Each day LT Profits Sports seeks an overlay side that has a better chance of cashing than its spread, offering long term value. Here is their Side Value Play for Thursday.
Look for the early season Cinderella has that has almost lost its division lead to respond positively Thursday night when southpaw Brett Oberholtzer and those Houston Astros (49-38, 21-22 away) pay a visit to right-hander Cody Anderson and the Cleveland Indians (40-44, 17-24 home) in the final game of a four-game series from Progressive Field in Cleveland, OH at 7:10 ET in a game televised regionally on MLB Network.
The posted money line at Pinnacle Sports has Houston as a modest road underdog for this contest at current odds of +115.
Now Tied in Loss Column
The Astros have been one of the most pleasant surprises in baseball this year by leading the American League West for virtually the entire season, but their lead over the Los Angeles Angels is now down to 1½ games after losing two of the first three games of this series vs. the Indians including a 4-2 loss to Trevor Bauer last night, and the Astros and Angels are now actually tied in the loss column.
The Indians have been a lesser surprise but for a negative reason, as some experts picked them to go to the World Series before this season. Instead they are four games below .500 and in fourth place in the American League Central, 10 games behind the first place Kansas City Royals. The good news is that things are starting to turn around for the Tribe, as they have now been the winning MLB picks in seven of the last 10 games.
Is Cody the Real Deal?
Anderson is now making his fourth start since being called up by the Indians June 21st, and to say he has been brilliant in his first three Major League starts would be an understatement. First, he tossed 7.2 scoreless innings in his big league debut, then he took a Perfect Game into the seventh inning of his second start, with those first two outings both vs. Tampa Bay. He then followed those up by allowing one run in eight innings vs. Pittsburgh in an unlucky 1-0 loss.
Add this all up and Cody has a 0.76 ERA and 0.63 WHIP through his first 23.2 innings. But will this dream ride continue? Well, we are quite dubious as the fact that Anderson is such an extreme “contact pitcher” puts a ceiling on his upside. After usually pitching to contact throughout his minor league career, that has continued in the majors as he has just 10 strikeouts and one walk in those 23.2 innings.
Anderson has been very fortunate since his recall though as he has benefitted from a .181 BABIP and an equally ridiculous 95.6 percent strand rate, neither of which will probably go on for very much longer. Now he must deal with a Houston offense averaging 5.21 runs per game vs. right-handed pitchers over the last 10 games while batting .269 against them, and also a Houston offense that leads the Major Leagues with 121 home runs while ranking fifth in runs scored.
Oberholtzer Recalled Again
Speaking of recalling pitchers, Oberholtzer has made a quick return to the majors to take this start after being sent down to the minors following his abysmal start vs. the New York Yankees on June 27th where he failed to get out of the second inning while getting roughed up for six earned runs on four hits including two home runs plus three walks in 1.1 innings while throwing 50 pitches over that brief stint.
Whether or not Oberholtzer sticks around this time or whether he is being called up for just this one start depends on his performance tonight, as he was 2-1 but with a 4.32 ERA and an especially unsightly 1.59 WHIP when he was sent down. With that being said, he is not really as bad as those numbers and he has not had the best of luck this year.
You see, Oberholtzer actually has a respectable 3.91 ERA during his brief career in the majors since first coming up in 2013 with a nice ratio of 163 strikeouts vs. 57 walks. He is an extreme groundball pitcher and that he not changed this year as he has a very good 51.4 percent groundball rate. The bad luck has come in so many of those groundballs finding holes as he is yielding a .324 BABIP.
That luck is bound to turn around for this southpaw and remember that Oberholtzer has had good success vs. the Indians, posting a 2.82 ERA while going three-for-three in Quality Starts in three career outings against them.
Trouble Beating Southpaws
Finally, the Indians are having a difficult time beating southpaws as they are now 1-7 in their last eight games vs. left-handed starters. Additionally, Cleveland is only 5-9 in its last 14 games as a home favorite and 9-22 in its last 31 home games vs. teams with winning records.
Houston would love to hold on to its division lead until the All-Star break in a few days, and we look for the Astros to take a positive step in that direction by pulling the mild upset and gaining a split of this four-game series in Cleveland on Thursday.
MLB Pick: Astros +115