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Free Picks: Service Plays for Wednesday, April 3

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Jack JonesFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Charlotte Bobcats +5½FOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Neither the Philadelphia 76ers nor the Charlotte Bobcats have anything to play for the rest of the way. With that in mind, you have to try and find reasons for both teams to be motivated heading into their game Wednesday night.
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While Philadelphia will have a hard time getting motivated to face a team that it just beat 100-92 at home on Saturday, March 30th, Charlotte will be out for revenge as it gets its chance at payback just four days later.
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The Bobcats have been playing their best basketball of the season at home of late. The are 3-1 SU & 3-1 ATS in their last three home games overall with their only loss coming by a single point in a 91-92 setback against Detroit.
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Philadelphia is just 8-26 on the road this season where it is only scoring 91.2 points/game. The Bobcats are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 home games vs. a team with a road winning % of less than .400. Bet Charlotte Wednesday.

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Chicago White Sox -135FOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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The White Sox are showing great value as a small home favorite this afternoon against the Royals. Chicago's Jake Peavy is being extremely undervalued due to his 11-12 record in 2012. His 3.37 ERA was the 9th best mark in the AL, which clearly shows he was much better than his record would indicate. I'll gladly take my chances at this price against the Royals Ervin Santana, who is just 5-5 with a 4.36 ERA in 15 career starts against the White Sox. There's a lot of hype surrounding this Royals team early in the season, as many projected Kansas City to finish 2nd in the AL Central behind the Tigers. That definitely isn't sitting well with Chicago, who gave the division away to Detroit in the final month of the season.

