MLB Pick: Total Value Play of the Day Friday

LT Profits Sports Group

Friday, May 23, 2014 4:00 AM GMT

Each day the LT Profits Sports Group seeks out an MLB total that does not add up and offers the most value that day. Here is their Total Value Play of the Day for Friday.

Runs could be hard to come by in the Sunshine State Friday night when veteran John Lackey and the Boston Red Sox (20-26, 10-9 away) pay a visit to the much younger Chris Archer and the Tampa Bay Rays (20-28, 9-14 home) at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, FL at 7:10 ET.

The posted total at Pinnacle Sports is 7½ for this contest with the current odds on the ‘under’ set at -119.

Both of these teams were expected to contend for the American League East title, with the Rays being a popular choice to dethrone the defending World Champion Red Sox atop the division. And that could very well happen before all is said and done this season, but for now both of these teams are off to disappointing starts.

The Red Sox enter this contest on a seven-game losing streak and they were just swept in a six-game home stand back home in Fenway Park where they are an unfathomable 10-17 this year! That leaves them in fourth place, although the good news is they are still a manageable five games behind the first place Toronto Blue Jays. The Rays off to an even worse start as they are dead last in the division at eight games under .500, albeit just six games out of first.

Both of these teams are struggling offensively right now and both of these pitchers are capable of taking advantage despite each currently sporting a less-than-stellar ERA. Lackey in fact pitched well the first time he faced the Rays this season in Fenway on April 29th and we see no reason why he cannot reproduce that outing again here in St. Petersburg.

Many thought that Lackey was finished a few seasons ago, but he then underwent Tommy John surgery three years ago and as often happens following that procedure his career was rejuvenated last season when he went an unlucky 10-13 given his fine 3.52 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 161 strikeouts vs. 40 walks.

Some may say that this year is just the opposite as he has managed to go 5-3 despite posting a 4.01 ERA, but they ERA sat at 3.57 before Lackey was lit up for five earned runs on nine hits in just 5.1 innings by the hard-hitting Detroit Tigers last time out, and he had tossed four consecutive Quality Starts before that while allowing two runs or less in every one of them. He also still has 56 strikeouts vs. just 13 walks in 58.1 innings, so one bad outing does not concern us.

Lackey held Tampa Bay to two runs on six hits in eight innings in that April start, and he is now facing a Rays’ lineup that has struggled to a .204 batting average over the last 10 games overall while averaging just 2.60 runs per game over those contests, including a .197 average vs. right-handed pitchers.

Archer has been erratic while going 3-2 with a 4.59 ERA and a high 1.45 WHIP, and he even allowed five earned runs in 4.2 innings vs. these Red Sox the first time he faced them, although that had a lot more to do with wildness than getting hit hard, as he allowed only three hits but issued five walks. Archer can be and has been electric at times, and he could be a big winner if he learns to harness his control.

The good news for Archer is that he has had rather severe home vs. away splits since being called up by the Rays in 2012, apparently enjoying the dimensions of Tropicana Field. Archer has made 18 starts at “The Trop” over his career and he is 8-4 with a 3.30 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and a .223 batting average allowed here. Oddly, even his control has been better at home as he had a good career ratio of 94 strikeouts vs. 31 walks in 109 innings in this stadium.

He is now facing a Boston offense that is batting just .234 vs. right-handed pitchers the last 10 games while averaging only 3.25 runs per nine innings against them during this time.

With this in mind, look for both pitchers to have success and for the teams to stay ‘under’ the total in Tampa on Friday.

[gameodds]3/282245/?r-1=238-92-43-349-192/us[/gameodds]

MLB Pick: Red Sox, Rays ‘under’ 7½ (-119)