MLB Pick: Underdog Value Play Tuesday

LT Profits Sports Group

Tuesday, May 6, 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 Tuesday.

There could be a major upset Tuesday night in a battle of southpaws in the Motor City when Brett Oberholtzer and those Houston Astros (10-22, 4-9 away) pay a visit to rookie Robbie Ray and the Detroit Tigers (18-9, 10-5 home) at Comerica Park in Detroit, MI at 7:08 ET.

The posted money line at Pinnacle Sports has Houston as a big underdog for this contest at current odds of +168.

The Tigers enter this contest riding a six-game winning streak, a streak that includes sweeping a three-game series on the road from then second place Kansas City to open up daylight between themselves and the rest of the American League Central. Detroit leads now second place Minnesota by 4½ games after the Tigers emerged victorious 2-0 in the series opener vs. the Astros last night in a well-pitched game by both sides.

That leaves the Astros with the worst record in the Major Leagues at 10-22, a feat that unfortunately Houston has become accustomed to over the last couple of years. The Astros are dead last in the Major Leagues in batting at a meager .216 and they wasted a fine performance by starting pitcher Jarred Cosart last night by managing only three hits.

To be fair, they did face the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer on Monday, and not a 22-year-old rookie making his Major League debut like they are tonight in Ray, who was acquired as part of the Doug Fister trade with the Nationals. And the Astros actually look like overlays tonight with Ray being this rather prohibitive price in his first big league start.

After all, Ray was not even rated among the top 100 pitching prospects in baseball at the time the trade was made, although Detroit general manager Dave Dombrowski had apparently seen him and liked what he saw, insisting that he be included in the trade for quite possibly the best fourth starter in the Major Leagues last season in Fister.

Well, Ray now gets the acid test after going 3-2 with a 1.53 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in six games including five starts at Triple-A Toledo this season with 21 strikeouts vs. five walks in 29.1 innings. That strikeout rate of 6.4 per nine innings is way down from the 10.1 per nine he had while pitching in the A-League and Double-A combined last season, but his 1.5 walks per nine innings have also been way down from the 3.9 he had last year.

Still, that improved control has come over a very limited sample this season and we are not convinced that the wild Ray of previous seasons will not re-emerge at the Major League level, which is another reason not to trust him at this price. Gray has a power arm as his fastball averages 93 MPH, but he is still working on improving his slider, which serves as one of his secondary pitches along with a changeup.

Oberholtzer has some ugly overall numbers for the Astros as he is now 0-5 with a 5.62 ERA and 1.56 WHIP, and Houston as a team is 0-6 in the games that he has started after a 7-0 loss to the Washington Nationals where he allowed exactly six earned runs for the second straight start in 4.2 innings last Wednesday after allowing six runs in 3.2 innings in his previous start.

Truth be told though, Oberholtzer actually pitched quite well in his first four starts this season while suffering from a lack of run support, which is understandable given the state of the Houston offense, as he did not allow more than three runs in any of those outings and was sitting with a nice 3.04 ERA before those last two starts skewed his stats. And even while getting roughed up in those two outings Oberholtzer struck out nine in 8.1 innings.

That leaves him with an acceptable 27 strikeouts vs. 10 walks in 32 innings, and if his Astros could actually scratch out some runs vs. the youngster Ray, Houston appears to offer nice value at this price in Detroit on Tuesday.

[gameodds]3/263450/?r-1=238-92-43-349-192/us[/gameodds]

MLB Pick: Astros +168