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Kansas City/CHICAGO over 7½ -103 over .
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U.S. Cellular Field is a tightly-packed park that is good for power hitters. The 330 and 335 corners in left and right are common enough but the 375 power alleys and 400 foot center field fence receive nice boosts from prevailing winds and no wall in the park is higher than eight feet. Narrow foul areas also work to help hitters remain in the game. It’s no secret that this is a hitter’s park and that’s especially troubling for Earvin Santana. Pitchers that give up two home runs per game don't last long. Those bombs plus poor command caused a first half mess. Santana’s control returned in the second half, giving hitters even juicier pitches, resulting in a nearly identical mess. Santana’s fly-ball/ground-ball rate in in the second last season was 40%/40%. That’s reason for more concern and an eye-opening 19% of those left the yard.
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Jake Peavy is a reliable starter with solid skills. He posted a 3.10 ERA at The Cell last season and even if he duplicates that here, this one is still likely to go over. What’s even more interesting is that he went 0-3 against the Royals last year with a 5.68 ERA. Current Royals have 55 hits in 177 career AB’s (.322) against Peavy with a .474 slugging percentage and a .836 on-base percentage. The posted total in the opener with Chris Sale and James Shields starting was 7. Yeah, the final was 1-0 but this is a new day with different pitchers and the posted total is a half run more with at least one pitcher that is on a serious decline and another one with a poor history against the opponent. It’s also worth noting that Peavy threw just eight innings this spring and allowed 12 hits and seven runs for an ERA of 7.88.
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Chicago +120 over PITTSBURGHFREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Wandy Rodriguez seems like a pretty steady 3.50-3.75 ERA, 1.25-1.30 WHIP target. He has been right around those levels for each of the last five seasons. That said, there are reasons to be concerned. His strikeout rate has trended the wrong way for five seasons running. His swinging strike rate the last four years has also declined from 9.2% to 8.8% to 8.5% and to 7.0% last year. One should never ignore a skills decline over a lengthy period and that’s precisely what we see with Rodriguez. There's significant downside here and it’s worth noting that Rodriguez threw just five innings the entire spring, making him a prime fade candidate.
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Edwin Jackson is healthy and ready to go. He had a productive spring, throwing 24 innings while striking out 20 batters and walking just six. His ERA in the spring was 5.25 but don’t put too much weight on that, as he was experimenting with some new pitches. For the most part he looked strong and sharp. Jackson has been consistently good for years. His low win total from last season was the result of poor run support. Jackson’s skills in the second half were elite with a 51% ground-ball rate and the best strikeout and walk rates of his career. Jackson’s 12.2% swinging strike rate was among the MLB elite in 2012 and it increased by 2.9% vs. 2011. Jackson is just 29 years old and has the goods to duplicate the 3.62 ERA, 1.26 WHIP breakout season he had in 2009.
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Baltimore +126 over TAMPA BAYFREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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The Rays have been contenders for years, parlaying some outstanding scouting, a strong pitching staff and the will to win into three playoff appearances in the past five seasons. They have the pitching once again to compete but you simply can’t keep losing high end talent and expect positive results every year. The Rays were 11th in runs scored, 13th in hits, 12th in batting average and 11th in slugging percentage among American League teams last season. Now they’re without B.J. Upton, who went off for 51 home runs, 159 runs batted in and 67 stolen bases in the last two years. Jeremy Hellickson is considered to be one of the cornerstones of the Rays staff but we’re not buyers. For the second straight season, Hellickson flipped average skills into a stellar final product, out-pitching his xERA by more than a run. Hellickson’s groundball/line-drive/fly-ball rate over the past two years has been a pedestrian 39%/20%/41%. Those are similar numbers to some pitchers that keep getting sent back down to the minors. Hellickson has become adept at disaster avoidance with a very lucky 82% strand rate over his last 50 starts covering nearly two years. We may be missing something here because luck usually doesn’t hold out for this long but we are suggesting that he’s overvalued again and some regression is forthcoming. You simply can’t keep outpitching your xERA.
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The Orioles opening day bashing of David Price gives us plenty of optimism that this team was no fluke last year.  Wei-Yin Chen is a workhorse that didn't miss a beat in his transition from Japan to the U.S. There were a lot of interesting baseball stories coming out of Baltimore last year but the quiet breakout performance of Wei-Yin Chen is one that continues to fly under the radar. Chen's numbers in Japan suggested he would be a finesse lefty with low MLB upside but he proved to be a sturdy anchor in the Orioles rotation during their improbable pennant chase and subsequent appearance in the playoffs. Chen demonstrated solid skills all season but his control, strikeout rate and command all dramatically improved across the board in the second half. It must be noted that Chen never fanned hitters at this rate in Japan, but unlike other products of the JPL, his strong command of the strike zone has translated quite well to MLB action. Chen's ability to continue to miss bats will be critical to his long term value but right now he looks like one of the breakout sleepers of the 2012 season and we’ll ride him unless he shows us something different.
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St. Louis +104 over ARIZONAFREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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The Cardinals rebounded from an ugly opening day loss with a solid 6-1 victory last night. We now get the benefit of a bad line in our favor. A scary line drive off Brandon McCarthy’s head ended his season in September but the shoulder problem that put him on the DL in June is the long-term worry. His control is elite, but MacCarthy doesn't miss many bats and a lucky first half strand % helped mask his xERA issues. In addition, his GB% dipped from 43% in the first half to 35% in the second half. Moving from Oakland to the unforgiving confines of Chase Field could cause gopheritis to be a problem for him again. McCarthy has been a reliable profit producer during the last two seasons, posting a sub-3.50 ERA and sub-1.25 WHIP in both of them. Problem is, his 2012 skills didn't support that level of production. McCarthy can thank the Oakland Coliseum for that but for a pitcher that puts the ball in play, he won’t be thanking Chase Field when he sees his outfielders chasing balls in the gap all night long. McCarthy is serious fade material. Take advantage now.
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Lance Lynn transitioned from relief to rotation without a hitch. A 6+ ERA and 1.91 WHIP in August might leave a bad taste but it’s not a concern. Lynn rebounded with elite September. His strikeout rate and good command trends confirm that there's plenty more growth on the horizon. With consistency, addition of a third pitch and a 49% groundball rate, Lynn looks legit as a starter. Life is good when you can take back a tag with Lynn against McCarthy. When you look deep into the numbers, it suggests this is a pitching mismatch and it’s not in Arizona’s favor.
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San Francisco/LOS ANGELES over 7 +102FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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7 is commonly a total you see when guys like Felix Hernandez, Stephen Strasburg and Clayton Kershaw are pitching. To match the total of 7 when those guys are throwing to the two stiffs throwing here is something we can take full advantage of. It’s a bad number, pure and simple. The Dodgers spent loads of cash between August of last season and the beginning of this year and part of their spending included the $34M Josh Beckett is owed over the next two seasons. You can be excused if you just choked on your yogurt. Beckett went 7-14 last season with an ERA of 4.65. His paltry win total was not a case of bad luck either, as Beckett’s health and skills has been on a steady decline for years. Beckett finished the spring with a 7.79 ERA and five home runs allowed in 17.1 innings His base skills support a very mild rebound and even that’s a bit of a leap considering he’s a year older and has more miles on his arm.
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Then there’s Tim Lincecum. Lincecum's 2012 metamorphosis from elite ace to a struggling back-of-the-rotation starter was sudden and somewhat puzzling but sometimes pitchers lose it and never get it back. Lincecum has showed us nothing that suggests a return to form. Lincecum's rising walk rate finally caught up to him in 2012. Putting more runners on base than usual was the start of his troubles. Batters certainly got better looks at Lincecum in two related ways. First, a high BAA (batting average against) was not the result of a wacky hit rate; second, his average fastball velocity dipped from 92.2 in 2011 to 90.4 in 2012. Lincecum’s spring puts even more doubt in our minds. In his final spring start, Lincecum surrendered five earned runs on five hits and a walk in 4.2 innings against the A's. However, the ugly day actually lowered his spring ERA to 10.57 through 15.1 frames. Chances are one or both of these starters will get lit up here. Of course Dodger Stadium has a way of making bad pitchers look good but both are going to have to be good to keep this one under and the racing form suggests that’s highly unlikely.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Wednesday, April 3

