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June 17th 2014 - Posted at 11:00 AM ET

There are two MLB underdog picks today.


#1: Take Minnesota Twins as +145 underdogs on the Money Line against Boston Red Sox risking 2% 
(Hughes and Lester must start)

Game two of this 3-game series goes off tonight. The Red Sox were able to hang on and win narrowly 1-0 last night and today should be another closely contested affair when Phil Hughes and Jon Lester square off on the mound. 

Phil Hughes is no stranger to these Boston Red Sox. As a former Yankee, he will get a chance to rekindle his rivalry against the Red Sox, except this time he'll be wearing a Twins uniform. Hughes has a ton of experience and is having somewhat of a career resurgence this year. He's been stellar on the mound going 7-2 with a 3.17 ERA. He's also been stellar on the road going 5-0 in 6 starts and has even seen his ERA drop to just 2.02! Minnesota has incredibly won each of his starts on the highway! In his last start, Hughes pitched seven scoreless innings while striking out nine and walking no one. Hughes has in fact only walked 8 batters in 82.1 innings of work which is the lowest rate in the league this season! Hughes is familiar with the Red Sox and has even been able to navigate some of the "big bats" in their lineup. David Ortiz is just 9 for 25 off Hughes in his career and AJ Pierzynski has just 3 hits in 18 at-bats against him. 

The Red Sox will send Jon Lester to the mound tonight. Lester is having a decent season in his own right, even though his 7-7 record doesn't necessarily reflect that. The issue hasn't been so much the pitching of Lester as it has been the widely inconsistent offense of the Red Sox. When Lester has taken the mound, the Red Sox have averaged a meager 3.50 runs per game on the season for him. Their offense as a whole hasn't been anything spectacular recently. The Red Sox scored 10 runs and 5 runs recently against the Cleveland Indians, but if you take those two games out of the equation, the Red Sox have scored a combined 6 runs in 6 games, which includes getting shutout twice. The Red Sox currently rank 22nd in runs scored and 21st in team batting average. With their 2 power hitters Ortiz and Pierzynski having issues facing Hughes in the past, this could be another night when the offense sputters. Lester has also struggled against the Twins in his career; he is 1-4 with a 4.74 ERA in 9 starts against Minnesota!  

The Twins' offense was silenced last night but they have the ability to put up runs and have done so for Hughes this season. The Twins are averaging just over 5 runs per game in support when Hughes takes the hill. Slugger Brian Dozier has been on quite a tear and has three homers in his last six games while Kurt Suzuki has hit safely in 8 of his last 9 games. We expect the Twins to get back on track offensively and with the success they have had this season with Hughes on the mound on the road, this is a great price to back the hefty underdogs. 
 
Other notable facts to consider:

  • The Twins are 9-1 in Hughes' last 10 starts.  
  • The Twins are 6-0 in Hughes' last 6 starts as a road underdog! 
  • Hughes is 42-20 after a loss in his career.
  • Hughes is 10-0 after 3 or more consecutive losses in his career!
     

#2: Take Houston Astros as +127 underdogs on the Money Line against Washington Nationals risking 2% 
(Keuchel and Roark must start)

This matchup between the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals might just be the best pitching matchup of the night. Both Dallas Keuchel and Tanner Roark boast sub 3.00 ERAs this season. However, Keuchel has really established himself as the "Ace" of this Astros rotation and we believe will hold an edge on the mound tonight. 

Keuchel is 8-3 with a 2.28 ERA on the season! The Astros have gotten great production out of him thus far, especially on the road. Away from home, Keuchel is a perfect 6-0 in 6 road starts! His ERA is even more impressive as it actually drops to just a 1.42 with a WHIP of under 1.00! 
He is one of those few pitchers that seemingly does well no matter where he starts; the venue simply does not phase him. He is coming off back to back excellent starts. In his last outing, he went 8 solid innings against Arizona giving up 4 hits and just a single earned run. In the previous start against Minnesota, he went 6 innings giving up 5 hits and no earned runs. He has been the epitome of consistency, giving up 2 earned runs or less in 9 of his 13 starts this season! There's no doubt that he gives the Astros their best chance to win each and every time he steps on the mound and his teammates know that.

It's also worth noting that a lot has changed for the Astros recently. They have been one of the surprise teams this year and are no longer the laughing stock of the league. They have talent and are playing at a high level. They have been one of the hotter teams in the league over the past few weeks and people are starting to finally take notice. Even though they are still a below .500 team, there is upside to them this year since the market still undervalues them. They are a team that is on the rise, the proverbial underdog. We have often seen that when a team that has been considered a "poor team" for so long, they eventually turning things around and often capitalize on that success and not only play with a lot of confidence but with a chip on their shoulder. That is something you cannot put enough value on. We've seen it with other teams like the Kansas City Royals, who have started to turn their franchise around and are on their way up and we've also seen it in the NBA, with a teams like the Washington Wizards and Charlotte Bobcats. Some teams are motivated by being considered "underdogs". Houston has been a group that has been solid in the underdog role this season and we expect that to continue tonight. 

For Washington, many would consider this season a disappointment thus far. The Nationals appeared to be on their way to grabbing the National League East lead away from the Atlanta Braves last week but just about when they were about to do it, their bats went cold. They finished off a 10-game road swing with four straight defeats and are struggling at the plate. They have not been able to string together the necessary hits to put runs on the scoreboard. Inconsistent offense has been something that the Nationals have dealt with all season long and we don't expect them to suddenly turn that around against a pitcher like Keuchel. 

There is no doubt that the Nationals are deserving of the role of "favorites" in this matchup but that doesn't necessarily mean that they will win. Washington has had their share of success against the Astros over the last few seasons but this is not the same Houston Astros as in past years. Much like we saw with the Kansas City Royals last night, teams often seek revenge and play with more intensity against teams that they have historically struggled against. Given Washington's recent hardships, this is a great price to get the Astros as underdogs with their ace.

Other notable facts to consider: 

  • Houston is 6-2 as road underdogs of +100 to +125 this season. 
  • Houston is 8-2 in its last 10 road games!
  • Keuchel is 6-0 in road games this season!



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