TUESDAY PREMIUM SERVICE PLAYS
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( 2 - 1 Yesterday )
Weekly Wipeout Winner - MLB
The Nationals went 81-81 back in 2005 but it's been all downhill since. The team averaged 93.7 wins per season these last three years (2006-08), going a collective 88-155 (.362) on the road. The 2009 season may be even worse. The Nats currently own a ML-worst 13-31 (.302) mark, which puts them on pace to lose more than 110 games. At 6-15 on the road, only the Padres have a worse road record this year, as the Nationals are allowing 6.71 RPG away from home. I guess that figures, as Washington owns a ML-worst 5.62 ERA, including a ML-worst bullpen ERA of 6.15 ERA. The Mets are batting .284 as a team (2nd-best in MLB) but have had trouble scoring runs lately, partly due to mounting injuries and partly due to a lack of timely hitting. However, the Mets managed nine hits and five runs on Memorial Day, beating the Nats 5-2. Carlos Delgado is on the DL with hip surgery, Jose Reyes has missed eight of 11 games with the nagging calf strain and now Carlos Beltran will have an MRI on his sore right knee on Tuesday. Gary Sheffield has stepped into the starting lineup for New York and is starting to make a difference. He homered last night and he's batting .395 with three HRs, nine RBI and 14 runs scored in 11 games since replacing Delgado as the team's cleanup hitter (he's raised his batting average from .178 to .277.). Sheffield and the rest of the Mets will face Washington rookie Craig Stammen. Stammen made his major league debut last Thursday at home vs the Pirates and retired the first 12 batters he faced before running into trouble. He left the game after giving up four ERs in 6.1 innings but failed to get a decision in Washington's 5-4 win. Nationals manager Manny Acta liked what he saw. "Stammen didn't look intimidated the whole night," Acta said. "He attacked the strike zone, worked fast, had very good sink on his fastball and just made it look easy. As he found out later, it's not that easy, but he did a very nice job for us." All that may be true but Stammen will pitch in front of MLB's worst team plus when he's "out of gas," he'll hand the ball over to MLB's worst bullpen (not much of a recipe for success). As for the Mets, they will counter with Livan Hernandez, who's been a pleasant surprise in 2009. Hernandez is sure no rookie and speaking of rookie years, he was MVP of both the NLCS and World Series as a rookie (9-3 with a 3.18 ERA in the regular season), helping the Marlins "win it all" that 1997 season. However, pitching for first Minnesota and then Colorado last year, Hernandez had a truly 'ugly' season. He made 31 combined starts, allowing 257 hits in 180 innings while posting a 6.05 ERA. Incredibly, he finished 13-11 and the two teams combined to go 18-13 in his starts (how?). Still, he won a spot in New York's rotation this spring and enters this game 3-1 with a 4.93 ERA in eight starts (5-3). He's struggled badly in two day starts this season (7.84 ERA) but in six night starts, owns a respectable 4.08 ERA. Hernandez spent three-plus season with the Nationals (who relocated from Montreal prior to the start of the 2005 season) and still has the most wins of any Nationals pitcher (24) in Washington. He lost his first game against his ex-teammates in 2006 but since then he's posted a 3.34 ERA while winning five straight starts against them.
