Monday Service Plays

Monday Service Plays

SPORTS ADVISORS

(2) Michigan State (31-6, 21-12-1 ATS) vs. (1) North Carolina (32-4, 16-19 ATS)

Michigan State pulled the upset against top-seeded Connecticut in the Final Four on Saturday, building an 11-point second half lead then holding off a late Huskies surge to claim an 82-73 victory as a 4½-point underdog at Ford Field. The Spartans have been scorching hot lately, going 11-1 SU and 9-3 ATS in their last 12 starts, including 5-0 SU and ATS in the Big Dance. Also, they’ve now eliminated consecutive No. 1 seeds, following the upset of Louisville in the Elite Eight with Saturday’s stunner over UConn.

North Carolina was in full control against third-seeded Villanova on Saturday, racing out to a 17-point first-half edge. The Tar Heels let the Wildcats get back within five early in the second half before another surge pushed the lead back to 10, and they led by double digits the rest of the way in an 83-69 rout as a seven-point chalk. Carolina is on a 5-0 SU and ATS roll in this year’s Tournament, winning by double digits in every game.

This is a rematch of a game played back on Dec. 6, also at Ford Field, as the Tar Heels pummeled Michigan State 98-63 as a 10-point favorite. North Carolina outshot the Spartans 48 percent to 34.8 percent and forced 21 Michigan State turnovers. However, the Spartans were without big man Goran Suton (10 points, 7.8 rebounds per game average), who sat out with an injury.

These teams have met six times since 1998, with North Carolina going 4-2 SU and ATS, and the winner has cashed in all six meetings. In addition to their 35-point win at Ford Field in December, the Tar Heels’ other three victories over the past 11 years against Michigan State have come in the NCAA Tournament, all of them double-digit routs. That includes an 87-71 win as a 4½-point chalk in the 2005 Final Four.

Michigan State has averaged 72.8 ppg and allowed 63.6 ppg so far in the Tournament, and North Carolina has beaten its opponents by a whopping average of nearly 21 ppg, netting 87.6 ppg while yielding just 66.8. Both teams are going after their second titles of the decade, with Michigan State winning it all in 2000 and Carolina taking the crown in 2005.

Michigan State is 8-2 SU and 7-3 ATS on neutral floors this season, outscoring opponents by a couple buckets per game in averaging 71.9 points and allowing 67.2. North Carolina, meanwhile, is 8-1 SU and 7-2 ATS in eight neutral-court starts, piling up 87.4 ppg and giving up 71.0 ppg.

Guard Kalin Lucas leads a balanced Michigan State scoring attack at 14.7 ppg, and he fueled the Spartans with 21 points and five assists in the win over UConn. Forward Raymar Morgan (10.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg) nearly got a double-double against the Huskies, with 18 points and nine rebounds, and he also had five steals.

All-American forward Tyler Hansbrough paces Carolina at 20.8 ppg and 8.2 rpg, and four more Tar Heels are averaging double digits, including star guard Ty Lawson (16.5 ppg), who also chips in 6.5 assists per game. Hansbrough had a double-double of 18 points and 11 boards against Villanova, and Lawson had game-highs of 22 points and eight assists.

The Spartans are on a plethora of positive pointspread streaks, including 7-0 in non-conference contests, 6-1 after a SU win, 5-1 after a spread-cover, 5-1 as an underdog, 5-1 as a neutral-site pup and a sterling 22-8-1 in their last 31 NCAA Tournament tilts. The only negative for Michigan State: a 1-4 ATS mark in its last five starts against the ACC, including this year’s blowout loss to Carolina.

The Tar Heels entered the Big Dance on a 2-9 ATS freefall (9-2 SU), but their trends are nothing but positive now, as they are on ATS upswings of 39-15 outside the ACC, 8-0 as a Tourney chalk of seven to 12½ points and 4-0 against the Big Ten. Plus, in the NCAAs, Carolina is on a 9-1 SU and ATS spree, with all nine wins coming by double digits from the favorite’s role. The lone loss was last year’s 84-66 Final Four setback to eventual champion Kansas as a 2½-point chalk.

