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MLB News and Notes June 26

MLB News and Notes June 26

Thursday's Tip Sheet
By Josh Jacobs

Interleague action continues to steam along and once again money has been pouring in on the American League. How can it not? The AL is once again claiming dominance with a 109-76 record on the season and the trend from year-to-year is far from letting up.

Tampa Bay (Garza) at Florida (Henrickson) – 12:10 p.m. EDT

The Rays (45-31, +1256) aren’t showing any indication of stepping off the gas pedal anytime soon. However, as is reflective of the overall record on the road for MLB teams, Tampa is no stranger to the slide with a 15-18 performance equating to a loss of -117 on the money line.

And while Tampa has been breathing down the backs of first place Boston in the AL East here are some statistics that have and have not been backer friendly.

The Rays are 11-10 during day games versus an impressive 34-21 record at night. Tampa Bay has been solid at holding leads when playing at home with a flawless 23-0 performance when leading into the seventh inning and a 24-0 record when ahead in the ninth. The news when trailing on the road hasn't been positive, with the Rays going just 1-13 when behind on the scoreboard heading into the seventh inning.

Only one starting pitcher for the Rays is receiving less then four-runs of support per start. In Jason Hammel’s five starts this season the batting order has supplied him with 3.8 runs of support per start.

The Marlins (40-36, +1130) have been on shaky ground in June. A 9-13 record in Florida’s last 22 has witnessed the club being outscored by its opponents 5.2 runs per game versus the teams own 4.9 runs per game. On the season a zero point difference between runs scored and runs allowed has a direct relation to the pitching game. The Marlins have logged in a 4.48 ERA in ’08 thus far, ranking them 22nd worst in the league.

Finishing the three-game series will be starter Matt Garza (5-4, 4.10 ERA) for Tampa and Mark Hendrickson (7-5, 5.73) for Florida. Hendrickson is 0-3 since taking his last win on May 25.

Bodog.com has tagged Florida as a $1.10 home underdog.

Philadelphia (Eaton) at Oakland (Harden) – 3:35 p.m. EDT

The Phillies (42-36, -130) enter Thursday as one of the few teams who can claim a winning record on the road. While not spectacular by any means, Philadelphia is tethering above the .500 mark with 20 wins and 18 losses away from home.

But all is not happy times in the City of Brotherly love. On a six-game shnide, the Phillies are 3-10 in their last 13. While starting pitchers Jamie Moyer, Kyle Kendrick, Adam Eaton, Brett Myers and Cole Hamels have all been part of the dip, the offense continues to be a non-entity. The bats have fallen silent for 2.4 runs per game in the last eight defeats and a .236 BA during the month of June just isn’t going to translate into ‘Ws’.

To put things into context, Philly left fielder Pat Burrell has led the club in June with a deplorable .257 batting average. This is the No. 1 hitter on the team this month!

The Phillies are one of two teams in both leagues sitting in first place with money line earnings in the red.

Anyone backing Oakland (42-34, +904) should be pleased that starting slinger Rich Harden (4-0, 2.44) will get the nod. The right-hander is 3-0 since returning from the DL on May 11. His 1.9 runs per game surrendered over the course of eight starts have been instrumental in quality outings and 7.1 strikeouts per game has been a dominating presence.

Even with just four wins on the season for Harden, Oakland has gone onto record five wins and two losses at home this season when the five-year vet has taken the mound.

Coming off five days of rest or more, Harden is 3-0 with a 2.75 ERA.

The Athletics are 13-7 in June and 7-3 in their last 10 interleague contests.

Sportsbook.com has installed Oakland as a ‘chalky’ $1.72 home favorite, with a total set at eight runs.

Texas (Millwood) at Houston (Rodriguez) – 8:05 p.m. EDT

Talk about a slumping club in the majors, Houston (36-41, +40) began May off with a bang, going 11-2. Now 6-14 through June, the Astros are giving up 36 runs more then they are scoring. The club is 3-7 in its last 10 and both the offense and defense are equally responsible.