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Braves -125 over Phillies
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It is not secret that the Phillies struggled with runs last year and were especially bad against left handed pitching. I think they will be a better offensive team this year due to the fact there is no way they can possibly get him with the injury bug as much as they did last year. My concern is with superstar pitcher Roy Halladay. Halladay struggled dating back to last year and has been pretty bad this spring. Sometimes its hard to admit it, but golden days pass us all over. He is 36 years old and clearly he is on the backend of a marvelous career. Don’t get me wrong at all, he still is a fantastic pitcher, but just not as scary. Atlanta is great at home and very good against right handed pitching. The Braves also have the better bullpen and I expect them to take this game tonight. Take Atlanta.
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Sixers -4 over BobcatsFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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The Sixers have dominated the Bobcats who are the worst team in the NBA and who just cant stay healthy. Philadelphia is playing with a purpose right now. If they could have won at least half their road games this year this would be a playoff team. This Sixers team is a lot more advanced in their scheme compared to Charlotte who is just as bad as they come. The Sixers have a slim outside chance of making the playoffs, but would need a lot of help. They are looking for their first 4 game win streak of the year and what better or a team to be playing to try to accomplish that. Take Philly.

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Kansas City at Chicago White SoxFREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
Pick: Kansas City +125FOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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The Chicago White Sox took a chance on oft injured Jake Peavy, with modest success. Peavy did well for awhile, but in the end he showed why he has become a journeyman pitcher. The Sox went 6-14 over his last 20 starts. One team that got a good look at him in those 20 games was Kansas City. The Royals pounded him, winning all three games he faced them. The total was 12 runs in 19 innings of work. The Royals will go with Ervin Santana, who has won 28 games over the last two seasons. Santana has a winning record against the White Sox in his career, while Peavy is just 4-7 vs. the Royals with an ERA of 4.85. Play the dog, and go with KC.

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Bruce MarshallFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Memphis vs. PortlandFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
Pick: MemphisFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Portland appears to be running low on petrol and has looked tired in the past couple of weeks, just as the Blazers did before the All-Star break when their depth problems last surfaced. With a thin bench to begin with, Blazers have been susceptible to wear-and-tear issues, and recent absence of star F LaMarcus Aldridge (ankle and doubtful for this one vs. Memphis) has proven especially harmful as Portland had lost and failed to cover four on the trot heading into Utah on Monday, with all of those defeats by DDs and loss margin a whopping 18.7 ppg.   Blazers also allowing a hefty 111 ppg during recent slump, suggesting that defensive effort is not there for HC Terry Stotts’ troops, either.  We can usually count on some “D” from Memphis side that has buttered its bread on the stop end all season (allowing mere 90 ppg, behind only Indiana in scoring defense) and is still jockeying with Denver and the Clippers for improved playoff seeding and desired homecourt edge in first-round postseason action.  Earlier three meetings all competitive, with Blazers even winning as a 9-point dog at FedEx Forum back on Jan. 4, but Grizzlies won two subsequent clashes, including a 102-97 decision on March 12 at Rose Garden when Memphis shot 51.3% from floor and survived 28-point onslaught by now-hurting Aldridge.