The under for Michigan State is on tears of 11-5 overall, 9-4 after a SU win, 8-3 after an ATS victory, 39-19-1 with the Spartans getting points, 10-5 with the Spartans as a neutral-court ‘dog and 5-2 against the ACC. Likewise, the under for North Carolina is on tears of 5-1 overall (all at neutral sites and all with the Tar Heels favored), 5-1 in the Tournament and 6-1 against teams with a winning percentage above .600. Finally, the December meeting between these two fell a couple baskets short of the hefty 166½-point posted price.

ATS ADVANTAGE: NORTH CAROLINA and UNDER


NATIONAL LEAGUE

L.A. Dodgers (0-0) at San Diego (0-0)

The reigning N.L. West champion Dodgers open the season on the road at Petco Park against the Padres, who finished with the majors’ third-worst record last season. Los Angeles will hand the ball to right-hander Hiroki Kuroda (9-10, 3.73 ERA in 2008) against San Diego ace Jake Peavy (10-11, 2.85).

Los Angeles finished the regular season by winning 10 of its last 15 games to edge Arizona by two games for the division crown. The Dodgers then stunned the Central Division champion Cubs with a three-game playoff sweep before falling to the eventual World Series champion Phillies, losing the best-of-7 National League Championship Series 4-1.

San Diego went 7-11 in its last 18 starts of 2008, fairly indicative of the entire season, as the Padres finished 11 games under .500 at Petco Park (35-46) and far worse on the road (28-53). San Diego’s offense mustered just 637 runs all season, for an average of 3.93 per game, while giving up 764 runs for an average of nearly a run higher at 4.72 per game.

Los Angeles went 11-7 against San Diego last year, including 5-4 at Petco Park, and the Dodgers won four of the last five clashes.

Kuroda had an average rookie season, but he was sterling in his two playoff starts, going 2-0 with a 1.46 ERA in 12 1/3 innings. In the series-clinching Game 3 victory over the Cubs, he threw 6 1/3 innings of shutout ball, scattering six hits with two walks in a 3-1 victory. Then in Game 3 against the Phillies, he led the Dodgers to their lone NLCS win, allowing two runs on five hits and a walk in six innings in a 7-2 rout. Los Angeles went 6-1 in Kuroda’s last seven starts, with the right-hander going 4-0 with two no-decisions.

Peavy was solid on the mound last year but just couldn’t get much offensive support. He went 5-5 in his last 10 starts, but the Pads scored three runs or less in seven of those games, including shutout losses of 2-0 to San Francisco and 1-0 to Milwaukee. On the bright side, Peavy beat the Dodgers in his last regular-season start, allowing three runs on four hits and four walks in five innings of a 7-5 road victory.

Kuroda went 3-8 with a 3.78 ERA in 17 road outings last year and 2-1 with a 5.66 ERA in four starts against the Padres. Peavy was 5-5 despite a remarkable 1.74 ERA in 14 starts at Petco in 2008, and he’s owned the Dodgers in his career with a 13-1 record and a 2.32 ERA in 22 starts.

The Dodgers are 16-7 in their last 23 division contests, but they won just one of their last five games during the playoffs, and with Kuroda taking the ball, they are on skids of 2-5 on the road and 1-7 with the 34-year-old as a road underdog. The Padres went just 1-5 in their last six home games last year, but with Peavy pitching, they are on a 16-5 run against the Dodgers, including 8-0 in his last eight outings against L.A. at home, and they’re 11-5 in the right-hander’s last 16 Monday starts..

The over for Los Angeles is on streaks of 4-1 against right-handers, 4-1-1 in series openers, 5-0 with Kuroda starting a series opener and 5-2-1 in Kuroda’s last eight starts overall, but the under is 11-4-1 in Kuroda’s last 16 road starts. The over for San Diego is on rolls of 12-5 overall, 6-2 at home and 5-0 in series openers, but with Peavy starting, the under is on stretches of 10-3-1 overall and 38-18-4 at home.

