The Houston Astros were significant favorites over the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday night, for obvious reasons: Justin Verlander got the start for the host Astros against his former team, and he entered the game with double-digit strikeouts in six straight outings. The Tigers are the worst team in the majors, on pace for the second-worst record in the franchise’s extensive history, and had lost eight of their past 10.
Vegas oddsmakers acted accordingly: 81-win Houston closed as a -560 moneyline favorite at Caesars (bet $560 to win $100) and a whopping -600 favorite at MGM and FanDuel, according to ESPN. Detroit was a +435 underdog at Caesars, meaning a $100 bet would lead to a $435 payday if the Tigers somehow won.
Which, of course, they did.
In what Bet Labs is calling the biggest MLB upset since 2005, at least in terms of the moneyline, the Tigers were able to scratch out two solo homers against Verlander in a 2-1 win.
“For our ballclub, it’s huge, I can tell you that right now,” Tigers Manager Ron Gardenhire told MLB.com. “I haven’t seen them this excited in a long time.”
This is becoming a habit for the Astros: Just 10 days earlier, they lost to the Orioles as -460 favorites. In any case, Vegas books appreciate Houston’s generosity. Scott Shelton, the sportsbook shift manager at Mirage/MGM, told ESPN that the book won more than six figures on Wednesday’s game after taking a $55,000 bet on Houston at -550 and a $63,520 bet on Houston at -575.
Ronny Rodriguez and John Hicks hit the homers for Detroit, the latter coming to break a 1-1 tie in the top of the ninth. Then, in the bottom half, closer Joe Jimenez had to get through a terrifying stretch of the Astros’ lineup: rookie home run artist Yordan Alvarez, Yuli Gurriel, the AL’s player of the month in July; and Robinson Chrinos, who needed a triple to hit for the cycle.
After the first two struck out, Chrinos almost completed it. His hit into the gap in right-center got past a diving Travis Demeritte, but center fielder Harold Castro got the ball to second baseman Gordon Beckham, whose relay to Dawel Lugo at third base was perfect. Game over.
Detroit’s defense got it done all night.
Apart from the two homers, the only hits he allowed in a complete game, Verlander was his usual exceptional self. He retired his first 14 batters before Rodriguez’s homer and then another 10 before Hicks connected in the ninth, finishing with 11 strikeouts.
Hicks, who grew up with Verlander in Goochland, Va., and whose brother was in Verlander’s wedding, got bragging rights, at least for one night.
“I’m sure my brother will hear from him,” Hicks said. “I’m sure he won’t be too happy with me, but we’ll be all right.”
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