Pirates are the Underdog MLB Pick in Rubber Game vs. Royals

LT Profits Sports Group

Wednesday, July 22, 2015 3:11 PM UTC

Wednesday, Jul. 22, 2015 3:11 PM UTC

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 Wednesday.


The road underdogs could hold value Wednesday night in a matchup of teams with the second and third best records in the Major Leagues when Charlie Morton and the Pittsburgh Pirates (54-39, 22-23 away) pay a visit to fellow right-hander Edinson Volquez and the Kansas City Royals (56-36, 31-17 home) in the rubber game of a three-game interleague series from Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, MO at 8:10 ET in a game available on ROOT.

The posted money line at Pinnacle Sports has Pittsburgh as a moderate road underdog for this contest at current odds of +119.


Second Best Record in National League
These teams have split the first two games of this series, with the Pirates winning the opener 10-7 on Monday and the Royals coming back to beat Pittsburgh ace Gerrit Cole 3-1 last night, making this the rubber game.

The Pirates have the second best record in the National League and the third best record in the majors despite being in second place in their own division, as they have the misfortune of being five games behind the team with the best record in baseball, the St. Louis Cardinals, in the National League Central.

The Royals meanwhile have been the best MLB picks in the American League this year at 56-36, and Kansas City leads the second place Minnesota Twins by 6½ games in the American League Central as it pursues its first division title in 30 years. Yes, the Royals went to the World Series last season, but that was as a wild card.


Over-Achieving Volquez?
Volquez was a member of the Pirates last year before signing with the Royals as a free agent this past off-season, and he has had a fine first season in Kansas City going 8-5 with a 3.28 ERA and 1.26 WHIP. He is also in great current form with a 2.16 ERA his last three starts, most recently allowing two earned runs in 6.1 innings vs. the Chicago White Sox Friday, although he did pitch around allowing eight hits plus two walks that day.

Which brings us to our point of Volquez’s ERA being rather fortunate, especially when looking at his peripherals. He does not have a good command ratio with 6.65 strikeouts vs. 3.28 walks per nine innings, and he has gotten away with allowing a low .273 BABIP despite pitching to contact very often. That does not figure to continue and his 4.14 xFIP is probably a truer gauge of the ability that Volquez has.


Sustainable BABIP Allowed for Morton?
Now on the surface, one could make the same arguments for Morton, who pitches to even more contact to than Volquez with 4.97 strikeouts vs. 2.95 walks per nine innings and has gotten away with yielding a .277 BABIP. The difference however is that Morton has one of the most pronounced groundball rates in baseball at 60.2 percent, which would rank fourth in the Major Leagues had Morton pitched enough innings to qualify.

Besides all of those grounders making up for the lack of strikeouts by getting outs more efficiently, Morton’s heavy sinker has also limited his home runs allowed to only five and it might actually make the relatively low BABIP allowed sustainable.

Now, the Royals are generally regarded to have the best bullpen in baseball, and rightfully so considering they lead the majors with a 2.22 pen ERA. But the Pirates are not far behind ranking third in the majors and second in the National League in bullpen ERA at 2.52, so Pittsburgh will still be in good hands if Morton is in need of relief.


Interleague Specialists
Finally, the loss by the Pirates on Tuesday may have been an anomaly as it still leaves Pittsburgh at 10-2 in its last 12 interleague contests.

Expect the Pirates to resume their winning ways in interleague play with Morton besting Volquez in Kansas City on Wednesday.



MLB Pick: Pirates +119

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