ATS ADVANTAGE: SAN DIEGO


Chicago Cubs (0-0) at Houston (0-0)

The Cubs begin their quest to end a 101-year World Series championship drought when they travel to Houston for an N.L. Central battle with the Astros. Chicago’s Carlos Zambrano (14-6, 3.91 ERA in 2008) is scheduled to oppose Roy Oswalt (17-10, 3.54) in a clash of bona fide aces.

Chicago went 89-74 in 2008, won its second consecutive N.L. Central title and was a heavy favorite to reach its first World Series since 1945. However, the Cubs wilted under the postseason pressure, getting swept by the Dodgers in the N.L. Division Series, losing the three games by a combined score of 20-6. The Cubs were a dismal road team last year, going 35-46.

Houston (86-75 last year) struggled out of the gate in 2008, but finished on a 39-19 roll, including winning 21 of its last 28 at Minute Maid Park to finish 47-33 at home. Additionally, the Astros enter 2009 on runs of 16-5 as a favorite, 13-3 as a home chalk and 15-7 against right-handed starters.

The Astros won the season series against the Cubs by a slim 9-8 margin, but the visitor won the last five meetings, including Chicago’s two-game sweep of a series moved to Milwaukee when Hurricane Ike hit Houston in early September.

Zambrano got rocked in his one playoff start last year, giving up seven runs (three earned) in 6 1/3 innings of a 10-3 Game 1 loss to the Dodgers. After tossing a no-hitter against the Astros in Milwaukee on Sept. 14, Zambrano went 0-2 with an 11.37 ERA, allowing 20 runs (16 earned) in 12 2/3 innings. The right-hander went 7-4 with a 4.07 ERA in 14 regular-season road starts last year.

Oswalt was sensational down the stretch last year, tossing 11 consecutive quality starts (three earned runs allowed or less and at least six innings pitched) to end the season. He went 8-2 with a 1.44 ERA in those 13 games, with Houston also winning his one no-decision. At home last year, the veteran right-hander was 10-3 with a 3.73 ERA in 16 starts.

Zambrano is 12-7 with a 2.70 ERA in 26 career appearances (24 starts) against the Astros, including the 5-0 no-hit victory last September. He’s also 6-3 with a 3.58 ERA at Minute Maid Park. Meanwhile, Oswalt is 12-11 with a 3.88 ERA in 26 games (25 starts) against Chicago, including 2-1 with a 1.23 ERA in his last three outings against the Cubs at home.

With Zambrano on the hill, Chicago is on streaks of 19-9 overall, 37-15 on the road, 16-5 as an underdog, 11-2 as a road pup and 15-7 against the Astros. Houston is 55-18 in Oswalt’s last 73 home starts (8-0 in the last eight last year), 6-1 in his last seven outings overall and 85-40 in his last 125 as a favorite.

The under is 36-15-1 in the last 51 meetings between these squads, 23-6 in the last 29 clashes in Houston, 16-5 in Zambrano’s last 21 starts against the Astros and 9-1 in his last 10 outings in Houston. Additionally, the under is on runs for the Astros of 7-2 at home, 7-2 in divisional games, 16-7 against right-handed starters and 8-1 overall with Oswalt on the mound.

ATS ADVANTAGE: UNDER


AMERICAN LEAGUE

Oakland (0-0) at L.A. Angels (0-0)

The Angels, who finished with the best record in baseball last year but bowed out in the first round of the playoffs, open the 2009 campaign with a four-game series against the division rival Athletics at Angel Stadium. Los Angeles will send left-hander Joe Saunders (17-7, 2.03 ERA in 2008) up against fellow lefty Dallas Braden (5-4, 4.14).

After posting a solid 100-62 regular-season record, Los Angeles got bounced by Boston in four games in the best-of-5 divisional round, dropping the first two games at home. The Angels won Game 3 on the road, but the Red Sox finished it off with a 3-2 win at Fenway in Game 4. The Angels ended the year on a 4-6 skid, but they were remarkably consistent in finishing with an identical 51-30 mark at home and on the road. The team’s lofty record was mainly the result winning close games, outscoring opponents by an average of less than half a run per game (4.7-4.3).

