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.
The underdogs could hold line value Thursday night in a nice pitching matchup when Henderson Alvarez and the Miami Marlins (47-53, 19-29 away) pay a visit to fellow right-hander Aaron Harang and the Atlanta Braves (55-46, 28-22 home) in the final game of a four-game series from Turner Field in Atlanta, GA at 7:10 ET in a game televised nationally on MLB Network.
The posted money line at Bet365 has Miami as a road underdog for this contest at current odds of +131.
National League East Race
The Marlins pulled off upsets in the first two games of this series while winning at identical +165 odds both times before the Braves came back to take the third game 6-1 behind Ervin Santana last night. That win combined with a loss by the Washington Nationals in Colorado leaves the Braves one game behind Washington while in second place in the National League East.
The Marlins have fallen back after a promising start to this season, but they still have a pulse in the division race as they pulled to within 8½ games of Washington with their 6-5 win here on Tuesday, and they can cut that deficit to eight games with a win tonight as the Nats are off today. And they did pummel Harang earlier this season in one of the worst performances of his dream season.
Will Harang Come Back to Earth?
Harang has surpassed all expectations this year after he went 5-11 with a 5.76 ERA while pitching in a spacious home ballpark with the Seattle Mariners last season. The now 36-year-old appeared to be just about done when the Braves took a chance on him as a free agent, but instead he got off to a fantastic start in a Braves uniform and is still 9-6 with a 3.36 ERA. However, even with his great current form, we continue to feel that Harang is overvalued on the MLB picks.
It actually appeared that his regression back to earth began about a month ago, but now he is again pitching out of his mind with five consecutive Quality Starts including posting a 1.71 ERA in his last three outings.
We are still not sold on Harang though as pitchers do not usually have magic seasons at the age of 36 without anything being different about them from recent years, and he does still have a rather high walk rate of 3.43 per nine innings that has led to a 4.16 xFIP, which is a strong indictor that he is overachieving on his mainstream stats. And do not forget that the Marlins torched Harang for nine earned runs on 10 hits in 4.2 innings in Miami earlier this season.
Alvarez Among ERA Leaders
Meanwhile Alvarez is quietly having an excellent season despite his deceptive 6-5 record, as he has now allowed two runs or less in 10 of his last 11 starts, leaving him with a 2.64 ERA that is fifth in the National League along with 75 strikeouts vs. 22 walks in 122.2 innings. Alvarez can get away with pitching to contact while pounding the strike zone because he is 11th in the Major Leagues with a 54.4 percent groundball rate.
Alvarez is now facing a Braves’ lineup that is batting .238 vs. right-handed pitchers this season overall, an average that has dipped to .209 over the last five games. Granted his career numbers vs. Atlanta are not good at 0-2 with a 6.67 ERA in five starts, but the 24-year-old is just starting to come into his own this season, making his numbers from prior years basically meaningless.
Knowing How to Win
While Miami has had some issues on the road this year, Alvarez almost always pitches well enough to mask those issues as the Marlins as a team are 10-2 in the last 12 games that he has started regardless of the venue, so look for that trend to continue at a nice underdog value price on the MLB odds in Atlanta on Thursday.
MLB Pick: Marlins +131