THURSDAY SERVICE PLAYS

THURSDAY SERVICE PLAYS

NBA PLAYOFFS

WESTERN CONFERENCE

(3) San Antonio (9-7, 8-7-1 ATS) at (1) L.A. Lakers (11-3, 9-4-1 ATS)

Two days after holding off San Antonio in a Game 4 upset victory, the Lakers now return home looking to close out the defending champs and punch a ticket to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2004.

Los Angeles survived a furious final-minute rally Tuesday night in San Antonio, holding off the Spurs 93-91 as a four-point road underdog to take a commanding 3-1 lead in this best-of-seven series. Behind 30 points from Kobe Bryant and a dominating rebounding effort (46-37), the Lakers never trailed in Game 4. However, key missed free throws and turnovers in the final minute gave the Spurs a chance with less than three seconds left, but a desperation three-pointer by Brent Barry was off the mark, ending San Antonio’s 13-game home winning streak.

The Lakers won despite shooting just 44.7 percent from the field, including missing 14 of 17 shots from three-point range. They also made 10 fewer free throws than the Spurs, committed eight more turnovers and had five fewer assists. But San Antonio’s only significant contributions came from Tim Duncan (29 points, 17 rebounds), Tony Parker (23 points, nine assists) and Barry (23 points, five rebounds), as All-Star Manu Ginobili had just seven points after scoring 30 in the Spurs’ Game 3 win.

Los Angeles leads the season series 5-3, and its road victory Tuesday ended a string of seven straight wins by the home team in this rivalry. The Spurs still have the advantage at the betting window this year, going 5-3 ATS. The Lakers tonight will be looking to eliminate San Antonio for the eighth time in the last 11 postseason head-to-head matchups and move to 4-0 in conference finals battles during this run. Also, L.A. coach Phil Jackson is trying to extend an incredible streak in which he has never lost a seven-game postseason series when winning Game 1, going 40-0 to this point.

The Lakers are unbeaten at home in the playoffs, going 7-0, and they’ve won 13 in a row at Staples Center going back to the regular season, including 3-0 SU and ATS against the Spurs. L.A. is also on pointspread streaks of 11-4-1 overall, 7-2 at home, 7-2-1 when playing on one day of rest, 10-2-1 following a SU win and 7-2-1 after a pointspread cover. However, the Lakers are still just 4-10-1 ATS in their last 15 games against teams from the Southwest Division and 2-5 ATS in their last seven conference finals contests.

The Spurs, who lost Games 1 and 2 at Staples, are 0-4 SU (2-2 ATS) in L.A. this year, and they’re 2-6 on the highway in the postseason (3-5 ATS). Also, dating to the regular season, Gregg Popovich’s club is in the midst of a 3-9 ATS slide on the highway. On the bright side, San Antonio is 14-5 ATS in its last 19 conference finals games and 5-1 ATS in its last six after a non-cover.

All four games in this series have stayed under the posted total, with Tuesday’s 93-91 final falling short of the 192-point total. The under is now 6-1 in the last seven meetings and 8-2 in the last 10, including 4-1 in the last five clashes in Los Angeles.

Furthermore, the Spurs sport “under” streaks of 7-0 overall, 4-0 on the road, 6-0 against the Pacific Division, 6-0 when playing on one day of rest, 11-5 on Thursdays and 36-15 after a SU defeat. For the Lakers, the under is on runs of 7-0 on Thursdays, 7-1 after a spread-cover and 8-2 after a SU win.

ATS ADVANTAGE: L.A. LAKERS and UNDER


NATIONAL LEAGUE

Houston (30-24) at St. Louis (31-23)

The Astros send ace Roy Oswalt (4-4, 5.61 ERA) to the mound in the finale of their three-game series at Busch Stadium, while the Cardinals will counter with Kyle Lohse (4-2, 4.26).

The teams have split the first two games of this series, with Houston winning the opener 8-2 on Tuesday and the Cardinals taking last night’s contest 6-1. St. Louis snapped a modest two-game slide with the victory and is now 7-3 in its last 10 and 15-6 in its last 21 against winning teams. However, Tony LaRussa’s club is just 2-5 in its last seven divisional games and 1-4 in its last five on Thursdays.