Oakland finished third in the A.L. West last year with a sub-par 75-86 record, 24½ games behind the Angels. The A’s dropped their last five games, all on the road. For the season, Oakland went 43-38 at home but just 32-48 on the highway. However, the A’s added slugger Matt Holliday and brought back Jason Giambi in the offseason, hoping to bolster an offense that averaged only four runs per game last year.

These rivals played a competitive season series in 2008, with L.A. going 10-9 overall and 5-5 at home.

Saunders was the lone bright spot in the playoffs for the Angels, helping the Halos to the Game 3 win in the first round against Boston. He allowed all four runs on five hits and four walks in 4 2/3 innings of a 5-4 victory. Including the playoffs, Los Angeles went 6-0 in Saunders’ last six starts, with the youngster posting a 2.82 ERA.

The Athletics won five of Braden’s last seven starts last season, with the 25-year-old going 3-2 with two no-decisions and a 3.46 ERA. Braden went at least 5 2/3 innings in five of those starts, with three seven-inning stints, including a 2-1 road victory over the Angels in which he allowed seven hits (one for a solo homer) with no walks.

Braden appeared in 11 road games last year (six starts), finishing 4-2 with a 3.73 ERA, and he ‘s 1-1 with a 2.25 ERA in six appearances (two starts) versus Los Angeles. Saunders was 7-4 with a 4.27 ERA in 16 home starts last year, and he’s 5-2 with a 4.44 ERA in nine career outings against Oakland.

The Angels are on runs of 35-17 in division play and 17-8 against lefties, and with Saunders on the hill, they are on additional streaks of 38-15 overall, 25-10 at home, 8-2 against A.L. West foes and 17-4 in series openers. Along with their aforementioned 0-5 skid to end last season (all in division play), the A’s are in ruts of 12-30 on the road, 0-4 against southpaws and 8-17 on the road against left-handers.

The under for Los Angeles is on rolls of 35-16-3 against left-handed starters, 35-17-4 at home against lefties and 4-1-1 in Saunders’ last six starts, and the under for Oakland is on runs of 38-18-1 in series openers, 4-1 overall for Braden, 4-1 in Braden’s last five road outings and 8-2 behind Braden on grass. Finally, in this rivalry, the under is 31-13 in the last 44 clashes at Angel Stadium.

ATS ADVANTAGE: L.A. ANGELS and UNDER

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Al McMordie

Pittsburgh Pirates at St. Louis Cardinals

At 4:15 pm, our member selection is on the St Louis Cardinals over Pittsburgh. Paul Maholm will get the start for the Buccos today, but he only won two of his nine road decisions in 2008. And Maholm's mound opponent, Adam Wainwright, is 34-18 in his last 54 decisions. Last season, Pittsburgh won just 28 of its 81 road games, and Wainwright was 7-1 at home with a 2.63 ERA and 1.10 WHIP. Take St. Louis. Good luck - Al McMordie

Play on: St. Louis

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VEGAS EXPERTS

Michigan State at North Carolina

This is an interesting number because it's high for a typical Michigan State game while at the same time significantly lower than most totals we see posted for North Carolina. The Tar Heels have actually gone Under in four of five tournament games thus far, only cashing an Over ticket when they dropped 98 points on Gonzaga. They won't get 98 on MSU, that's for sure. UNC is 6-0 Under this season when playing its 2nd game in 3 days. MSU is 18-7 Under as an underdog.