Houston is bringing in a low 4.4 runs per game (20th worst in the league) and a 4.51 team ERA has moved the club to the bottom of the pile (23rd worst). In the last 10 games at home a .284 BA is a step in the right direction, but a bullpen tossing meatballs for a 6.67 ERA isn’t going to get things done.

If there’s one safe play it’s that the Astros are 45-30-2 on the ‘under’ this season. Houston is 4-0 on the ‘under’ in the last four.

The Rangers (39-39, +701) are far from being a powerhouse by any means, but a 7-3 record on the ‘under’ in the last 10, a 6-2 record when starter Kevin Millwood (5-3, 4.61) takes the hill in his last eight starts and an 8-6 performance in their last 14 is more then Houston can say for itself.

Millwood is 3-0 since returning from the DL on May 30 from a strained groin. Giving up three runs per game in the last five starts combined with four long balls surrendered aren’t great numbers to rely on, but five runs of support per start by the lineup has helped fluff those three victories.

Texas is 20-22 on the road, up 5.76 units on the season.

Most books have installed an early line of -115 in favor of Houston. A total of nine runs have been set.

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Re: MLB News and Notes June 26

Chan's MLB money arms: Week of June 23rd
By DAVID CHAN

Rich Harden, Oakland Athletics, Thursday vs. Philadelphia

This might look like a bit of a no brainer, but we should get some value thanks to the Phillies standing as the superior team in the eyes of the betting public. Harden has still yet to lose a decision this season, posting a spotless 4-0 record through 10 starts. Go back over his last seven outings, and you’ll be hard pressed to find a sub par effort. He has given up two earned runs or fewer six times over that span. The Phillies enter this series in a bit of a downward spiral, so it may be that Harden is catching them at just the right time. Chase Utley and Ryan Howard make this offense go, and they’re both struggling at the plate.

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Re: MLB News and Notes June 26

Diamond Preview
By Matt Fargo

Thursday, June 26th

Tampa Bay Rays at Florida Marlins 12:10 PM ET


The Florida rivals conclude their three-game set Thursday afternoon. The surprising Rays entered the week just a game and a half out of first place in the American League East while Florida remains just a game back in the National League East. Tampa Bay took two of three in the first meeting this season and this pitching matchup between Matt Garza and Mark Hendrickson is a rematch of the game 12 days ago. Both pitched well but it was Garza who got the win however he comes in 1-3 with a 6.25 ERA on the road.

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Re: MLB News and Notes June 26

Thursday's streaking and slumping starters
COVERS.com

Streaking

Cliff Lee, Cleveland Indians (10-1, 2.45)


Cliff Lee is becoming a staple of Streaking Starters, which shouldn’t be a surprise considering he hasn’t lost since May 18 – his only defeat of the season.

After a tough year last season, Lee has bounced back with 10 quality starts under his belt already and has put more than seven units in the pockets of his supporters – good for No. 11 on Covers.com’s Starter Money List.

Lee isn’t overpowering so location is key for him. Right now he heads into Thursday’s game against Matt Cain and the Giants with 79 strikeouts compared to only 15 walks.

Rich Harden, Oakland A’s (4-0, 2.44)

Haren’s numbers are impressive enough at first glance, but they could be a lot better if he didn’t miss some time with a back issue. And it wouldn't hurt if he could get a little help from Oakland’s bats.

Haren, who has yet to be charged with a loss this season, has allowed just 10 earned runs over his last seven starts while striking out 52 batters over that stretch. However, he has just three wins to show for his effort even though the A’s have won all but one of those games.


Slumping

Mark Hendrickson, Florida Marlins (7-5, 5.73)


When Mark Hendrickson kicked off talk of an All-Star appearance by jumping out to a 5-1 start to the year, many bettors looked on cautiously, waiting for the 6-foot-9 veteran to return to his usual mediocre form. That time may have come sooner than Marlins bettors hoped.