Wednesday’s loss aside, the Astros are still on rolls of 17-8 overall, 8-4 on the highway, 6-2 versus the N.L. Central, 4-1 as an underdog, 19-8 against right-handed starters and 11-2 against winning teams.

This is the third series this season between these two teams, and the Cardinals now hold a 5-3 edge after last night’s win, going 3-2 at Busch Stadium.

Oswalt has struggled all season, giving up at least three runs in 10 of his 11 starts. He’s been especially bad in his last two outings, getting rocked for a total of 11 runs and 22 hits in 12 innings, striking out just five batters as Houston lost 6-2 at Texas and 7-5 at home to the Phillies. On the bright side, Oswalt has pitched at least six innings in eight straight starts.

Oswalt is 2-3 with a 4.85 ERA in six road outings, and the Astros are just 2-6 in his last eight on the highway dating to last year. However, he’s been terrific against St. Louis in his career, going 9-5 with a 2.85 ERA in 24 games (23 starts). In fact, the right-hander has registered 10 straight quality starts against the Redbirds, giving up three earned runs or fewer and pitching at least six innings in every game. That includes an April 26 start at St. Louis, where Oswalt surrendered three runs on five hits in six innings, getting a no-decision in the Astros’ 4-3 loss.

Lohse was outstanding in his most recent work at Los Angeles on Saturday, scattering six hits over six scoreless innings, walking none and striking out five in a 4-0 victory. Prior to that, the right-hander held Tampa Bay to three runs (two earned) in six innings, getting a no-decision in the Cardinals’ 5-4 home win. Prior to winning those last two games, St. Louis had gone 1-5 in Lohse’s previous six trips to the mound.

Lohse is 2-1 with a 3.48 ERA in seven home starts, with the Cardinals posting just a 3-4 record. He’s also just 2-4 with a 3.51 ERA in six lifetime appearances (five starts) against Houston. However, one of the victories came on April 27 at home, when he limited the Astros to a run on four hits in six innings of a 5-1 victory.

The under is 4-2-1 in Lohse’s seven starts at home, 4-2 in Oswalt’s six outings on the road and 7-3 in Oswalt’s last 10 starts versus the Cardinals, including 3-0 in the last three overall. Additionally, 11 of Oswalt’s last 12 starts at Busch Stadium – including the last five in a row – have stayed under the total.

For Houston, the under is on streaks of 8-3 overall, 9-3 in division games, 12-6-1 on the highway and 36-18-2 against winning teams. For the Cardinals, the under runs include 5-2 overall, 6-2-1 against winning teams and 36-15-1 on Thursdays. Finally, the under is 7-2 in the last nine head-to-head meetings overall and 5-1 in the last six clashes at Busch Stadium.

ATS ADVANTAGE: UNDER


AMERICAN LEAGUE

Chicago White Sox (28-23) at Tampa Bay (32-21)

Two of the hottest teams in the American League kick off a four-game series at Tropicana Field, with the Rays’ Edwin Jackson (3-3, 3.47) matching up against Chicago’s John Danks (3-4, 3.00) for the second time this season.

Chicago arrives in Tampa Bay after taking two of three from the archrival Indians in Cleveland, capped by Wednesday’s 6-5 victory. The White Sox are 11-3 in their last 14 games, including 7-1 on the road. They’re also 6-1 in their last seven as an underdog and 4-0 in their last four on Thursday.

Tampa Bay continued its winning ways with Wednesday's 5-3 home win over Texas. The Rays are 14-5 in their last 19 games overall, including 11-2 at the Trop. In fact, they’ve won 17 of their last 19 home games, and their 21-9 home record is the best in the American League and second-best in baseball. Additionally, Tampa is on streaks of 6-0 on Thursday, 7-0 in series-openers and 7-1 as a favorite.

This is Chicago’s second trip to the Trop, having taken two of three in mid-April, with the two victories coming by margins of 9-2 and 6-0, with Danks outdueling Jackson in the latter contest. The White Sox have won seven of the last eight against the Rays, going 6-1 in Tampa Bay during this stretch.