Play on: Under

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Charlie Scott

Michigan State vs. North Carolina    
Play: Under 152.5

There is no way in Hell, that Michigan St and Tom Izzo will try and run with North Carolina. Izzo is too good a Coach and the Spartans are too good of a defensive team. Have to give Roy Williams and the Tar Heels credit, in that they are actually playing defense this Tournament. Also factoring in the Under play, is that this is both teams players biggest games of their lives, being played in a huge arena not built for Basketball, but Football. North Carolina shot the lights out vs Villanova Saturday and I don't expect that tonight, considering only having one day of rest between games. Playing with only one day off, so far in this Years tournament North Carolina is 2-0 Under (playing Sunday after Friday wins.)In Big Games, Aways think Defense First. PLAY UNDER

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Rocketman Sports

Los Angeles Dodgers vs. San Diego Padres     
Play: San Diego Padres -124         

Hiroki Kuroda takes the mound for the LA Dodgers here on opening day where he was only 3-8 on the road last season. Jake Peavy had a nice 2.85 ERA overall last year and a SUPER 1.74 ERA at home last season. Peavy is 13-1 with a 2.32 ERA overall vs LA Dodgers since 1997. Dodgers are 1-7 in Kurodas last 8 starts as a road underdog. Padres are 4-1 in Peavys last 5 starts as a favorite of -110 to -150. Padres are 8-0 in Peavys last 8 home starts vs. Dodgers. We'll recommend a small play on San Diego tonight!

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Craig Trapp

Michigan State vs. North Carolina    
Play: North Carolina -7.5   
     
This National Championship game will be a great contrast of styles. Earlier this year these two teams played in Detroit on this exact same court. The game did not turn out so well for MSU as UNC ran away with the game winning 98 - 63. The first game featured UNC and the athletic domination was unbelievable. MSU must decide in this game to slow this game down or risk a repeat of the earlier game. Odds Makers have made UNC -7.5 point favorites and the total at 152.5. Lets look at the team records and trends:

Team records:

Michigan State: 31-6 SU, 21-13 ATS

North Carolina: 33-4 SU, 17-19 ATS

Recend Trends:

-Spartans are 5-0 ATS in their last 5 games overall.

-Spartans are 5-1 ATS in their last 6 games as an underdog.

-Spartans are 22-8-1 ATS in their last 31 NCAA Tournament games.

-Tar Heels are 5-0 ATS in their last 5 games overall.

-Tar Heels are 5-0 ATS in their last 5 NCAA Tournament games.

-Favorite is 4-0 ATS in the last 4 meetings.

We are going to be on UNC today -7.5. MSU will need to slow down the game and make this game into a half court game. In the first meeting the athletic difference was a huge difference. The one advantage that MSU has is Coaching. Tom Izzo has willed his team to two straight upset winners beating Pitino and Calhoun, not bad. Hopefully Roy Williams won't over think this game, and instead let Ty Lawson push the ball all game. The best collection of NBA talent on one team since the 2005 UNC Championship team. In the end the superior athletic team pulls away and wins by double digits.

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Cajun Sports

Los Angeles Dodgers @ San Diego Padres
Selection: 2* Over 6.5

The Los Angeles Dodgers open the 2009 campaign on the road at the Padres on Monday night. The Dodgers will send right-hander Hiroki Kuroda to the bump with his 2-1 SU record against the Padres. Kuroda has a winning record versus the Padres but his ERA is 5.66 with a WHIP of 1.646 in most cases that would mean a losing record but these two teams score when they get together. Hiroki had a 3.59 ERA on the season in 2008 and the Dodgers bullpen had an ERA of 4.14 when playing on the highway. San Diego will send ace right-hander Jake Peavy to the hill with his 13-1 SU record versus this Dodgers team. Even though his ERA against the Dodgers is a very respectable 2.32 and a WHIP of 1.012 they have gone over in his starts at a rate of 12-10 in his career. Peavy ended last season with an ERA of 4.05 and a WHIP of 1.500 in his last three trips to the bump and had a record of 1-2 in those three starts. Last season the Padres bullpen had an ERA of 4.09 when playing at home. This series has seen 22 of 35 meetings go over the posted total the last three seasons and 9 of 17 over when playing in San Diego. Our TPR (Team Performance Ratings) Index projects the total number of runs scored to be 7.89 in tonights matchup so play the over here as these two teams get off to a quick start with their bats and send this game well over the posted total.