The big lefty hasn’t won since May 25, lasting into the seventh inning just once since then. The long ball has also been a problem for him. He’s allowed six jacks over his last three starts.

Hendrickson has been great in the clubhouse with Florida’s young pitching staff, but he’s going to need to get back to changing speeds better to get out of this slump.

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Re: MLB News and Notes June 26

Vegas Watch: When ERA lies
JACOB WHEATLEY-SCHALLER

If you think about it, it’s kind of weird that we evaluate pitchers based on ERA.  It’s been awhile since anybody took errors seriously as a good measure of defense; judging a fielder by how many errors he makes is like judging a hitter by how many times he strikes out. By looking only at isolated failures, rather than the entire body of work, you can miss a lot.

In light of this, today I’m going to look at a couple pitchers who have given up an inordinate number of unearned runs. Some of this can be attribute to shoddy defense, but a good amount, as we’ll see in an anecdote, is the pitcher’s fault.

Gavin Floyd, Chicago White Sox

3.19 ERA, 4.40 RA

Gavin Floyd is really having an incredible year. He strikes out a below average number of hitters (5.5 K/9) and allows an above average number of walks (3.3 BB/9). He’s also given up a good deal of homers (14 in 90.1 innings). Despite all this, he’s 8-3 with a 3.19 ERA. According to FanGraphs, he has been, by far, the luckiest pitcher in baseball, as his ERA should actually be over five runs.

Part of this discrepancy can be explained by the 12 unearned runs Floyd has allowed. Last Thursday against the Pirates he went 5 2/3 innings and allowed seven runs, yet saw his ERA drop and ended up getting the win. In the second inning, Pablo Ozuna made a throwing error on what should have been the third out. A run scored, and Floyd proceeded to give up two doubles and a homer, allowing five additional runs to score. Because the error should have been the third out, all the runs were unearned and the White Sox ended up winning by a score of 13-8.

Floyd has been about as lucky as you can possibly be so far this year, and his ERA will likely start rising in the immediate future.

Kyle Kendrick, Philadelphia Phillies

5.06 ERA, 5.99 RA

Kendrick had what at first looks to be an excellent rookie season with the Phillies last year, going 10-4 with a 3.87 ERA. But given his pathetic strikeout rate (3.6 K/9), it seemed pretty obvious that he wouldn’t be able to maintain such a low ERA.

He hasn’t.  He may have a 6-3 record, but that’s only because the Phillies have scored at least five runs for him in all but three of his 15 starts. He continues to have a low strikeout rate and has seen his walks increase this season.  Kendrick has allowed 52 runs in 78 innings, which is probably around his actual skill level. He’ll probably end up with a decent W-L record, but it will be because of Philadelphia’s offense, not because he’s an above-average pitcher.

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Re: MLB News and Notes June 26

Stay away from these seven pitchers
By STEPHEN NOVER

The late, great George Carlin had his seven words you could never say on television. In Carlin’s memory, I present the seven pitchers you can never bet on – or against.

These pitchers are way too unpredictable. They are either great, or horrendous. Get involved in one of their games and chances are you’ll be repeating some of Carlin’s seven words.

Maybe Carlin could appreciate the humor and wickedness of Oliver Perez, Tim Wakefield, Kyle Kendrick, Kyle Davies, Brian Moehler, Seth McClung and Jorge De La Rosa. Thanks to these miscreants, my baseball bankroll is considerably shorter this season.

Oliver Perez (Mets) – The king of all or nothing. He’s capable of throwing a no-hitter. He’s just as capable of not retiring a batter.

Tim Wakefield (Red Sox) – This guy has been bedeviling me since he was with the Pirates. I paid $16 for him at my 1996 fantasy baseball auction and was rewarded with a 5.15 ERA in 211 2/3 innings. Not only did he destroy my team ERA, but he killed my WHIP by surrendering 328 combined hits and walks.