Danks has been rock solid almost the entire season, giving up two earned runs or fewer in eight of his 10 starts, while allowing just three runs in another. In his most recent outing on Saturday against the Angels, he gave up two runs on five hits in five innings, but was saddled with the 2-0 loss. Despite the southpaw’s impressive numbers, Chicago is just 2-4 in his last six outings.

Danks has been especially good on the road, going 1-1 with a 1.76 ERA in five contests. The victory came at Tampa Bay on April 20, as he pitched seven scoreless innings, yielding just three hits and no walks with eight strikeouts in seven innings. His only other start against the Rays also came at Tropicana Field last June, and he surrendered four runs on four hits in five innings, earning a 5-4 victory.

Jackson scored his first victory since April 10 – a span of eight starts – on Saturday, holding Baltimore to three runs on four hits and five walks in five innings en route to an 11-4 home win. Even though the right-hander hasn’t had much to show for it, he’s posted a 1.42 ERA in his last four starts, with Tampa Bay going 3-1.

Jackson is 3-2 with a 3.72 ERA in six home starts, with the Rays going 3-0 in his last three outings in Tampa. In fact, Jackson’s last home loss came against Danks and the Pale Hose in that April 20 contest, with Jackson yielding all six runs in just 4 1/3 innings. He also gave up four runs on nine hits in six innings in Tampa’s 5-4 loss at Chicago last August, giving him an 8.71 career ERA against the White Sox.

The under is 7-1 in Danks’ last eight starts overall, 5-1 in his last six on the road and 4-0 in his last four on Thursdays. Also, the under is 14-5-1 in Jackson’s last 20 efforts overall, 10-1 in his last 11 at home and 4-1 in his last five versus the A.L. Central.

The White Sox followed up a 10-2 “under” streak by topping the total in all three games in Cleveland, and the over is 4-0 in their last four on the highway. However, the under for Chicago is on streaks of 11-4 as an underdog, 8-0 on artificial turf, 5-0 against the A.L. East, 7-2-1 on Thursdays and 15-7 against right-handed starters. Also, for the Rays, the under is on streaks of 7-3-1 against the A.L. Central and 7-0 at home against lefty starters.

Finally, the under is 7-1 in the last eight series meetings between these two, including 6-1 in the last seven clashes at Tropicana Field.

ATS ADVANTAGE: CHICAGO WHITE SOX and UNDER

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James Patrick Sports

Blue Jays vs. A’s

In Thursday Afternoon action in the Big Leagues our complimentary selection is on #966 Oakland Athletics as today’s starter Everland has won his past four home starts and his A’s are 6-2 in Thursday action this season. Another win at home this afternoon is our call.

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Alex Smart

Toronto Blue Jays @ Oakland Athletics Under 8.0

The Blue Jays starting pitcher today Jesse Litsch(6-1,3.57 ERA) is currently in top form, after a complete game shut out in his last outing. The young throwers, best attribute is his control, as is evident by allowing only 1 walk in his L/38 innings of work. In two outings against the As in his career he has garnered a stingy 1.38 ERA. His pitching opponent from the Athletics, Dana Eveland (4-3, 2.90 ERA) is another quality young pitcher, who is also off a top notch effort, allowing just ,one run on 3 hits, in a complete game performance vs the TB Rays. Both these throwers are backed by strong bull pens. Considering the pitching matchup, and both teams documented offensive inefficiencies it will be an easy decision to back this contest to go under the set total. Final notes & Key Trends: The As Eveland has seen only one of his L/10 starts eclipse the number. Under is 11-4 in Litschs last 15 road starts. Under is 10-2 in umpire Jerry Laynes last 12 games behind home plate. Play under

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Marc Lawrence

Play On: NY Mets w/Vargas vs Penny

Note: When the Mets play host to the Dodgers in Game One of the series today they do so knowing Brad Penny has dropped 14 of his 20 career team starts in this series. He's also 1-10 with a 6.35 ERA in his career team starts on this field. With Claudio Vargas in solid current form, look for the Mets to improve to 9-3 the last 12 games at home in this series tonight.

