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 Saturday.
A hot rookie pitcher could be in line for a reality check Saturday when young right-hander Cody Anderson and the Cleveland Indians (38-41, 23-18 away) pay a visit to southpaw Jeff Locke and the Pittsburgh Pirates (45-34, 24-15 home) for the second game of a three-game holiday weekend series from PNC Park in Cleveland, OH at 4:05 ET in a game televised nationally on MLB Network.
The posted money line at Bet365 has Pittsburgh as a small home favorite for this contest at current odds of -110.
Indians Rolling into 4th of July
The Indians are heating up, having now been the winning MLB picks five straight times after taking the series opener here in Pittsburgh 5-2 Friday, snapping the Pirates’ three-game winning streak. Cleveland was picked by many to win the American League Central prior to this season, and while the Tribe still have work to do at three games under .500, they have trimmed their deficit behind first place Kansas City to eight games near the midway point of the season.
The Pirates began this week with a three-game road sweep of the Tigers in Detroit, and even with the hiccup here last night, they currently own the first wild card spot in the National League while in second place in the Central Division, six games behind the team with the best record in baseball the St. Louis Cardinals, who have come back to the pack a tad with four straight losses.
Better Opposition for Anderson?
Now, there can be no disputing that Anderson has had impeccable form over his first two Major League starts. First, he had an impressive debut tossing 7.2 scoreless innings allowing just six hits and a walk and then he then actually topped that in his second start taking a Perfect Game into the seventh inning, settling for allowing one run (on a solo home run) and two hits in eight innings!
But what did those first two starts have in common? Well, they both came vs. the Tampa Bay Rays, a team that is the lower fifth of the Major Leagues in most offensive categories. Anderson should face more of a challenge here from a Pittsburgh offense that scored 22 runs and hit .358 with five home runs and 10 doubles during the aforementioned sweep of the Tigers this week.
That Pittsburgh offense is now batting .289 and averaging a potent 5.19 runs vs. right-handed pitchers over the past 10 games. Anderson has always been a contact pitcher in the minors and that has carried over to the majors as he has only six strikeouts and one walk in his 15.2 innings. However, that style may not serve him as well facing a much hotter offense in his third start at the big league level.
Good Form for Locke
Locke is not as good as he looked when he made the All-Star team in 2013, but he has proven to be a serviceable Major League pitcher and he has gone from drastically over-performing relative to his peripheral numbers that dream season to under-performing against them a bit this year while going 4-4 with a 4.55 ERA and 1.52 WHIP.
Those numbers belie the fact that Locke has a more respectable 3.94 FIP and 3.97 xFIP while pitching in some bad luck allowing a .328 BABIP. Locke has now allowed two runs or less in four straight starts and he has been at his best at PNC Park, posting a 2.43 ERA in his last six home starts. This will be his first ever appearance vs. the Indians.
Pirates Good at Home
Finally, the Pirates lost the final game of their last home stand to the Atlanta Braves on Sunday before losing this series opener here last night. The significance of that is Pittsburgh has not lost three straight home games in over one calendar year, not since April of 2014 as the Bucs try to avoid that feat here.
We think the Pirates will be successful in that regard with a bounce-back win while hosting Cleveland in Pittsburgh on the 4th or July Saturday.
MLB Pick: Pirates -110