Graded Selection: 2* LA Dodgers / San Diego Padres OVER 6.5

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Marc Lawrence

Play On: Houston w/Oswalt

The Astros and Cubs meet in Houston in this season opener when Houston sends Roy Oswalt to the hill against Chicago. Despite getting shelled in the World Baseball Classic semifinal game, Oswalt actually had a strong spring camp where he issued only 1 walk against 13 strikeouts. With Oswalt 35-14 with a 2.75 ERA in his home team starts the last three seasons, and also sporting a 1.23 ERA at home against the Cubs over the same span, look for him to make amends for the WBC disaster with a strong effort here tonight.

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JIM FEIST

SEATTLE MARINERS at MINNESOTA TWINS
Take: SEATTLE MARINERS

We don't know what to expect from Minnesota lefty Francisco Liriano. He had Tommy John surgery that cost him the 2007 season. He's not yet all the way back to his pre-surgery dominance, which is no surprise. He was 6-4 with a 3.91 ERA last season. Seattle ace Felix Hernandez has overpowering stuff and threw well in the World Baseball classic, as well as spring training. There are no concerns with his health, and he's an ace who is an underdog opening day. Play the Mariners.

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James Patrick Sports

Seattle vs. Minnesota

The opening pitch of the Major League Baseball season at the HHH Metrodome in Minneapolis as the Twins play their final season under the Baggie. The Mariners and the Twins have averaged 13.0 runs per game in the Metrodome and Big Game James Patrick's opening day complimentary selection in Major League Baseball is Mariners - Twins Over the Total.

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Jimmy The Moose

Ottawa Senators at Montreal Canadiens
Prediction: Over

The over is 14-7 in Ottawa's last 22 games overall. In their last 14 games vs. a team with a winning record the over is 10-4. The over is 13-6 in their last 19 vs. Eastern Conference opponents. In their last 8 games played vs. a divisional opponent the over is 6-2. The over is 6-2-1 in Montreal's last 9 games overall. In their last 30 vs. an Eastern Conference opponent the over is 19-7-4. The over is 6-0-1 in their last 7 divisional games. The over is 5-2 in Ottawa's last 7 trips to Montreal. The last 3 meetings have played over the total. Play the over.

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Stephen Nover

Pittsburgh Pirates @ St. Louis Cardinals
PICK: Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates probably are headed for a 17th straight losing season. Like the Cardinals, they are going with a lot of young players. Some of these players even have talent.

The difference between the Pirates and Cardinals is starting pitching. The Cardinals have more quality starting pitchers.

In this one game matchup, though, the difference between the two clubs and starting pitchers is much shorter than the line. The oddsmaker is finding his way the first couple of weeks. Proof of that is in lines like this one.

Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright is good. Good as in solid, rather than good as in great.

But Pirates starter southpaw Paul Maholm also is good. Maholm had a breakout season last year in becoming the team's ace. His strong performance carried over to the Grapefruit League where he looked exceptionally sharp.

Maholm was 2-1 versus St. Louis last season with a 3.05 ERA. Maholm pitched through the sixth inning in 20 consecutive starts. The Pirates were 50-2 last season when leading after seven innings.

Tony LaRussa already is tinkering with his lineup. He's going to sit down second baseman Skip Schumaker and third baseman David Freese against the lefty Maholm.

They will be replaced by Brendan Ryan and Brian Barden, a third-string third baseman with Troy Glaus out.

At this price, with Maholm going, the Pirates are worth a one-unit play.