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Larry NessFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Philadelphia vs. AtlantaFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
Pick: AtlantaFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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The Philadelphia Phillies are hoping Roy Halladay will rebound in 2013, off one of his worst seasons. I, for one, am NOT optimistic. Halladay goes for career win No. 200 on Wednesday night in Atlanta with the Braves trying to build off an impressive season-opening victory. Freddie Freeman, Dan Uggla and newcomer Justin Upton all homered in the Braves' 7-5 victory Monday, as Atlanta picked up where it left off in spring training, during which it hit a major league-best 49 HRs. Major questions abound over how Halladay will perform in 2013, after he went 11-8 with a 4.49 ERA in 2012 over just 25 starts (team was 14-11), while  missing seven weeks with a strained right lat muscle.
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Paul Maholm will go for the Braves, coming off a 13-11 season (3.67) in which he went 4-5 with a 3.54 ERA in 11 starts after being acquired from the Chicago Cubs on July 30. Maholm will a Philly lineup which was just 8-17 on the road last year vs lefties, including 4-10 in night games, where the Phils averaged a woeful 2.5 RPG.
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Halladay is off a rough spring training in which he posted a 6.06 ERA in six outings plus is 0-3 with a 7.44 ERA in his last six starts against Atlanta, including going 0-2 with an 11.21 ERA versus the Braves last year (Phils were 1-2). I NEVER though I'd say this but I'm taking Maholm over Halladay!

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SPORTS WAGERSFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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ANAHEIM -1½ +165 over DallasFREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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The Stars have traded away the present for the future and by the time the puck drops tonight, a couple more players may be on the move, leaving this intruder with even more holes. Over the past several days, Dallas has dealt Derek Roy, Jaromir Jagr and Brenden Morrow for several young players and draft picks but that’s not going to help them tonight. In some disarray and having to deal without some monster NHL presence in the locker room, this is not the right time to bet on the Stars. Dallas has dropped three of its last four games while allowing 17 goals over that span. One also has to wonder what state of mind the players will be in. 
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The Ducks have lost three straight at home and five of their past seven games overall so they figure to be in a foul mood here. The Ducks will have no sympathy for the Stars. The Ducks have a huge edge in every department. Sheldon Souray, said to have been done a couple years ago, leads all NHL defensemen with a plus-25 rating. Offensively, these Ducks can bury an unprepared group and Dallas does not figure to be well-prepared for this one. Said Bobby Ryan,” This is an opportunity for us to really try and bury a division rival. ... I don't think you want to let Dallas off the hook." Off three straight home losses we have to agree with Ryan and therefore we’ll take our chances laying 1½ pucks with a juicy return. 
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Minnesota +120 over SAN JOSEFREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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OT included. This isn’t about fading the Sharks, although we’re still not convinced that they’re among the elite teams in the league. San Jose has an incredible record at HP Pavilion but they will now play the dreaded fifth straight game at home. Playing at home for an extended period has never been beneficial, as players don’t “hang around together” after practice like they do on the road and the togetherness is said to suffer. Regardless, the Sharks are just not good enough to maintain this current pace at home. They’re coming off four home wins over Anaheim Detroit, Phoenix and Vancouver and five straight victories overall.
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The Wild have dropped two of their past three but so what. Minnesota has still won 15 of its past 21 games and they figure to push a little extra here in order to get back on track. Offensively, no team in the NHL has scored more goals over the past 21-game stretch than the Wild. This visitor is more than capable of defeating the Sharks on any given night. With a nice take-back on still one of the hottest clubs in the league, and when we see that the Sharks were just -125 over Vancouver and just -108 over Anaheim, it confirms to us that the Wild are still undervalued.

