Each day LT Profits Sports seeks an MLB overlay that has a better chance of cashing than its odds, offering long term value. Here is their Underdog Value Play for Thursday.
One of the better pitchers in baseball seems undervalued Thursday night in his third start back off of an injury, that is provided he is still with his current team when the first pitch is made, as Cliff Lee is the scheduled starter when his Philadelphia Phillies (47-61, 25-28 away) pay a visit to fellow southpaw Gio Gonzalez and the Washington Nationals (58-47, 30-20 home) in the first game of a four-game series from Nationals Park in Washington, DC at 7:05 ET.
The posted money line at Pinnacle Sports has Philadelphia as a decided road underdog for this contest at current odds of +146.
Worst vs. First
The Nationals salvaged the final game of a three-game series in Miami vs. the Marlins yesterday after losing the first two games, but that allowed them to survive a nine-game road trip with a winning 5-4 record and leaves Washington in first place in the National League East with a 1½-game lead over the second place Atlanta Braves. They now get a chance to extend that lead on an eight-game home stand beginning with these four games vs. a last-place team.
The Phillies bring up the rear in the East at 12½ games behind Washington, and with this veteran team going nowhere this year, it has fueled much speculation regarding trading away veterans for some much needed youth, and at the heart of those trade rumors are their starting pitchers with tonight’s hurler Lee included.
Will He Stay or Will He Go Now
Thus there is definitely a chance that Lee will get scratched from this start and will no longer be with Philadelphia by the time this first pitch is made. It is therefore important to note that all of our MLB picks are “listed pitchers” and that this play is only a go if Lee is still with the team and indeed takes this start.
With that in mind, this looks like a nice price for a pitcher that is still one of the best in baseball when he is on, as that is the very reason for all of the trade interest. Granted Lee has not looked that sharp in his first two starts back after spending two months on the Disabled List with an elbow injury, but after getting torched for six earned runs on 12 hits in 5.2 innings in his return start, at least he was better last time out allowing three runs in five innings.
And remember that when Lee was at 100 percent earlier in the year, he limited the Nationals to one earned run and four hits in seven innings in his only start against them this season. While he does not figure to be at 100 percent today, he does figure to get closer to it with two recent starts under his belt.
Gio Not As Good As Last Two Years
Gonzalez is not really having a bad year for the Nationals as he is 6-6 with a 3.56 ERA and 1.22 WHIP, but he has not been as dominant as his first two years with Washington. Gio received some Cy Young votes in 2012 when he was 21-8 with a 2.89 ERA and 207 strikeouts vs. 76 walks, and although he was 11-8 last season, he still has a 3.36 ERA and 192 strikeouts vs. 76 walks.
The control issues that plagued Gonzalez earlier in his career have once again reared their ugly head this season though as he has the 12th highest walk rate in the Major Leagues among pitchers that have pitched at least 90 innings with 3.65 per nine innings. He is also facing a Philadelphia offense whose best split this season has easily been vs. left-handed pitchers on the road, as the Phillies are batting a solid .261 and averaging 4.60 runs per game in this circumstance.
Third Time the Charm?
This line seems like an overreaction due to Lee’s two less-than-stellar comeback starts, but he should be much stronger and better in his third start back and this could be a nice opportunity to buy Lee low.
We are doing just that, assuming of course that Lee is still with the Phillies and takes this start, by backing him at an uncharacteristically nice price in Washington on Thursday.
MLB Pick: Phillies +146