MLB Underdog Value Pick: Red Sox vs. Yankees

Matthew Jordan

Saturday, June 28, 2014 11:15 AM UTC

Saturday, Jun. 28, 2014 11:15 AM UTC

It's yet another in a series of firsts for Japanese phenom Masahiro Tanaka on Saturday as he gets his initial taste of the heated Yankees-Red Sox series at Yankee Stadium. New York opened as a -145 favorite on MLB odds, with a total of 7.5 runs.

Second-Time Around Syndrome?
Tanaka has been unbelievable, as he's not just your AL Rookie of the Year favorite, although Chicago's Jose Abreu might be closing the gap, but also the Cy Young favorite. Tanaka should be the American League starter for the All-Star Game starter, but if the Yankee rotation stays on schedule it likely would mean Tanaka wouldn't start the ASG because he is scheduled to pitch on July 13, the finale of the first half. According to the New York Post, only twice in the past 20 years has a pitcher started the ASG after also pitching the final Sunday of the first half: Randy Johnson in 2000 and Brad Penny in 2006. There is no way the Yankees would allow this.

The interesting thing about Tanaka (11-2, 2.11)  this season is how he has fared when seeing teams for the second time as both of his losses have come in that regard. He dominated the Chicago Cubs at Yankee Stadium on April 16 but took his first loss on May 20 at Wrigley Field, allowing season-highs in runs (four) and hits (eight). Tanaka then won his next five, including his second start of the year against Toronto. However, on Sunday he faced the Orioles for the second time this season. The first was April 9 and he allowed three runs over seven innings with 10 strikeouts. New York actually lost that game (no-decision for Tanaka). Sunday, he allowed three runs and struck out six over seven innings and took the loss.

The Yankees have been handling him with kid gloves, and he will pitch this game on six days of rest. Might Tanaka be getting tired? According to Newsday, the velocity on Tanaka's four-seam fastball averaged under 91 mph for the first time all season on Sunday. And if there's one minor chink in Tanaka's armor it's that he will give up the gopherball: 11 in total. Amazingly, all have been solo homers.

Tanaka beat Boston on April 22, allowing two runs and seven hits over seven innings, striking out seven and walking none. Both Mike Napoli and David Ortiz hit solo homers off him. Napoli also had a double.

Time To Trade Lester?
This would have sounded like blasphemy entering this season, but with the Red Sox being such a disappointment and ace Jon Lester, who starts Saturday, set to become a free agent after the season, might Boston think about trading the lefty? The Sox low-balled Lester with a four-year $70 million offer back in the spring, but he would clearly get at least $100 million on the open market. Boston already has a terrific farm system, but if they can get a monster deal for Lester ahead of what the Cubs might get for Jeff Samardzija and the Rays for David Price, don't the Sox have to consider it? Just punt on this lost season and come out firing again in 2015. ESPN's playoff percentage odds give the Red Sox just a 7.6 percent chance of making it.

Lester pitched opposite Tanaka on April 22 at Fenway and it was arguably Lester's worst start of the year, allowing eight runs (three earned) and 11 hits while walking four over just 4.2 innings. Derek Jeter will be happy to see Lester as he is 23-for-68 (.338) with a homer and nine RBIs career off him. Ichiro is a .340 hitter with two homers against Lester. The lefty is 4-3 with a 3.69 ERA on the road this season. Lester is 8-3 with a 4.08 ERA in 15 career starts at the new Yankee Stadium.

MLB free picks:  Red Sox +135 and 'under' 7.5 runs. I believe in this second start thing for Tanaka. That still likely means the Sox only get 3-4 runs off Tanaka, but Lester will hold New York to 2. The 'under' is 5-1 in Lester's past six at Yankee Stadium. The 'under' is 4-0 in Tanaka's past four with five days of rest. The Red Sox are 1-5 in their past six Saturday games.

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