I haven’t touched Wakefield since, so of course the guy is good now. He’s still a 41-year-old knuckelballer, though, which means randomness. He gave up eight earned runs at Oakland on May 23. Following that he’s yielded only 10 earned runs in his last five starts.

Kyle Kendrick (Phillies) – I’ve never liked him. He may be the luckiest pitcher in the Majors given the great run support Philadelphia has given him. Naturally he loses for only the second time in his last 12 starts when I finally decide to play on him.

Kendrick has a 5.06 ERA and 1.51 WHIP. Yet, the Phillies are 11-4 in his starts. The Phillies have averaged 6.7 runs in Kendrick’s last 23 starts going back to last year.

Kyle Davies (Royals) – Remind me to never bet a Davies’ game to go under the total like I did this past Sunday, even if it’s against the Giants. There only were 21 runs scored. I considered Davies one of the worst pitchers and was surprised to see him resurface in the big leagues late last month.

But until that Giants game, where he gave up five runs on six hits and two walks while failing to reach the second inning, Davies had allowed just one earned run in each of his previous four starts. A lot of pitchers can get lucky once, but Davies did it four straight times.

Brian Moehler (Astros) – My God the stiff won again on Tuesday with another well-pitched effort. The guy came into this season with a 20-37 record during the past seven years, having pitched for four different clubs. Some of his ERA’s during this span were 7.90, 6.51 and 6.02.

This year Moehler has held foes to three or fewer earned runs in eight of his nine starts. Fading Moehler while playing the over has been a disastrous approach. The under is 7-1-1 during Moehler’s past nine appearances.

Seth McClung (Brewers) - Here’s another journeyman type that has risen from the discard pail to actually solidify a starting spot by pitching well. When the Brewers brought him up last month, Milwaukee manager Ned Yost said something like we’ll give him a shot and see what happens. It wasn’t exactly a ringing endorsement.

Not that McClung was worthy of inspiring much confidence. He had two of the worst years ever in 2005 and 2006 pitching for Tampa Bay. McClung pitched 109 1/3 innings in 2005. He gave up 106 hits, 62 walks and 20 homers. His ERA was 6.59.

McClung was just as consistently bad in 2006, pitching 103 innings and surrendering 120 hits, 14 homers, and having a 59-to-68 strikeout-to-walk ratio. His ERA was 6.29.

This is a pitcher you want to fade, right? All McClung has done in his last three starts is yield five earned runs in 18 innings with a 13-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Jorge De La Rosa (Rockies) – De La Rosa finally started living up to my opinion of him as the worst starting pitcher in the Majors, by pitching poorly Tuesday in a loss to the Royals. Prior to that game, though, De La Rosa had given up three earned runs in his last two starts versus the Indians and White Sox, with an 18-to-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

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Re: MLB News and Notes June 26

INTERLEAGUE

Philadelphia (43-36) at Oakland (42-35)


The A’s look to bounce back after last night’s 4-0 loss when they hand the ball to Rich Harden (4-0, 2.44 ERA) in the finale of this three game series against Philadelphia. Wednesday’s setback aside, Oakland is still also on positive streaks of 21-9 as a favorite and 62-24 when hosting N.L. teams at McAfee Coliseum.

The Phillies snapped a six-game losing skid with last night’s victory, but they’re still just 2-8 in their last 10 games after going 14-4 in their previous 18. Also, Philadelphia, which starts Adam Eaton (2-5, 4.94) today, is 5-14 in its last 19 interleague games and 1-6 in its last seven versus the A.L. West.

The home team is 5-2 in the last seven head-to-head meetings between these teams.

The A’s are 39-14 in Harden’s last 53 starts, including 8-2 in his 10 outings this season (4-0 in the last four). They’re also 41-12 in the right-hander’s last 53 starts as a favorite. Harden got a no-decision in his team’s 7-6 home victory over Florida on Friday, allowing a run on five hits in 5 2/3 innings. That ended a string of six straight quality starts – three earned runs or fewer allowed in at least six innings pitched – for the right-hander.