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Teddy CoversFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Colorado vs. MilwaukeeFREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
Pick: OverFREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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The roof will be closed at Miller Park again tonight – there’s no need to worry about the gametime temperatures hovering around the freezing mark.  And if we’re not worried about cold weather deflating production, this game has all the makings of another high scoring slugfest in a series that has already seen the first two games fly Over the total!
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Colorado’s totals are still somewhat deflated following their anemic level of offensive production for most of the season last year.  But last year’s team was an injury riddled mess.  This year’s team has a healthy Troy Tulowitzki, a healthy Carlos Gonzalez and a healthy and rejuvenated Todd Helton, all three of whom were essentially non-factors for this team last year.
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Rockies manager Walt Weiss, following last night’s eight run outburst: “We really had some good at-bats tonight. We did a little bit of everything out there. I know that if the game is close, our offense will do something. Tulowitzki looks great.  Having him and Carlos in the three and four hole is very nice.”  Gonzalez, after homering in each of his first two games: “So far, I feel really good at the plate and it is paying off.”
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The Brewers, too, have a high octane lineup poised to beat up mediocre opposing pitchers.  Key middle of the order bats Ricky Weeks and Aramis Ramirez are both hitting better than .400 through two games, and former MVP Ryan Braun is just one of six different Brewers to drive in a run already.
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Even if the starters excel today, neither bullpen is the slightest bit trustworthy.  The Rockies bullpen blew the save opportunity on Monday and took the loss in extra innings.  The Brewers bullpen blew the save opportunity on Monday and took the loss yesterday.  And neither pen is fresh already, combining for 8.2 innings of work last night following eight innings of work on Monday.  Put it all together and you can understand why the sharp money has been pouring in on the Over in early betting action today.  Take the Over.

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Jeff AlexanderFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Pittsburgh Pirates -130FOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Cubs took the series opener but are 0-4 in their last 4 following a win and 11-41 in their last 52 in the 2nd game of a series. They are also 18-48 in their last 66 road games, 17-46 in their last 63 games as a road underdog and 11-31 in their last 42 road games versus a left-handed starter. Look for the Cubs to struggle against Wandy Rodriguez, who went 2-1 with a 2.25 ERA in three starts versus them last season and went 1-0 with a 0.96 ERA in two starts for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic.

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Dave PriceFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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LA Dodgers -122FOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Tim Lincecum has been solid throughout his career against the Dodgers, but he's yet to see an LA lineup this stacked. Plus, he was awful in the preseason, going 0-3 with a 10.57 ERA in 5 starts. Josh Beckett struggled in spring training as well but was sharper than Lincecum. Plus, San Francisco's hitters are a lot less familiar with the stuff of the long time Red Sock. The Giants were only 4-12 in Lincecum's first 16 starts a year ago as it took him a long time to get anything going. Beckett typically gets out of the gate hot, especially at home. In fact, his teams are 23-5 all-time in his April home starts. Take the Dodgers.

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Vegas Connection

Brooklyn Nets at Cleveland Cavaliers
Pick: Brooklyn Nets

Brooklyn in nice spot the 4th seed after somewhat diappointing spot in Jan which they fired their coach. Cavs pretty much have packed it in at 1-9 in their last 10. Nets just laying 3 baskets can cover in a blink of an eye. Take Brooklyn

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Craig Davis

Gave you a comp play winner on Iowa over Maryland last night.

Wednesday's comp play is the Utah Jazz at home over the Denver Nuggets.

It's hard to go against the Denver Nuggets right now, as well as they've been playing of late. But the Jazz, in the midst of a heated playoff run with the Lakers and Mavericks, need this win more than ever... and they're playing at home where they are nearly unbeatable.

It's hard to go against the best teams in the league when they are playing in a near pick 'em game, but the Nuggets have lost three straight and 11 of their last 14 games in Utah... a fact that's impossible to ignore.

The Jazz are even with the Lakers for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, and played really well in their last two games vs. Brooklyn and Portland. Al Jefferson scored 24 and grabbed 10 boards in their most recent win over the Blazers... who are also trying to position themselves for the playoffs.

Utah has won each of its last five games by 10 or more points and now sit at 28-9 at home... one of the best home records in the entire league. But these are the Nuggets and Utah is going to have to bring their A-game if they want to pull a 1/2 game in front of the Lakers... who used the referees (again) to beat Dallas last night.

