Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday, April 18

Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday, April 18

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N.Y. Islanders +115 over TORONTOFREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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OT included. The Islanders are 9-1-2 over their past 12 games. Their one regulation loss over that span came in Pittsburgh by a score of 2-0 in a game they outshot the Pens, 35-27. In a 1-0 OT loss to the Rangers last Saturday, the Isles dominated play but ran into a super-hot Henrik Lundqvist. They followed that loss up with a 5-2 win over the Panthers.  Evgeni Nabokov has yielded two goals or fewer in eight straight starts and just one in each of his last three outside Uniondale.  The Islanders are 6-1-1 in their last eight away from home and own one of the league's best road records at 12-5-2. The Isles are headed for the playoffs and they have shown a determination unlike any Islander team in recent memory. Every aspect of the Islanders game, from offense to defense to goaltending to special teams are all in top form. Taking back a price adds to their appeal.
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The Maple Leafs are close to clinching but their form the past few games is somewhat concerning. Coming off back-to-back contests against New Jersey and Washington, the Maple Leafs created few scoring chances. After two periods against the Devils this past Monday, Toronto had five shots on net. Coming off a couple of lackluster performances, the Leafs figure to be better tonight, as they have not had many poor efforts the entire year. However, the Islanders are in much better form than the Maple Leafs and are playing too well to ignore.
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Washington +102 over OTTAWAFREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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OT included. Speaking of hot teams, one need not look further than these Capitals. Outside of the Blackhawks, Washington has been the NHL’s best team since the beginning of March. In fact, since March 2, a span of 24 games, the Capitals are 17-7. They are currently on a winning streak of eight games and they’ve scored four goals or more in seven of their past 10. The Caps are also getting outstanding goaltending from Braden Holtby, their power-play ranks tops in the league and on defense they give up very little.
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The Sens continue to defy the odds. After a five game losing streak, Ottawa responded with three straight wins, the latest a 3-2 home victory over Carolina. The win over the ‘Canes occurred in the Sens first game back after a tough six-game trip. This is their second game back and chances are the effects will be felt. Ottawa has scored two goals or fewer in six of its past eight games. They also have recent losses to Tampa Bay, Florida and Buffalo and they are the last team to lose to the Devils. The Sens remain a tough out because of their heart and determination but they are about to face a club that has as much heart and determination as they do. Being in a better spot and playing outstanding two-way hockey, the Capitals are well-suited to extend their winning streak to nine here.
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DALLAS +126 over VancouverFREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Regulation only. Difficult spot for the Canucks here in that they will conclude a tough, five-game trip that started in Calgary and was followed by games at Colorado, Nashville and St. Louis. Following tonight’s game, Vancouver returns home to play Detroit and Chicago and could certainly be a little flat tonight. Also consider that Kevin Bieska is on the rack and that makes this assignment a little more difficult. The Canucks have picked up points in seven of their past eight games. They are four points up on Minnesota for first place in the Northwest Division so there is no sense of urgency at the moment. Vancouver is in a comfortable playoff position and they’re coming off its easiest seven game stretch of their season in terms of the opponents (Edmonton, Calgary, Phoenix, Calgary, Colorado, Nashville and St. Louis).   
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Dallas is four points back with two games in hand on Columbus for the final playoff spot. The Jackets play tonight in Los Angeles after defeating the Ducks last night so this is a great chance for the Stars to narrow the gap. Dallas gets its #1 goaltender back tonight in Jere Lehtonen and prior to a loss to Chicago in their last outing, the Stars had won five straight. Dallas has everything on the line here. Of course that doesn’t mean they will win but it assures us that will come out with intensity levels high. Being in a better spot than the Canucks and fighting for their playoff lives, Dallas figures to be the more energized squad tonight and that’s plenty reason to back them taking back a tag on its home ice.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday, April 18