Eaton had a streak of five straight quality starts end in Friday’s 7-1 home loss to the Angels, as he gave up six runs on 12 hits in five innings. Eaton has given up a home run in four straight starts and nine of his last 11, and Philly is 3-6 in his last nine trips to the hill.

Harden is 2-0 with a 2.13 ERA at home, and Oakland is 5-2 in his seven starts at McAfee Coliseum. Meanwhile, Eaton is 0-3 with a 5.09 ERA on the road, with the Phillies losing six of his eight games on the highway.

Eaton has faced the A’s four times in his career, posting a 4.91 ERA with Oakland winning three of the four games.

The under is 13-1-1 in Eaton’s 15 starts this season (8-0 in the last eight), 6-1-1 on the road this year and 3-0-1 in his four career starts against the A’s. The under is also on runs of 17-5 for Philadelphia overall and 9-2 for Philadelphia on the road. Finally, the first two games of this series have stayed under the total.

ATS ADVANTAGE:  OAKLAND and UNDER


Cincinnati (36-43) at Toronto (37-42)


Edinson Volquez (10-2, 1.71) takes the hill for the Reds, who snapped a two-game slide with last night’s 6-5, 10-inning victory and now look to take this rubber match north of the border. Despite Wednesday’s win, Cincinnati is still just 3-7 in its last 10 overall, 9-19 in its last 28 on the road, 17-35 in its last 52 games in American League cities and 9-24 in its last 33 against losing teams.

Jesse Litsch (7-4, 4.06) is set to start this finale for the Blue Jays, who have now dropped eight of their last 10, all against the National League. Going back further, Toronto is mired in a 6-16 slump (4-7 at home). On the bright side, the Jays are on hot streaks of 6-0 as a home underdog and 9-4 at home against right-handed starters.

Cincinnati is 12-3 when Volquez starts, including 8-1 in the last nine overall and 4-0 in his last four on the road. Volquez has recorded a quality start in each of his 15 starts, giving up one earned run or fewer in 10 of those contests.

Toronto went 7-3 in Litsch’s first 10 starts, but it has lost the last four, with the right-hander posting a 6.47 ERA during this stretch. Litsch, who gave up six runs in six innings in Saturday’s 6-3 loss in Pittsburgh, has surrendered 10 home runs in his last nine outings, while Volquez hasn’t allowed a long ball in six straight starts.

Both of Volquez’s losses have come on the road, where he is 5-2 with a 1.62 ERA. Meanwhile, Litsch is 3-1 with a 3.55 ERA in seven home starts.

For Toronto, the over is on streaks of 6-1 overall, 8-2-1 in interleague home games, 5-0 against right-handed starters and 6-1 as an underdog in interleague play. Also, the over is 7-2-1 in the Reds’ last nine against losing teams and 6-2 in their last eight as a road chalk. Finally, the first two games of this series have easily soared over the posted price.

ATS ADVANTAGE: OVER

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Re: MLB News and Notes June 26

Emerging MLB Trends
By Ed Meyer

All of Dr. Meyer’s trends are based off of his Sports Data Query Text (SDQL)

When handicapping baseball, it is crucial to continually refine and research trends in past performance. Our supercomputers run hundreds of thousands of trends DAILY. The thoroughness with which we interrogate the baseball result on a daily basis will become apparent throughout this article as we reveal some strong trends that are from ONLY the current 2008 season.

