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 Thursday.
The road team has won six straight games and is starting the Major League leader in ERA Thursday night, but look for some regression and a mild upset by the home team when the red-hot A.J. Burnett and the Pittsburgh Pirates (24-22, 9-13 away) pay a visit to fellow right-hander Ian Kennedy and the San Diego Padres (23-25, 11-12 home) in the first game of a four-game series from Petco Park in San Diego, CA at 10:10 ET in a game available on ROOT.
The posted money line at Pinnacle Sports has San Diego as a modest home underdog for this contest at current odds of +112.
Pirates Making Their Move
After ending a long post-season drought by making the playoffs as a wild card each of the last two seasons, the Pirates were expected to be top contenders to win the National League Central this year. They were off to an unexpectedly slow start however, but have since shown why there was so much optimism before the season as the Bucs come off of three-game sweeps over both the New York Mets and Miami Marlins back home in Pittsburgh.
The Padres also had lofty expectations after spending more money than they customarily do during the off-season and they too were off to a disappointing start that still has them at two games under .500 overall. However San Diego too may have turned a corner by being the winning MLB picks in three of the last four games while scoring a total of 20 runs in the three victories.
Unconscious Burnett So Far
If you have ventured a guess before the season as who would be leading the Major Leagues in ERA approaching the month of June, we would bet our entire bankroll that no one would have guessed Pittsburgh’s 38-year-old Burnett, who has already announced his retirement at the end of this season but who is currently sitting at 4-1 with that tiny league-leading 1.37 ERA, along with a 1.10 WHIP and 53 strikeouts vs. just 18 walks in 59 innings.
So, where did this come from after Burnett finished 8-18 with a 4.59 ERA and 1.41 WHIP while pitching for the Philadelphia Phillies last season? Has he suddenly changed something at the age of 38 to make him a better pitcher after already announcing his retirement? We think the answer is obviously no, and therein lays the problem as Burnett seemingly only has one direction to go from here.
And his regression may very well begin here vs. a San Diego team that is beginning to perk up offensively as we alluded to earlier, and remember that Burnett did not fare too well in his only start vs. the Padres while a member of the Phillies last season, allowing five runs (four earned) on eight hits plus four walks in only 5.2 innings.
Kennedy Not as Bad as ERA
Then there is the totally opposite case of the San Diego starter Kennedy, who stands at 2-4 with a bloated 6.11 ERA but is certainly a better pitcher than that. After a few rough outings, it was more of a vintage Kennedy performance last time out when he held the Los Angeles Dodgers to two runs on six hits with six strikeouts in six innings without issuing a single walk, but he was the hard-luck 2-0 loser as the Dodgers’ Mike Bolsinger retired his final 23 batters.
Kennedy has an excellent command ratio of his own with 32 strikeouts vs. 12 walks in 35.1 innings, and despite the lofty ERA, he has actually allowed two runs or less in four of his seven starts. It is just that when he has been bad, he had been really bad. Still, his 3.96 xFIP, while still on the high-ish side, is still closer to his true ability than his ERA, and he is facing a Pittsburgh offense batting just .238 vs. right-handers while averaging 3.61 runs against them on the road.
Kennedy also sparkled in his two starts vs. the Pirates last season, allowing a total of three earned runs in 12 innings with 12 strikeouts.
Finally remember that the Pirates wrapped up their home series vs. the Marlins yesterday afternoon and they are now playing with no rest after making the long cross-country flight to the West Coast.
Add this all up and San Diego seems to offer good underdog value hosting Pittsburgh in the series opener on Thursday.
MLB Pick: Padres +112