Each day during the MLB Playoffs, LT Profits seeks a side that has a better chance of cashing than its odds would indicate. Here is their MLB Playoff Value Play for Friday.
Despite what may be perceived as a starting pitching advantage for the road team, we actually like the home underdogs to lead after five innings Wednesday night when southpaw Madison Bumgarner and the San Francisco Giants (88-74, 43-38 away) pay a visit to right-hander Edinson Volquez and the Pittsburgh Pirates (88-74, 51-30 home) in the single-game National League Wild Card Playoff from PNC Park in Pittsburgh, PA at 8:07 ET on ESPN.
The posted 5-inning money line at Pinnacle Sports has Pittsburgh as a small home underdog at current odds of +100.
Pirates Are Back Again
After flaming badly with our five-inning play in the American League Wild Card last night, we return undaunted with another five-inning selection in the National League tonight. The Giants actually led the National League West for much of the first half of this season, but the Dodgers then took over and pulled away late. Still, San Francisco overcame a mid-season lull and regrouped to play better down the stretch and earn this wild card spot.
As for the Pirates, they are back hosting this Wild Card Playoff for the second straight season after failing to make the playoffs for 21 straight seasons, in fact not having a single winning season over those 21 years. Now Pittsburgh hopes history repeats, at least in regards to this game as the Pirates were the winning MLB pick in this wild card last season before losing in the NLDS to the eventual National League Champions, the St. Louis Cardinals.
Bumgarner Quality Southpaw
Granted the Giants probably have the right man on the mound for them in ace Madison Bumgarner, who finished the regular season 18-10 with a 2.98 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 219 strikeouts vs. 43 walks in 217.1 innings. That 2.98 ERA was the third lowest among southpaws in the National League behind only Clayton Kershaw and Cole Hamels! Still, Bumgarner’s 217.1 innings pitched this season were a professional career high that could be paying a toll.
That is because he was not sharp in his final start of the regular season in what was then still a big game vs. the Los Angeles Dodgers as he was charged with four earned runs in 7.1 innings while allowing three home runs and laboring through 116 pitchers. That marked Bumgarner’s third highest pitch count all season, and coming in his last start, that should make it interesting to see how his arm reacts tonight.
Furthermore one of his worst starts all season came against these Pirates in San Francisco on July 28th, when he lasted just four innings and allowed five earned runs on six hits plus two walks. He is now facing a Pittsburgh lineup that batted .291 vs. left-handed pitchers in the last 10 games.
Volquez on Fire
Volquez was not off to a good start in his first season with the Pirates, but he was certainly strong down the stretch closing out with six straight Quality Starts over which he allowed a grand total of five earned runs and 23 hits in 41 innings while posting a 1.10 ERA and 0.95 WHIP! That strong close allowed Volquez to finish 13-7 with a 3.04 ERA on the year, and while he still tended to walk too many batters he had an acceptable ratio of 140 strikeouts vs. 71 walks.
Volquez did not face the Giants this season, but he became familiar with them while pitching in the same division while with the San Diego Padres last year, when he faced San Francisco five times and allowed three runs or less in four of those outings. He is now catching a Giant lineup that batted just .214 vs. right-handed pitchers in the last 10 games, averaging only 3.39 runs against them during that span.
Pittsburgh Bullpen a Concern
If there is one thing holding us back from backing the Pirates for this whole game, it is because their bullpen is not nearly as strong as it was last season and the pen downright struggled down the stretch, posting a 4.07 ERA over the last 10 games, including late meltdowns in each of the last two games when the Pirates still had a chance to catch the Cardinals for the National League Central crown.
Therefore, we are electing to take that pen out of the equation by backing Volquez and the Pirates for the first five innings at home in Pittsburgh on Wednesday.
MLB Pick: Pirates +100 (5 innings)