To start, we’ll check out the Orioles’ performance when they are off a win in which they trailed by multiple runs. In 2008, Baltimore has come back from a multiple-run deficit to win a game seventeen times. In the following game they have been a +110 dog on the average. They are a fantastic 15-2 in the 17 games, losing only to the Red Sox and Yankees as an underdog. In this situation they were 7-0 in April, 4-1 in May and are 4-1 so far in June. It seems that coming back from a multiple run deficit is inspiring to the Orioles. Before we move on, it is worth mentioning that the Orioles have the most wins after trailing by 2+ runs in the league with 17. The Blue Jays, for example, only have two win in which they trailed by multiple runs. The Sports Data Query Text (SDQL) for this situation is simply:

Next we’ll look at a situation in which you do not want to back the Cardinals. Many teams in the league get motivated when installed as an underdog vs. a team on a losing streak. Not the Cardinals. They seem to adopt a defeatist attitude in their situation and allow their opponent to break their losing streak. Indeed, St Louis is a “perfect” 0-12 this season as a dog when facing a team that has lost their last two games. They were 0-3 in April, 0-5 in May and are 0-4 thus far in June.

To be a complete baseball handicapper, you have to uncover reliable favorites as well as live dogs. Here we have a situation in which a team can be relied upon to get the job done when favored. The team is the Tampa Bay Rays and the situation is simply when they are favored off a loss in which they never lead. Tampa is a perfect 11-0 in this situation so far in 2008, winning by an average of 3.5 runs per game. It seems likely that this team trend in performance is limited to only this season as the Rays are much better this season than the last. Performing the query reveals that this is not the case. In 2007 the Rays rattled off five straight winners in their last five occurrences, making them 16-0 their last 16 in this spot.

There is as much opportunity to beat MLB totals as there is to beat MLB sides. The last three 2008-Only trends in this article will be of the OU variety. To start we’ll look at the NY Yankees when seeking immediate revenge for a loss in which their pitchers allowed at least five walks. The Yankees hurlers are nothing short of spectacular in this situation and this has led to a long string of UNDERS. In 2008, the Yankees are 0-11 in this when seeking immediate revenge for a loss in which they allowed 5+ walks. The Yankees’ eleven opponents have scored an average of only 1.6 runs per game in this situation – and they have been even better recently. The last seven final scores in this situation have been: 1-0, 6-3, 2-1, 8-0, 4-2, 5-1 and 4-1. That’s holding their opponent tom a total of 8 runs in seven games. Of course, this should be considered a play-on situation for the Yankees as well.

One of the most profitable and under-utilized baseball handicapping situation involves the third game of a three-game series that is tied at one game each. Knowing just how each team performs in this situation has us raking in huge profits on Sundays and Wednesdays. The Rockies are a team that plays in very close-to-the-vest in this situation, opting to move runners along rather than play for the big inning. Indeed, Colorado is 0-10 OU and it is the last game of a three game series when they split the first two for a net profit of $1000 when playing the under. The average final score in these ten games has been 2.6-2.5 and this includes two extra-inning games.

Finally, we’ll check out a situation where a team is in a desperate situation and they need big innings to win. Some teams play very aggressively as a road dog, figuring that an isolated run or two is not likely to win the game. This is a tactic employed by the Minnesota Twins. They are a perfect 10-0 OU this season as an away dog vs. a team that has won at least their last two games. To break their opponent’s winning streak, Minnesota needs to be aggressive on offense and this has led to high scoring games. The average OU line in these ten games has been 9.2, but the two teams have combined for 13+ runs.

Keep an eye out for these situations to occur. We are watching these six and another few hundred thousand just like them very closely.

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Re: MLB News and Notes June 26

Are the Cubs the fade of July?
By Joe Nelson

The Chicago Cubs have been the biggest story in baseball so far this season and rightfully so. 100 years since the last World Series title with many disappointments in between the Cubs are off to a great start to the season, currently holding the best record in baseball as we approach the halfway point of the season. Chicago appears to have a team that could stay in the postseason mix and loyal fans will say that this year feels different but fortunately Chicago fans have the stomach for more potential disappointment.

The Cubs have enjoyed a favorable early season schedule with significantly more games at home where they own a dominant 32-9 record at Wrigley Field. Chicago is just 16-20 on the road this season and the July travel schedule looks very threatening. From June 27th to July 31st the Cubs will play 20 of 30 games away from home which might tighten up the race in the very competitive NL Central.

