Each day during the MLB Playoffs, LT Profits seek out a total that does not add up and offers the most value that day. Here is their Playoff Total Value Play of the Day for Tuesday.
Look for both starting pitchers to excel Tuesday night in the American League Wild Card Playoff Game as southpaw Jon Lester and the Oakland Athletics (88-74, 40-41 away) pay a visit to right-hander James Shields and the Kansas City Royals (89-73, 42-39 home) in a one-game elimination from Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, MO at 4:07 ET in a game televised nationally on TBS.
The posted 5-inning total at Pinnacle Sports is 3½ for this contest with the current odds on the ‘under’ set at -133.
Trade Backfired in One Sense…
The Athletics actually had the best record in the Major Leagues when they pulled off perhaps the biggest trade of the trading deadline at the end of July, exchanging their leader in RBI in Yoenis Cespedes for Lester. Unfortunately, the A’s went on their downward spiral soon afterwards because they simply could not replace Cespedes’ run production, and due to that lack of offense they did not even clinch this wild card spot until the final day of the season.
Meanwhile, the Royals may be a surprising MLB pick to be here after snapping the longest playoff drought of any of the four major North American sports at 29 years! That is correct, this is the first time that Kansas City has made the playoffs since winning the 1985 World Series over the St. Louis Cardinals in the “Show Me State” series. With that being said, the Royals earned this finishing just one game behind the Detroit Tigers for the American League Central title.
…But Not in Another Sense
While the Oakland trade for Lester may have backfired in the offensive sense, the major positive was that the Athletics got what they expected and now have that one true bona fide ace that they may have lacked before the deal, which is certainly good news in regards to this elimination game. Looking at his whole season with the Red Sox and A’s combined, Lester was 16-11 with a stellar 2.46 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 220 strikeouts in 219.2 innings vs. 48 walks.
It is fairly apparent that his won/lost record did not do him justice given those key numbers, and it was more of the same after he came to Oakland as he went a nondescript 6-4 despite his numbers being slightly better than they were in Boston, as he had a 2.35 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 71 strikeouts vs. 16 walks in 76.2 innings over 11 starts for the A’s.
Lester faced the Royals three times this season at his two stops combined and he pitched well while recording Quality Starts on all three occasions and posting a 2.61 ERA and 1.16 WHIP with 20 strikeouts vs. five walks over 20.2 innings over those outings. He is facing a Kansas City offense that batted a rather ordinary .244 at home vs. left-handed pitchers during the regular season while averaging only 3.42 runs per nine innings against them.
Ace Better than his Record
Speaking of being better than your record, the same thing can be said about the Royals’ ace Shields, who was obviously better than his 14-8 mark. Shields finished with a 3.21 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 180 strikeouts vs. 44 walks, as well as a good groundball rate of 45.2 percent. Because of that tendency of allowing batters to hit the ball on the ground, Shields allowed just seven home runs all year here at home over 102.2 innings.
And like Lester, Shields also had success vs. tonight’s opponent this season as he faced the Athletics twice and hurled Quality Starts each time while allowing a grand total of five runs and 11 hits plus just one walk in 14 innings. Also do not forget that he now no longer has Cespedes to deal with and the Athletics batted just .225 vs. righties their last 10 regular season games, all of them playoff-like pressurized games, and it took a shutout in the 162nd game to get here.
Taking Bullpens out of the Equation
When you combine the pitching success of the two starters here this season, both overall and vs. tonight’s respective opponents, with some possible early game jitters in an elimination game, we are actually more comfortable playing the five-inning ‘under’ and not having to worry about the bullpens blowing up a low full-game total that currently stands at 6½.
Therefore, our recommendation for the American League Wild Card Playoff Game is to go ‘under’ for the first five innings only from Kansas City on Tuesday.
MLB Pick: Athletics, Royals ‘under’ 3½ (-133) (5 innings)