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John Fisher

Michigan State vs. North Carolina
Play: North Carolina -7.5
         
I really thought Vegas would have Carolina at DD's. MSU got blasted by them early this season by 30+ pts. Carolina has 5 NBA players in starting lineup. MSU has one possible NBA players and a lot of decent College players. I will hedge my bet on the NBA players that are FOCUSED. This UNC team will absolutely BLOWOUT the SPARTANS. The only thing that will keep MSU in game is home cooking. Look for Green and Thompson to score 20+ pts on offensive rebounds. Michigan State has flaws on offense Carolina cant be stopped. Ty Lawson will pose a problem for the Spartan defensive player of the year Morgan. I see this being a game until like the 15 minute mark of the second half. Carolina will be leading by DD's the rest of the way and will coast to VICTORY. Simply too much talent. Hansborough will show the critics why hes special. If you dont look like a gangster with tatoos and jump 4 feet in the air you become the stereo-typical white man cant jump phenom. Sad but true. There will be room for him to chip in 10 pts and 10 rebounds a game at the NBA level. UNC 83 MSU 67 10 STAR TARHEELS

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Nick Parsons

Oakland A's @ LA Angels
Play: Angels -150

The Oakland Athletics and Los Angeles Angels invariably have found each other over the past five seasons, crammed as they are into the game's only four-team division, separated merely by a long, dreary stretch of Interstate 5 and the NoCal-SoCal carryings-on of their fan bases. The franchises have finished one-two in the American League West in each of the past three seasons and in four of the past five. Since 2002, one World Series title (the Angels in '02) is the difference in a series that in that time is tied at 49 wins apiece; that being said, I look for the Angels to come out firing on all cylinders today. The Angels are a great 104-61 over the last 3 seasons at home; play on LA!

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Jimmy Boyd

1 Unit on Arizona Diamondbacks -1.5 +140 (list Webb)

I'll back Brandon Webb on Opening Day as there is, perhaps, no better pitcher in baseball getting the ball today. Additionally, the Snakes come into this season with plenty to prove after blowing their lead in the NL West to give up the division crown a season ago. They'll be hungry and that means plenty of run support for Webb so I'll play them on the run line to pick up some added value. Webb is 22-7 against the money line in his last 29 April games with the D-backs winning by an average score of 5.6 to 3.0. Take the Snakes!

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Jack Jones

Cleveland Indians vs. Texas Rangers    
Play: Texas Rangers +111 

I'm going with the Rangers today at home against the Indians. A lot of people are going to hate going against Cliff Lee the way he pitched last year for the Indians, but this guy was lit up in the spring for 46 hits and 33 runs in just 21.2 innings of work. I know the regular season is a different game, but I think those numbers are a sign that this year he won't be able to repeat his AL Cy Young numbers from a year ago. In 2007 he made 16 starts and posted a 6.29 ERA and in 2006 he was 14-11 with a 4.40 ERA and 1.41 WHIP. Basically I'm not sold he's made the jump so I'll take the potent Ranger line up this afternoon.

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Jeff Benton

Scored my fifth consecutive NBA free-play winner Sunday as the Cavaliers destroyed the Spurs. I’m now 8-2 with complimentary selections over the past 10 days, including four in a row. Let’s keep it rolling Monday with our first baseball freebie as we’ll take the Houston Astros with Roy Oswalt in a pick-em spot at home against the Cubs.

The Astros figure to be highly motivated today, not only because this is their season-opener at home, but because the last time they faced Chicago ace Carlos Zambrano, they got no-hit. That was back on Sept. 14, when Hurricane Ike pelted Houston and led MLB officials to move a series between these teams from Minute Maid Park to Milwaukee – which is just a short drive from Chicago, making it a virtual home series for the Cubs.

With their minds obviously on more pressing matters back home in Houston, it’s not surprising that the Astros weren’t exactly ready to play baseball that day. That becomes even more obvious when you consider that just 12 days earlier, in Houston, the Astros beat Zambrano and the Cubs 9-7. In fact, take away the no-hitter, and Houston has won three of the last four games against the Cubs that Zambrano started, touching him up for a total of 16 runs (all earned) in 24 innings – that’s a 6.00 ERA!

As for Oswalt, he was lights out down the stretch for the Astros in 2008, tossing 11 consecutive quality starts to end the season, allowing a total of 13 earned runs in 81 1/3 innings (1.44 ERA). That included a 3-0 shutout victory over the Cubs at Wrigley Field. On top of that, Oswalt has dominated the Cubs the last three times he’s faced them in Houston (three total earned runs allowed in 22 innings, good for a 1.23 ERA!).

