MLB Pick: Underdog Value Play Monday

LT Profits Sports Group

Monday, April 14, 2014 4:00 AM GMT

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 Monday.

There could be a national TV upset on Monday Night Baseball this week when Ervin Santana and the Atlanta Braves (8-4, 4-2 away) pay a visit to Roberto Hernandez and the Philadelphia Phillies (6-6, 3-3 home) at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, PA at 7:05 ET in a game televised nationally on ESPN.

The posted money line at Pinnacle Sports has Philadelphia as a home underdog for this contest at current odds of +118.

The Braves are the defending National League East Champions and they were favorites during the off-season to repeat, but they have had a terrible streak of luck with their starting pitchers this year with Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy both suffering elbow injuries that required Tommy John surgery, which in Beachy’s case is the second time he has undergone that procedure, and Mike Minor is still out with tendinitis in his left (throwing) shoulder.

Meanwhile, the Phillies may be in a rebuilding stage although you would not know it by their 6-6 record so far. Yes they still have veterans like Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins, and they may actually be half-decent if those guys stay healthy. The rest of the lineup is quite young though and the rotation is currently short-handed with Cole Hamels out for at least another week with biceps tendinitis.

With the Braves desperate for starting pitching, they were able to sign tonight’s starter Santana rather late in spring training after other clubs passed on him. And Santana was brilliant in his Atlanta debut, tossing eight scoreless innings while allowing only three hits and striking out six while walking nobody.

Before casting those Comeback Player of the Year votes though, consider that start came vs. the New York Mets at Citi Field in Flushing, where the Mets own a team batting average of .178 so far. This assignment looks tougher as the Phillies are batting a solid .276 overall, which is third in the Major Leagues and second in the National League behind Colorado without the help of the altitude.

Look for some regression in Santana’s second start as there was a good reason why the Braves were able to snag him so late in the game. You see, the 31-year-old comes off of three straight losing seasons since going 17-10 for the Angels in 2010, and even that season his ERA was an ordinary 3.92. He has maintained that ERA close to 4.00 over the last three years combined, but he record has come in line with that mediocre number at a combined 29-35.

Now the Phillies knew that Hamels would not be ready by Opening Day, so they added some pitching depth with Hernandez over the off-season. Hernandez is the pitcher formerly known as Fausto Carmona that received some Cy Young Award votes during his career season with the Indians back in 2007 when he went 19-8 with a 3.06 ERA.

No, the 33-year-old Hernandez is not at that level anymore, but he has certainly shown some positive signs while going 1-0 in his first two Philadelphia starts, particularly with his great ratio of 14 strikeouts vs. two walks in 10.1 innings! Hernandez had battled control problems throughout his career that prevented him from ever coming close again to his 2007 numbers, but his improved command started to become apparent last year while with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Hernandez had 113 strikeouts vs. just 38 walks in 151 innings for Tampa, and if he can continue to keep his walks down like he certainly has in his first two starts, the Phils may have found themselves a nice cheap bargain here. Furthermore, after notching his most strikeouts in a game since September 2007 with nine vs. the first-place Brewers last Wednesday, he now faces a very strikeout-prone Atlanta lineup.

Add this all up and Hernandez and the Phillies appear to offer nice value as home underdogs on Monday.

[gameodds]3/261864/?r-1=238-92-43-349-192/us[/gameodds]

MLB Pick: Phillies +118