Weekly Wipeout Winner on the NY Mets
Larry's 7* Pitching Mismatch
The Astros will take a five-game losing streak into tonight's game at Great American Ballpark with the Reds. The Astros have batted .282 as a team during their slide but are not scoring, averaging just 3.2 PPG. They should however, find Reds pitcher Micah Owings to their liking. Owings is better known for his prowess at the plate, than he is for his success on the mound. He went 8-8 with a 4.30 ERA for the D'backs in 2007 and then 6-9 with a 5.93 ERA last year. The team was 21-24 in his starts for the two years, which included a 7-11 mark last year when the D'backs won his first four starts but then went 3-11 after that. The slump caused his trade to the Reds near the end of last season, although he didn't pitch for Cincinnati. He did however, make a few appearances at the plate. His totals for the 2007 and 2008 seasons combined read like this, 116 ABs with a .319 BA, five HRs and 21 RBI. In 24 ABs this year, he's batting .292 with one HR and four RBI. His mound work is about the same, as he's 3-5 with 4.70 ERA in eight appearances. The Astros should get to Owings but the really good news for Houston is that Roy Oswalt 'OWNS' the Reds. It's not been a good year for Oswalt in 2009, as he owns just one win on the season. He's got only two losses, with six no-decisions plus a suspended game in 10 starts. One could point out that Oswalt hasn't lost in eight consecutive starts (since April 11) but in fairness, he hasn't been the "Oswalt of old." Here's a guy who will take a career 130-66 (.663) mark into this game, with a 3.17 ERA. He's 1-2 with a 4.47 ERA in 2009, allowing 61 hits in 56.1 innings. However, when it comes to facing the Reds, Oswalt is a remarkable 23-1 with a 2.35 ERA. His lone loss to the Reds came back on April 28, 2006 and in 10 starts against them since, he's 8-0. The only two games he didn't win in that span did come this season, though it should be noted that Oswalt has allowed just one ER over 13 innings in those two games. On April 17 in Houston, the Astros led 1-0 in the ninth but Cincy's Ramon Hernandez hit a two-run HR which barely cleared the fence in right field, giving the Reds a 2-1 win (and 'stealing' a win from Oswalt). Then 10 days later here in Cincy, Oswalt allowed just one run in seven innings, leaving with the game tied 1-1. However, this time it was the Astros who won it in the ninth, scoring three times for a 4-1 win (another no-decision for Oswalt). The 2009 season has been a struggle for Oswalt but the Reds always "bring out the best in him" plus Houston should give him plenty of run support against Owings.
Pitching Mismatch on the Astros
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MLB Underdog Card
#901 - MLB - 3 units on Florida +137
#913 - MLB - 3 units on San Diego +146
#922 - MLB - 3 units on Texas +110
#924 - MLB - 3 units on Minnesota +105
#925 - MLB - 3 units on Detroit +145
#929 - MLB - 3 units on Seattle +130
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Baseball’s Best Bets
Houston Astros (-120) over Cincinnati Reds
I avoided touting Jamie Moyer’s domination of the Marlins yesterday and that dodged a loss. However, I can’t avoid Roy Oswalt’s 23-1 lifetime record and 2.35 ERA against the Reds. Factor in his 7-1 record and 3.02 ERA in 9 starts at Great American Ballpark and you have to like the Astros chances.
San Francisco Giants (-167) over Atlanta Braves
Tim Lincecum is 4-0 with a 2.70 ERA in 4 starts against the Braves. Even if he finally slips against Atlanta, the Braves send Kris Medlen out with his 15.00 ERA and 2.68 WHIP. Add in Lincecum’s batting line of .200/.286/.327 against current Braves and that has to help your confidence when considering the Giants. Don’t be surprised if you have to hold your breath with the Giants bullpen but it is possible that the Braves bullpen can “save” the Giants if they are behind late, too.
Seattle Mariners (+130) over Oakland Athletics
The Mariners are 10-4 vs. LH starters while the Athletics are 5-11 vs. the same. Jarrod Washburn has proven to be tough against current Athletics (.195/.277/.341 batting line in 185 PAs) even though his record against Oakland (8-15, 4.01 ERA) is not anything to sing about. Dallas Braden has had his troubles against the Mariners in very limited innings but enough to cause concern. Don’t expect this one to be high scoring — A’s games rarely are — and if the game goes to the bullpen, I’m more confident in the Athletics. Not enough to let me pass up the Mariners as an underdog against a lefty.