Finally, the Astros closed last season by winning Oswalt’s last eight starts at home (from June 30 to the end of the year); they’re 55-18 in his last 73 starts in H-Town; and they ended last year on a 39-19 run overall, including 21-7 at home. Give me the value with the home squad in this one.

3♦ HOUSTON ASTROS

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Re: Monday Service Plays

Scott Delaney

Today's Selection

Going into Sunday I was on a 17-8 run with a pending play on the Trail Blazers to up that record. We're going to play the New York Mets against the Cincinnati Reds on Monday night.

Be sure that both Santana and Harang are going for you in this one, as they're the pitchers I want toeing the rubber for us in this one. Once you indicate it being a Run Line, you'll see both pitchers listed.

Aaron Harang had such a disappointing campaign last year, and I don't know how much better he's gotten. I've yet to hear too much about his offseason progress, and I don't believe that's by accident. I think Harang's woes will carryover to the first month of this season.

In having to face a lineup like Reyes, Murphy, Wright, Delgado, Beltran and Church ... well, do I really have to say why we're making this a run line play? Harang's 5.85 lifetime ERA against the Mets should help us out as well.

The Mets are one of the teams expected to challenge for the National League challenge, and let me tell you something, cold weather or not, Santana figures to be red-hot long enough before giving way to the team's knight in shining armor - Francisco Rodriguez - for his first regular-season appearance of the season.

Take the Mets, and look for a huge win to cash that Run Line.

N.Y. METS RUN LINE

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Re: Monday Service Plays

Matt Rivers

For Monday take the over in the college championship game.

I am not the biggest fan of totals on the planet but I do think this game will go over. For one, North Carolina always seems to score a boatload of points no matter who they play and with their immense talent led by Lawson, Hansbrough, Ellington and Green and the way Michigan State has been filling it up why should anything be different today? The Spartans are more of a grinding team for sure but that has not been the case recently the way Lucas, Morgan, Suton and others have been getting out on the break and scoring points.

The Tar Heels and Wildcats were on a torrid over pace at the half in the National Semifinal and then both teams seemed to forget how to shoot. That game should have skied over the total but a rough patch of misses equaled bad luck and if you had the high you were not cashing your ticket. Meanwhile Michigan State and UCONN flew over that total from the get go as the Spartans looked to run at all opportunities and set the pace.

It is a hefty number for sure and especially if Tom Izzo looks to slow it down a bit but you can pretty much always chalk up Roy Williams' boys to get at the bare minimum in the 80's with their offense and I do not see a total blowout meaning Michigan State should at least find the 70's, if not better.

The upside is a lot better than the downside today. I cannot possibly see a 66-60 final with this North Carolina offense but yet if we get a 90-84 game I would not be all that shocked.

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Re: Monday Service Plays

Tony Weston

Today's Selection:

Wow, what a way for the defending World Series champions to start the season. Oh well. The Phillies take the loss and keep us from coming through in this spot, but don’t worry about that because we’re still 8-4 our last 12 comp plays and 16-8 our last 24 freebies and we’re getting back to the business of winning today.

The MLB season is fully under way and we’re coming at it with some strong baseball action as we’re taking the Cleveland Indians on the road at the Texas Rangers.

Over the last couple of seasons despite not playing each other as often as division opponents would, the Indians have owned the Rangers, winning 12 of their last 19 meetings since the start of the 2007 season.

Last season, in their third and final series of the year, the Indians swept Texas, beating the Rangers in three straight games in Arlington. Also consider that Cleveland has won 4 of their last 5 meetings against the Rangers when today’s scheduled starting pitcher Cliff Lee takes the mound.

Conversely, Texas has won only one of its last 4 games with today’s scheduled starter Kevin Millwood taking the mound and the team has not won a single Game 1 of a series with Millwood on the bump.

Cleveland will continue its mastery of Texas and get over easily in Arlington today. Take the Indians on the road in this one.

3♦ INDIANS

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