Denver had lost two straight, both on the road, after winning 15 in a row, but then got back to their winning ways in their Friday game vs. Brooklyn, 109-87.

PG Ty Lawson is doubtful against the Jazz tonight and didn't play against the Nets, missing four of the last five games the Nuggets have played in.

Too much at stake for the Jazz here tonight... they get the win by seven.

2♦ UTAH

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Wednesday, April 3

Jeff Benton

Now a 27-14 freebie run.

Wednesday night freebie is the Under in the Giants-Dodgers series finale.

On Monday it was the Dodgers blanking the Giants by a 4-0 count.

Last night the Giants returned the favor, blanking the Dodgers by a 3-0 count.

Tonight another low-scoring affair as Tim Linceum and Josh Beckett will match pitches.

Lincecum is looking to bounce-back after his worst season in the majors last year relegated him to the bullpen come the postseason. It should be noted that Lincecum did go 2-0 with an under 2 ERA in his final 3 starts versus the Dodgers last season.

Beckett meanwhile went 2-3 in his 7 starts with Los Angeles last year, and did post a respectable 2.93 ERA in those efforts.

The runs have been at a premium through the first two games, no reason to think tonight we see the offense bust out.

Take the Giants and Dodgers to hold Under the total at Dodger Stadium tonight.

3♦ SAN FRANCISCO-LOS ANGELES UNDER

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Wednesday, April 3

Brett Atkins

My free play for Wednesday night is going to be on the Over on the Milwaukee/Colorado game, as I see these two getting into slugfest based on the pitchers going for both these teams.

A pair of righties are toeing the slab, with the Rockies handing the ball to Juan Nicasio and Milwaukee turns to Wily Peralta. And as far as I can see, neither bring anything major to brag about to the mound, and have question marks coming into this season.

Nicasio made a mere 11 starts last season, three less than the 14 he made in 2011 due to injuries. And going into Milwaukee, I just don't know what kind of stuff he'll have on his delivery. He's never been one to have confidence in his change, and until he develops that, he's going to get caught making mistakes with his heater and slider.

Piralta, meanwhile, comes in after a rough spring, during which he had a 5.74 ERA in four games. Lifetime against Colorado, he has a 9.00 ERA.

And with the Over cashing in the last four meetings, I'd say it's safe to play this one high.

2♦ OVER Rockies/Brewers

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Wednesday, April 3

Ian Cameron

Philadelphia at Atlanta
Play: Atlanta

I’m determined to fade Roy Halladay tonight as he takes to the hill for the first time this season against the Atlanta Braves. Halladay has been one of the best pitchers in MLB for the better part of the last decade but he struggled in the second half of last season showing signs that maybe he is starting to move past the prime of his career. Halladay allowed 3+ runs in each of his last four starts in the 2012 season and things got even worse for Halladay this spring.

The Phillies ace endured a difficult March in which his fastball struggled to get into the high 80's. He suffered a stomach virus too which took away much of his strength. This of course is all coming off a season where Halladay posted his highest ERA (4.49) since 2001. I'm not sold on him coming out of the gate strong tonight against Atlanta who have hit him hard in recent starts. Halladay allowed 3, 4 and 8 runs in his three starts against the Braves here at Turner Field last season. Halladay owned a dreadful 11.21 ERA against Atlanta in 2012 and the Braves lineup looked very potent in their season opening 7-5 win against the Phillies on Monday night.

Paul Maholm has had his share of inconsistencies throughout his career but I’m willing to trust him more than Halladay. Maholm had a terrific spring going 4-1 with a 1.53 ERA in 29.1 innings of work. Philadelphia’s lineup doesn’t match up as well against lefties as it does against right-handed starters and if Maholm is able to exit the game with a lead, which is what I expect to see tonight, the Braves bullpen, particularly at the back end, is far more trustworthy to close out a game than the Phillies. Atlanta closer Craig Kimbrel was razor sharp in notching his first save of the season in Atlanta’s win on Monday night. The Braves seem to have the edge tonight in starting pitching, lineup, and bullpen which puts us on the moderate sized home favorite.

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