Yesterday’s attempt at a quick turnaround flopped in the late innings after a bullpen melt on the part of Toronto. The Blue Jays couldn’t hold on to a late lead, which means I’m experiencing what will likely be the first of many losing streaks during the course of the MLB grind. The goal is pretty simple: stop the bleeding. And we’ll go out to Chicago to see if two young pitchers can get it done in a game where I prefer the under. Chris Archer goes up against Erik Johnson in a game with a posted total of 8.5. The over is juiced to -120, which means the under is trading at even money overnight.
At even money, I like the value the under poses in this game. On one side, you have a young stud in Chris Archer. He’s just 25 years old and fresh off a juicy contract extension he signed earlier this month. Archer burst onto the scene last season as the fourth guy in a loaded Rays rotation behind Price, Matt Moore and Alex Cobb. Price is still there (for now), but with Moore and Cobb on the shelf, Archer has shouldered lots more pressure in each outing than he originally would thought going into the season. But Archer seems ready for the responsibility and he’s shown it thus far in April. Archer struggled in one of his first four starts this season against Baltimore. Other than that, he’s been pretty great – giving up just three runs in nearly 20 innings of work. And he enters this game against Chicago with an ERA of 3.65 and a WHIP of 1.22. With one of the absolute best changeups in baseball and a real sense of how to pitch to Major League hitters now, Archer seems ready to take the next step of being an ace. And I expect him to pitch very well against what has been simply an overachieving White Sox lineup.
While Archer is a great bet to pitch well, Erik Johnson is the mystery in this matchup. This is the 24-year-old’s firs season as a full-time starting pitcher and he’s been improving with each start. After a rough outing in his first outing of the year, Johnson has allowed just one earned run in each of his last two – against Boston and Texas. Johnson’s line against Texas in his last outing was a little bizarre. He allowed just the one run on one hit, while striking out two and walking five and getting eight fly ball outs. The strikeout to walk numbers must be better tomorrow against a tough Tampa Bay lineup, but I’ll put some faith into Johnson pitching at least okay, although I am a tad worried about him. Pitching at home will help.
The Rays are also a strong play tomorrow if you really don’t like Johnson, but I’ll take the under here as a value play without any juice attached.
Free Pick: Under 8.5 (+100)
2014 YTD: 8-3 +4.65