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Dave Cokin

White Sox @ Rays
Play: White Sox +110

I couldn't come up with a Thursday play I liked enough to sell as a guaranteed winner, but here are my thoughts on tonight's White Sox-Rays contest. The Tampa Bay Rays continue to be the big story of the first portion of the '08 campaign. It's no fluke, either, as the Kazmir-Shields combo at the the top of the rotation is legit, and Matt Garza has the stuff to be a way above average #3. After that, it gets a little dicier. Andy Sonnanstine and Edwin Jackson have been living on the edge with inordinate strand rates, and there's going to be a regression. Sonnanstine's slide has already begun and I believe Jackson won't be far behind as he continues to walk too many hitters. John Danks has been outstanding for the White Sox, and his outstanding current run should be maintained here. The White Sox are my choice here in the role of road dog.

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BRAD DIAMOND

Play on: Chicago Cubs over Colorado

I do have great respect for lefty Francis of Colorado who has pitched decently against the NL west, but in the last 5 road outings with the lefty the Rockies are just 1-4. The first place Cubbies have won 4 straight at home versus the Rockies and 7 of 10 overall in this heated series. Finally, the side goes to the Cubs who are 6-0 in game #1 of a series.

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Robert Ross

Washington Nationals at San Diego Padres
Prediction: Washington Nationals

Reason: Nats seem more likely to win this one than do the Padres. San Diego is 2-10 this year vs. LH starters. WASHINGTON is 29-25 against the money line vs. a bad bullpen that blows 38% or more of their save opportunities over the last 2 seasons. Take the Nats!

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Scott Spreitzer

Colorado Rockies at Chicago Cubs
Prediction: Chicago Cubs

Reason: I'm laying the price with the Cubs on Thursday. Less than eight months removed from a World Series appearance, the Colorado Rockies currently appear to be little more than a Triple-A team. The Rockies have lost three straight and they're just 8-19 away from Denver. Colorado is just 5-12 in their last 17 games overall, and they've been outscored by 7, 15, 3, and 5 runs in their last four losses. Jeff Francis takes the bump at Wrigley and that has been a bad combination. In four starts against the Cubs, Francis owns a horrible, 9.58 ERA, 2.03 WHIP, and .366 BAA! He'll face a Cub lineup that has only faced a southpaw twice this season at home in night action, but have pounded out a total of 15 runs! I expect another bad night for Clint Hurdle's squad as they lose big, again. I'm laying the price with the Cubs on Thursday.

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LAS VEGAS SPORTS PICS

St Louis (Lohse) +100**over Houston (Oswalt)
   
Chicago Cubs (Marquis) -145** over Colorado (Francis)

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Terron Chapman

Atlanta Braves vs. Milwaukee Brewers
Play: Atlanta Braves   

Only if the Atlanta Braves could win on the road. The Atlanta Braves own one of the best home records in the majors at 22-7. For some reason the Braves have not packed that success with them when they take to the road.

The Braves lost yet another road game last night, 1-0. It was their second straight one run loss to the Brewers in as many nights. It was their 11th one run loss on the road this season. So to be fair to Bobby Cox’s team, the effort has been there but the results haven’t.

But don’t worry Braves backers, this can’t continue, right? We hope not and we’ll back the Braves to get a rare road win this afternoon in Milwaukee.

Jorge Campillo will toe the rubber for the Braves with hopes he can continue to his strong start to the season. Campillo who started the season in the bullpen has been a pleasant surprise for the Braves in the starter’s role. In two starts this year, Campillo is 1-0 with a 0.86 ERA. More importantly the Braves are 2-0 in both of those starts. Even though both of those starts were at home, in 13 2/3 innings pitched of relief work on the road, Campillo has only allowed 8 hits while striking out 13 and issuing one walk.