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4* New York Yankees (Chamberlain)-120 over TEXAS RANGERS (Millwood)
We believe the gap between the Yankees and Rangers long-term is much wider than what is being priced here, and the numbers do not truly reflect the abilities of Joba Chamberlain and Kevin Millwood. That gives us a chance to back the superior team at a short price, and we will not hesitate to do it. As pretty as that 26-18 Texas opening to the season appears, note that the Rangers have only played 10 games outside of the A.L. West against teams that currently sport winning records. They went 1-9 in those games, getting out-scored by a collective 37 runs. They are improved, but still have holes galore, with some of those coming on offense right now, where Ian Kinsler is in one of the worst slumps of his career; Josh Hamilton is fighting to get his timing back; and Chris Davis simply looks over-matched right now, despite playing at a key position where they need his offense. And we see Kevin Millwood as being particularly vulnerable here. Ron Washington stretched him out to 121 pitches in his last outing, the second time in five starts he has reached that plateau. We were going to track the last time he had reached 120 pitches in a start, but stopped once we went through the 2004 season. You simply do not take a guy that is not accustomed to that workload and begin establishing new plateaus this late in his career, and note that off of the first 121 he was cuffed around for five runs in 7.1 innings by a weak Seattle offense in the next outing, allowing home runs to Russell Branyan and Franklin Gutierrez. Against a patient Yankee lineup that makes opposing starters work deeply into counts, this can be an awful spot for Millwood. Meanwhile Chamberlain brings more freshness to the mound than usual, leaving early after being hit by a line drive vs. Baltimore last week, but he has been given a clean bill of health (his words ?I?m, 100 percent confident?). He has worked to a sparkling 2-0/2.22 on the road this season, with a 0.93 WHIP, and his full season 3.70 allowance can not reflect the fact that of the 122 pitches that have worked at least 40 innings this season his difficulty of batters faced checks in at #7. And with that outstanding effort from Phil Hughes here on Monday night, there is not a single fatigue rating anywhere in the bullpen, leaving the latter innings in good hands.
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I'm playing on Orlando and Cleveland to finish UNDER the total. Despite a staggering number (86!) of free throws, Game 3 still snuck below the total. If not for all the free throws, that game was actually extremely low-scoring. However, with the clock stopping all the time and all the "free" points, the final score of 99-89 was much higher than it would have been otherwise. That result was perfect, as it has helped to keep tonight's total generously high, giving us plenty of room to work with. If that game had finished with 170 points, as it easily could have, tonight's over/under would have been a few points lower. Naturally, there will still be numerous trips to the free throw line. That said, I don't expect there to be nearly as many as there were last game. With so much on the line, I do expect another defensive affair though. Including Friday's (Game 2) result, the Magic have now seen the 'over' go 25-24-1 on the road. However, the games here at Orlando have been a different story. Including Sunday's (Game 3) result, the UNDER is now a profitable 31-16-1 in games played here. Looking back further and we find the UNDER at 83-51-3 here the past few seasons. Additionally, the Cavs have now seen each of their five playoff road games finish below the number. While Sunday's game finished with 188, the other four games finished with combined scores of just 158, 179, 177 and 147. As noted, the Cavs have seen their previous two Game 4's (99-78 and 84-74) finish below the total. The situation for those games was entirely different though, as they were up 3-0, instead of down 2-1. However, the Magic have been here before, as both their previous Game 4's were very important. They were down 2-1 to Philadelphia and up 2-1 against Boston. Both of those games stayed below the total with scores of 84-81 and 95-94. Look for this evening's game to also prove lower-scoring than many are expecting with the UNDER improving to 11-6 the last 17 times that the Cavs were trailing in a playoff series. *Best Bet
NL West GOM
I'm laying the price with COLORADO. While I lost with the Rockies yesterday, I'm willing to give them another shot today. It's still only May but if the Rockies want to keep their playoff hopes even faintly alive, they desperately needing to avoid falling further behind in the NL West standings. They've also got 'payback' on their minds. Not only have the Dodgers had their way with them this season but they embarrassed them by double-digits yesterday. With Aaron Cook matched up against Eric Milton, I expect a completely different result. When he's on his game, Cook can be dominant. That was the case in his last game, as he tossed a complete game 4-hit shutout. After that game, Colorado catcher Chris Iannetta commented: "I didn't need to show up today...It was the best sinker I've seen this year." Opposing catcher Brian McCann was also impressed. He was quoted as saying: "When he's got that sinker with that