Since losing at Oakland on August 18 to fall into a first-place tie with the A’s, the Astros have posted a 6-1 road record in the past seven away from Minute Maid Park. Also, Houston has established some breathing room by owning a 3 ½ game lead over Oakland in the AL West heading into the weekend. It’s a battle of aces on the mound at Fenway Park in the opener as Houston’s Gerrit Cole opposes Boston southpaw David Price. Cole is winless in his past three road assignments, but beat the Red Sox at home on June 1 in a 7-3 triumph.

Coldest team: Giants (0-5 last five)

San Francisco went through the first six years of this decade winning the World Series in even years. However, the Giants came up short in 2016 and will be lucky to finish at .500 in 2018. The Giants travel to Miller Park after getting swept in a three-game set at Colorado to face a Brewers’ squad that beat San Francisco in three of four contests in the Bay Area in July. San Francisco has slumped on the road recently by going 2-9 in their last 11 games away from AT&T Park since taking two from the Dodgers as heavy underdogs in mid-August.

The Giants trot out Derek Holland in the series opener as the southpaw has allowed one earned run or less in four straight starts, while San Francisco has won three of his past four road outings. Holland didn’t face the Brewers in July, as the left-hander looks to extend his UNDER streak to five on Friday.

Hottest pitcher: Austin Gomber, Cardinals (5-0, 2.77 ERA)

The lone interleague matchup this weekend takes place in Detroit as the Cardinals visit the Tigers. St. Louis continues to roll after grabbing the final two games at Washington to win its sixth consecutive road series. The rookie Gomber has turned into a valuable call-up to this decimated St. Louis rotation as the left-hander is unbeaten in seven starts this season. St. Louis won all six of his August starts, while the former Florida Atlantic Owl yielded two runs or less in each of his past five outings.

Coldest pitcher: Chris Archer, Pirates (4-7, 4.56 ERA)

After Pittsburgh won the first two starts made by the former Tampa Bay right-hander, the Pirates are winless in Archer’s past four trips to the mound. Although three of those four starts came away from PNC Park, Archer has pitched past the fifth inning only once, which came in a 5-3 setback at Atlanta his last time out. Archer actually put together his best start with the Pirates against the Braves by scattering two hits and allowing one run in six innings, but the Pittsburgh bullpen allowed four late runs to prevent him from a win. The Pirates host the Marlins on Friday, as Pittsburgh is fresh off a three-game sweep of Cincinnati.

Biggest OVER run: Nationals (7-2 last nine)

The Cubs rallied to knock out the Nationals in last October’s NLDS, while Chicago pulled the same trick on Thursday night with a victory in 10 innings. Since getting shut out in three straight games in late August, Washington has scored at least four runs in 10 of the past 11 contests, but has also allowed four or more runs in seven of the last eight games. Runs should be at a premium on Saturday when Max Scherzer and Cole Hamels square off in D.C., but the Cubs are on a 6-1 OVER run in Jon Lester’s last seven starts. Most of that is due to great run support by Chicago, who has scored 23 runs in Lester’s past three outings, while facing Washington right-hander Joe Ross, who is making his season debut.

Biggest UNDER run: Diamondbacks (11-1 last 12)

Arizona’s remarkable 11-game UNDER streak came to a halt in Thursday night's extra-innings loss against Atlanta. The major reason for this UNDER stretch has been a lack of offense for the D-backs, who went through eight consecutive games by scoring three runs or less prior to Tuesday’s 6-0 shutout of the Padres. Patrick Corbin heads to the mound on Friday for Arizona, as the D-backs are winless in his past two appearances. Corbin has allowed two earned runs or less in four of the previous five trips to the hill, but the southpaw gave up four earned runs in six innings of a 5-1 setback at Atlanta prior to the All-Star break.

Matchup to watch: Dodgers vs. Rockies

Following its three-game sweep of San Francisco, the Rockies are the newest leader of the NL West race with three weeks remaining. That distinction can either be cemented or disappear this weekend as the defending National League champion Dodgers invade Coors Field. Los Angeles took brief control of the division race after capturing three of four from Arizona last weekend, but the Dodgers slipped up against the Mets by losing two of three at Chavez Ravine.

The Dodgers can trim the deficit to a half-game with a win on Friday as they send out their three-time Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw to the mound. Kershaw is fresh off a pair of no-decisions in one-run wins over the Padres and D-backs, but the left-hander has yielded two earned runs or less in eight consecutive outings. Interestingly enough, Kershaw has managed to avoid the Rockies this season, as Los Angeles posted a 4-2 record against Colorado in his six starts in 2017.

The Rockies counter with Jon Gray as Colorado has put together an impressive 10-1 record in the right-hander’s last 11 starts since late June. Gray has pitched into the seventh inning in seven of his past nine trips to the mound, as he tossed 5.2 innings against the Dodgers at Coors Field on August 10 as the Rockies rallied for a 5-4 victory. Since Los Angeles swept Colorado in Denver in early June, the Rockies have won five of the past seven matchups between the NL West rivals.

Betcha didn’t know: Since sweeping the Astros in Houston last month, the Mariners have slumped to a 1-8 record in their past nine games off a victory. Seattle knocked off Baltimore on Wednesday, as the Mariners sit in this fade spot on Friday with the Yankees traveling to the Pacific Northwest. New York swept Seattle at home in June, but the Yankees have failed to win a series in their last three tries.

Biggest public favorite: Rays (-250) vs. Orioles

Biggest public underdog: Yankees (+100) at Mariners

Biggest line move: Rangers (+160 to +146) at Athletics

You can reach Kevin Rogers via e-mail at [email protected]

Kevin Rogers can be followed on Twitter at virogers.

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