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Houston Astros starting pitcher Gerrit Cole delivers during the first inning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres, Saturday, April 7, 2018, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)

Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press

The defending World Series champion Houston Astros (9-4) will look to end a two-game losing streak Friday when they host the skidding Texas Rangers (4-10) as big home favorites. The Astros opened the season by taking three of four games from the Rangers on the road en route to an impressive 6-1 start while Texas has dropped four in a row along with nine of its last 12.

MLB betting line: The Astros opened as -218 favorites (wager $ 218 to win $ 100); the total is at eight runs, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark. (Line updates and matchup report)

MLB betting pick, via OddsShark computer:6.51.0, Astros (MLB picks on every game)

Check out the OddsShark podcast on iTunes or at OddsShark.libsyn.com for more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news.

Why the Rangers can pay on the MLB lines

The Rangers got some bad news when they found out shortstop Elvis Andrus will miss six to eight weeks with an elbow injury, but fortunately he will not require surgery. They are coming off a three-game home sweep by the Los Angeles Angels, who have won five straight and lead the American League West by 1.5 games over Houston, so there is no real shame in that.

The good news is that Texas has won three of the past four meetings at Minute Maid Park, according to the OddsShark MLB Database. Plus, the Rangers have a solid starting pitcher going to the mound in Cole Hamels (1-2, 5.06 ERA), who has already struck out 23 batters, including 11 in his lone road outing.

Why the Astros can pay on the MLB lines

Let’s be honest, the Astros are the far superior team in this intrastate matchup, and they will get to see if starter Gerrit Cole (1-0, 0.64) can duplicate the outstanding performance he turned in last time out at home.

Cole threw seven scoreless innings with no walks and 11 strikeouts in a 1-0 victory against the San Diego Padres on Saturday, which was his first start ever at Minute Maid Park. If his first two outings this season are any indication of how well he will pitch in a Houston uniform the rest of the year, then the team got an absolute steal in acquiring him from the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Smart betting pick

The line is much too high on Houston to recommend a straight play on the home team here. Instead, consider betting the Astros on the runline, as their last seven wins in the series have all been routs decided by three runs or more. Houston will win big again.

MLB betting trends

Texas is 1-5 in its last six games.

Texas is 2-5 in its last seven games on the road.

Houston is 8-3 in its last 11 games.

All MLB odds and betting trends courtesy of Bleacher Report’s official odds partner, OddsShark. Check out OddsShark on Twitter and Instagram or head to YouTube for more betting picks and analysis on this week’s top games. You can also download the free odds tracker app.

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