late movement, it's every bit as good as it gets in this game..." The recent shutout came on the road (at Florida) but Cook has also been very solid at home, going 2-0 with a 3.60 ERA in four starts. In his last game here, he allowed just four hits and one earned run through six complete innings. Note that Cook is 2-1 with a stellar 2.94 ERA in his last five starts against the Dodgers. Milton goes for the Dodgers and he's only made one start since being called up from Triple-AAA. He pitched only four innings and walked four batters. He didn't receive the decision but the Dodgers lost by a score of 6-3. His previous start had come back in May of 2007, when he was with the Reds. Including the loss vs. Florida, Milton's teams are now 0-8 his last eight starts and 1-10 his last 11. I expect Cook to follow up his recent gem with another quality effort and look for the Rockies to bounce back and even up the series. *NL West GOM
I'm playing on Pittsburgh and Carolina to finish UNDER the total. Even Carolina fans probably acknowledged that the Penguins had the overall talent advantage in this series. In order to win, or least compete, the Hurricanes were going to need to outwork the Penguins, while also getting better goaltending. Star goalie Cam Ward hasn't been able to steal any games though and the Canes find themselves down 0-3. Recent results notwithstanding, Ward is an excellent goalie. I still believe he's got one "gem" left in him and I expect him to be on top of his game this evening. Ward was quoted as saying: "We're only done if we think we're done..." Carolina's other problem, however, is that the Pittsburgh defense and goaltending is also a lot better than most people realize. Indeed, Carolina's top scorer (Staal) hasn't even scored a goal yet this series. Because of the high-scoring results (6-2 and 7-4) in the second and third games, we're getting a generous line with the 'under' 5.5 goals. Currently the line is +105 at several shops and +100 at others. Considering that 13 of Carolina's last 18 (72%) games (including Game 1 of this series) have produced five combined goals or less, I feel that provides us with excellent line value. Note that the UNDER is still 8-4-1 the last 13 times that these teams faced each other. The fact that there has been two day's off in between games (last game was on Saturday) should work in our favor. The Penguins have seen the UNDER go 32-19-5 (63%) the last few seasons, when playing with two day's rest in between games. During the same stretch, the Canes have seen the UNDER go an even better 31-14-3 (69%) when playing with two day's rest in between games. I expect those stats to improve this evening. *TOM
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10 Dime - San Francisco -1.5
The Run Line must be your friend if you love betting baseball.
Back when I started betting baseball in the early 80's, I never bothered with the Run Line. It wasn't necessary because you rarely had big numbers. Sure, when Doc Gooden or the Big Unit or The Rocket were in their prime and their teams were winning, you would get numbers around 220 to 260, but those big prices were reserved for those name pitchers generally. But expansion, steroids, juiced balls, smaller ballparks, and lousy pitching changed the betting dynamics in the mid-to-late 90's. Suddenly you had nobodies laying -200, and that trend continues today as you'll find an average No. 3 or No. 4 starter at home pitching for a team on a modest winning streak suddenly laying -180 or more.
As you know, -160 is my personal cap; plus, you don't need any handicapper telling you to bet on heavy favorites anyway. In reality, I rarely go over -150. But over the past decade, I've fallen in love with Run Line releases. It's a great way to back heavy favorites, who are favorites because they should win in the first place. And as offense has dominated the sport, you don't find that many great two-sided pitching duels so laying 1 1/2 runs is more often than not a wise investment strategy. Thus is the case with tonight's play on San Francisco.
The Giants, who had dropped eight of nine, won for the second time in three games against Atlanta with yesterday's 8-2 rout. Tonight they send Tim Lincecum to the mound and all he's done in his brief career is simply dominate the Braves, winning all four of his prior starts against them, averaging a strikeout per inning en route to compiling a 2.70 ERA.
Lincecum bounced back nicely from a horrific start against the Mets on May 15 with a strong effort against San Diego last Thursday, holding the Padres to one run and four hits while fanning 10 batters.
Atlanta gives Kris Medlen his second major league start. His first wasn't too successful as the 23-year-old righthander, who had been 5-0 with a 1.19 ERA in Triple-A, allowed five runs in three innings of a loss at home versus Colorado, a game which also featured five walks, one balk, two wild pitches and one hit batter.
As I post this play this morning, I see San Francisco is already approaching 180 on the moneyline. But on the Run Line, it's a different story as I'm actually getting the Giants as an underdog since I'm willing to lay the 1 1/2 runs. A risky proposition? I think not because of the pitching mismatch as I'm counting on Lincecum to hold the Braves in check, as he has throughout his career, while San Francisco's weak line-up does just enough damage against Atlanta's rookie starter.