Chicago will face challenging travel as well. Following the in-town road series at U.S. Cellular Field the Cubs head to San Francisco without a travel day and then go directly back to the Midwest to play at St. Louis for three games to make nine consecutive road games in three different cities. A six-game home stand precedes the All-Star Break but several Cubs will likely be making the trip to New York adding to the hectic month.

Chicago then closes the month with ten of the last 14 games away from home, playing tough opponents, going to Houston and Arizona, then playing a home series against the Marlins before a huge four-game set in Milwaukee to

close the month. So far this season the Cubs have played just three road series against teams that currently have winning records, going just 2-7 at Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Tampa Bay. The next five weeks feature 13 games on the road against teams with winning records including seven games against the divisional rivals that are chasing them.

It is too early to look ahead to the September schedule but should the NL Central be a tight race in the final month the Cubs will not be in a good position to finish strong as they play 16 of the final 22 games away from Wrigley Field. It could end up being a very exciting race as the Cubs play St. Louis and Milwaukee six times each in September.

Some more bad news for the Cubs is how well the key division opponents have played against them. Milwaukee is a team that appears to be surging with solid play in the last several weeks and the Brewers account for four of the nine home losses for the Cubs, winning two series in Chicago and yet to host the Cubs this season. St. Louis also won the only series between those teams so far this season. Chicago is just 18-15 on the season versus the NL Central, as both the Cardinals and Brewers own superior division records.

The Brewers also own a great home field edge with a 25-13 record so Milwaukee should remain a playoff threat. The Cardinals have been an excellent road team with a 22-16 record away from home so the Cardinals could very well stay in the mix even despite battling key injuries. Pittsburgh, Houston, and Cincinnati do not appear to have the consistency to stay in the race but all three teams have been more competitive than in past seasons. The good news for the Central contenders is that all three teams, the Cubs, Cardinals, and Brewers own superior records to every other team in the NL, meaning there is a good chance the Wild Card will come from this division.

Given the recent injuries to Carlos Zambrano and Alfonso Soriano coupled with the tough schedule ahead it could be a long second half of the season for Cubs fans that appear a little too presumptive of the team’s destiny this season. The Brewers and Cardinals are currently available around 5-1 to win the NL Central, either might be an attractive wager considering how quickly the division lead could shrink in the coming weeks and considering that right now both teams are within five games despite how well the Cubs have played.

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Re: MLB News and Notes June 26

Thursday's best MLB bets
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Cincinnati at Toronto -105, 8

Sometimes baseball betting doesn't have to be complicated. Toronto has a slight edge in batting and bullpen, and of course they're the home team today, but essentially these are two clubs wallowing on the same plane of mediocrity. There?s not much to choose between them.

The difference in this game will come down to the starting pitchers - and in that department, Toronto isn't even in the same neighborhood. Jesse Litsch is a good young pitcher, but his stuff is pretty ordinary in comparison to that of Edinson Volquez. When a guy has the nickname "Little Pedro", you know he's got incredible stuff, but this year Volquez has finally gained the maturity and discipline necessary to be a dominant starter in the majors. That's why he leads the Reds with 10 wins and leads the major leagues in strikeouts and ERA.

Pick: Reds

St. Louis at Detroit -131, 9½

It's all about "what have you done for me lately" when it comes to the Detroit Tigers. They've been one of the biggest disappointments in baseball this season, but Jim Leyland's club is finally starting to pull it together. Over their last 10 games, the Tigers are 7-3 and batting .312 as a team. Even Nate Robertson has gotten his game together in recent starts after a disastrous start to the season. He has gone 3-0 with a 3.93 ERA in his last three starts.

And even if Albert Pujols is able to play today (as he says he will), all the injuries to the St. Louis pitching staff still make it a great time to fade the Cardinals.

Pick: Tigers

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