Opposing Campillo on the mound for the Brewers will be another pitcher who began his season in the bullpen. Seth McClung will make his second start of the season Thursday. McClung defeated the Nats in his first start 5-2 five days ago in Washington. He has a 3.55 ERA in 25 1/3 innings pitched on the season. However, what makes this appealing to us is this will be his first start in front of his home fans. Pressure to perform well could affect his performance early, hopefully opening the door for the struggling Braves to get their offense going and jump out to an early lead. In 5 2/3 innings pitched at home this season McClung has allowed 7 hits and 6 earned runs including 2 hr’s.

The Braves are a better road team than their record indicates. The wins will come as long as they continue to give the effort and today I see as one of those days the Braves get it done on the road. Play on the Atlanta Braves for 1 unit.

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Jack Clayton

Game:Braves at Brewers
Pick:Brewers

Reason:Milwaukee is on a 5-3 run yet a home dog here, where they have a winning record. Atlanta is 6-17 on the road! Play the Brewers.

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Lucky Leprechaun Sports     

OAKLAND/ Toronto Under 8

The Under is 22-8-1 in Blue Jays last 31 overall and 8-2 in Blue Jays last 10 games vs. a left-handed starter, while the Under is 8-1-1 in Evelands last 10 starts overall. Jesse Litsch comes in with a nice 2.00 ERA in his last 5 starts, going at least 7 innings in all 5 starts. Litsch aslo has a very nice 1.38 ERA in 2 starts vs the A's. Dana Eveland takes the hill for the A's and he has been nearly unhittable at home posting an 0.94 ERA, while allowing just 15 hits in 28.2 innings of work. He will be facinng a bad Toronto offense that is scoring just 3.9 RPG overall, including just 2.6 rpg vs southpaw starters. The Oakland offense has been stagnant of last as they are scoring just 3.3 rpg in their last 4 games. Only 1 of Toronto's last 9 games have scored over 8 runs, while the average total runs scored in those games is 5.8 rpg. Games with Eveland on the mound have totaled just 6.7 rpg, including averaging 7 rpg in his home starts. In this game we also have an Ump where the Under is 10-2 in Laynes last 12 games behind home plate. Add it all up and we get another nice play on the Under in this series.

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JB's COMPUTER PICKS

Milwaukee Brewers - 105

Chicago White Sox +110

Chicago Cubs - 150

St. Louis Cardinals - 115

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Mr. A's

NBA

Los Angeles Lakers - 8

Under 193½

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Bobby Maxwell

Chicago White Sox +120 at TAMPA BAY 

We've delivered on the diamond with five of our last six FREE plays and today we're in the American League for a comp pick on the White Sox as they take on the Rays in Tampa Bay.

Who would have thought this would be such an attractive series, but these teams are playing some great baseball right now. In today's opener we're going with the White Sox who have been absolutely red-hot on the highway, winning seven of their last eight on the road.

Chicago's got John Danks (3-4, 3.00 ERA) on the hill in this one, going up against the Rays' Edwin Jackson (3-3, 3.47).

Chicago is coming off a 6-5 win over the Indians on Wednesday and they took two of three from the rival Indians in Cleveland. The White Sox are 11-3 in their last 14 overall, 6-1 as an underdog and for some reason this team loves Thursdays, going 4-0 in the last four.

Danks already has one gem in Tampa Bay this season when he threw seven shutout innings, giving up just three hits and striking out eight as the White Sox got the 6-0 victory and he beat Jackson in that one. In eight of Danks' 10 starts this season, he's allowed two earned runs or less and on the highway he is 1-1 with a 1.76 ERA.

Jackson gave up those six runs in just 4.1 innings and he's got an 8.71 ERA in his career against Chicago.

Let's play the White Sox in this one as they are starting to find the formula that won them the World Series a couple seasons ago - strong pitching and timely hitting. Play the plus-money with Danks and Chicago tonight in Tampa Bay.

3* CHICAGO WHITE SOX

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Chris Jordan

Chicago White Sox at TAMPA BAY -125 

Unbelievable, as I find myself in un-chartered waters today – taking a team with Edwin Jackson on the hill, and listing him as well. But such is the case in this pitching rematch with John Danks, from April 20, when Chicago won 6-0 in Tampa. Revenge will be sweet for a Devil Rays team that has gone 24-10 since its series with the Sox last month, and that still holds a slim lead over the Red Sox.

Chicago is 5-12 in Danks’ last 17 starts, while it is 5-15 as a road pup in this price range, 0-4 in its last four against the A.L. East and 1-5 in Danks’ last six starts against the A.L. East. On the flipside, Tampa is 8-0 in its last eight at home against winning teams, 21-7 in its last 28 at home, 5-2 in Jackson’s last seven starts at home and 4-1 in its last five against a southpaw.

2* DEVIL RAYS

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Jim Feist

SF Giants and ARI D'backs
Take Under

The struggles of San Francisco lefty Barry Zito have been well documented. He just turned 30 years old, and is he washed up? Likely not at that age, plus he has a 3.12 ERA his last 3 starts as he begins to turn things around. San Fran averages just 3.6 runs per game on the road and faces the Big Unit, who is 2-0 with a 2.50 ERA his last three starts. The D-backs are 7-4 under the total the last 11 games. Don't look for a lot of runs, play the Giants/Diamondbacks Under the total!

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JEFFERSONSPORTS

MLB EARLY RELEASES FOR THURS

OAKLAND-120
OAKLAND UNDER 8
WASHINGTON+113
CUBS-144

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Gator Report

MLB 70% Super Situations  (MLB Record 15-9 +475 units)

MLB (15-9 +475) Thursday:  Play Against MLB (NL) home teams with a money line of -100 to -150 with a team batting average <=.255 against a team with a bullpen ERA <=3.75, with a starting pitcher whose gives up 5.5 or less hits per start.40-17 the last 5 seasons (70.2%)

PLAY: *Los Angeles Dodgers -105


MLB Thursday:   Play Against MLB (NL) road underdogs with a money line of +125 to +175 with a team batting average <=.255 against a team with a bullpen ERA <=3.75, with a starting pitcher whose ERA is 5.70 or worse on the season.  43-8 since 1997 (84.3%) 

PLAY: ***Chicago Cubs -140


MLB Thursday:  Play Under MLB home teams with a bullpen whose WHIP is 1.150 or better on the season, starting a pitcher who is working on 7 or more days rest.44-15 Under since 1997 (74.6%) 

PLAY: **Toronto / Oakland UNDER 8 (-110)

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Matt Fargo

Game: Minnesota Twins at Kansas City Royals
Prediction: Minnesota Twins

There is no reason to jump off Minnesota now. The Twins continue to hang around in the American League Central despite what was to be a rebuilding season. They are 27-25 and trail the White Sox by just two games in the division. Minnesota took two of three in Detroit in the first series of this roadtrip and it has won three straight after taking the first two games of this set. The Twins have been division killers, winning 12 of their last 15 within the Central and they have taken six of the first eight from Kansas City this year.

Kansas City is playing some of the worst baseball in the league as it has dropped 10 straight games which is the league?s longest active losing skid. The Royals were just a game under .500 but now they possess the 4th worst record in baseball. Hitting has been horrendous as they are batting just .232 over their last 10 games. Even worse has been the pitching as Kansas City has allowed six runs or more in nine of its last 13 games. Even though they are not huge chalk like the last two nights, it is still a ridiculous number.

The Twins send Kevin Slowey to the hill who is coming off his first win of the season. He allowed no runs on four hits in six innings against the Tigers. It was his 4th start since coming back from the disabled list and easily his best and his longest. He has an ERA of 4.21 which is average but more importantly here is the fact that he has a WHIP of 1.17 showing he does not allow baserunners. Giving up the long ball has been his problem with six allowed but the Royals are dead last in baseball with a mere 26 dingers.

It has been an up and down start for Luke Hochevar. He tossed three quality outings in a four-game span but his last two starts were not nearly as effective. He allowed four earned runs in six innings in both of his last two starts as the Royals were outscored 13-0 in those contests. He has now allowed four earned runs in three of his last four starts while posting a 1.40 WHIP. The Twins are hitting .287 against righties over their last 10 games and have won four straight against right-handed starters. Play Minnesota Twins 1.5 Units

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