Jeff Scott SportsFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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MILWAUKEE +110 over San Francisco:  Yovani Gallardo has really struggled out the gate, going 0-1 with a 6.61 ERA, but a couple of things do point to him having a nice bounceback game. 1st is the fact that he is a strong 39-19 with a 3.34 ERA in his career in this park, including 3-1 with a solid 2.25 ERA in 4 career home starts vs the Giants. Overall in his last 5 starts vs San Fran he is 2-1 with a 1.77 ERA and he will be facing a team that is resting both Posey and Scutaro in this one. All that should add up to a nice bounceback outing for him. Matt Cain has also struggled out the gate as he is 0-1 with a 5.94 ERA so far and this isn't a team he has had great success vs in his past. Matt is 3-5 with a 4.50 ERA in 9 career starts vs the Brewers, including 2-3 with a 5.56 ERA in 5 career starts in this park. The Milwaukee offense has been hit by injuries but the still have averaged 4.50 rpg and have hit .281 at home, so I do see them coming up with just enough offense to take this one, while Yovani has his best outing of the year, vs a team he usually pitches well vs. Lastly let's note that the Giants are just 2-8 in Matt Cain's last 10 starts as a road favorite of -110 to -150, while the Brewers are 10-1 in Gallardo's last 11  starts during game game 3 of a series. Looks like a small upset in Miller Park today.
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St Louis/ Philadelphia Under 7: Cole Hamels is off to a rough start, but he is still one of the best pitchers in the league and we all know he won't continue to carry a 7+ ERA as the season progresses. Cole has had some success, ERA wise, vs the Cards posting a 2.35 ERA in his last 6 starts vs them, despite going 1-3 in those starts. That would indicate low scoring games and that is true. In those 6 games just one of them produced more than 5 runs, while each of his last 3 starts vs them here has produced a TOTAL of 10 runs. Low scoring indeed. The Phils offense is struggling again as they have put up just 1.4 rpg in the their last 5 games and they should continue to struggle today vs Adam Wainright, who looks very good in the early going. Adam is 2-1 with a skinny 2.05 ERA so far and he has had very good success vs the Phils, allowing 2 ER's or less in 6 of his 7 career starts vs them, including allowing just 1 ER in 2 career starts in this park. The Cardinals offense is very strong, but I don't see them getting much off of Cole in this one, while the Phils offense will also be held in check by Adam. I see a pitcher's duel in Philly tonight.
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Yankees/ Arizona Over 8.5: Neither offense has had a good showing in the series yet, but I expect that to change tonight. The Yanks got solid pitching in their first 2 games, but that just won't happen here with Hughes on the mound. Phil Hughes has 2 starts on the year and he has allowed 8 ER's on 17 hits in 7 total innings thus far. Now Phil takes on the 8th ranked scoring and 9th ranked hitting team in the league. I expect this Arizona offense to get back on track in this one. Patrick Corbin has started out with a 1.50 ERA, but he does have a horrible road ERA in his career, with a 5.79 ERA in 14 games (11 starts). The Yanks put up 4 runs in each of their 1st two games of this series and despite all their injuries they are still 7th in scoring and 3rd in hitting, should they should have more than enough offense to tag Corbin for some runs. Weak pitching on the mound should lead to at least 4 runs being scored by each team, giving us a solid Over here.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday, April 18

MLB Predictions

Tigers / Mariners Under 6.5

This is going to be another great pitching match up to watch. The Tigers go with Justin Verlander tonight who is 2-1 on the season with a 1.96 ERA, .206 OBA and 1.15 WHIP. Last year he was 17-8 with a 2.64 ERA, .217 OBA and 1.06 WHIP. Hisashi Iwakuma will be on the mound for Seattle and he is 2-0 with a 2.18 ERA, 1.29 OBA, and 0.48 WHIP through three starts. Those are unbelievable numbers through three starts, and what makes them even better is that he was facing some good hitting teams in Oakland, Chicago, and Texas. Last year he was 9-5 with a 3.16 ERA, .248 OBA and 1.28 WHIP. These two teams played a long extra innings game last night with Detroit coming out on top 2-1. In that game there were 40 strikeouts, which wasn't far off the record of 43. Given that today's game is an afternoon game I wouldn't be surprised if either team rested a guy or two. Take note that Seattle has scored 3 or fewer runs in 6 of their last 7 games. With these two pitchers I expect another very low scoring game. Take the UNDER.


Chicago White +113

The Chicago White Sox are 7-8 on the season as they've taken 2 straight against Toronto. The Jays won the first game 4-3 on Monday but Chicago has since won 4-3 and 7-0 last night. Toronto is now just 6-9 on the season. The Blue Jays have been without their slugger Jose Bautista due to some back problems, and without him or Jose Reyes it has really hurt them offensively. They are averaging just 3.6 runs per game. Brett Lawrie is back in the lineup but it seems his timing is off coming back from an injury. Tonight won't get any easier for the Blue Jays hitters as they face Chris Sale. Although he struggled his last time out and is 1-1 with a 5.21 ERA on the season, he went 17-8 with a 3.05 ERA last season. The Blue Jays will have their ace RA Dickey on the mound who pitched his first good start of the season in Kansas City last time out. he is 1-2 with a 5.82 ERA on the season. Note Chicago is 5-1 in their last 6 meetings in Toronto. This one comes down to the White Sox doing much better at the plate right now, and I like them with an underdog price tag behind Sale.

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John Ryan

Atlanta Braves at Pittsburgh Pirates
Prediction: Pittsburgh Pirates

The simulator shows a high probability that the Pirates will win this game. Atlanta is off to a hot start, but now the lines being posted reflects an irrational exuberance by public sentiment. Supporting this graded play is a proven system posting a 35-15 mark for 70% winners and has made 21 units per one unit wagered since 1997. The average play has been essentially ?pick? at + 103 per play. Play on NL home teams (PITTSBURGH) with a team batting average of .245 or worse on the season and with an on base percentage of .375 or better over their last 5 games. Pirates are 28-14 (+12.3 Units) against the money line in home games with a hot bullpen whose ERA is under 3.00 the last 10 games over the last 2 seasons. Pirates starter Jeff Locke is pitching solid baseball and is coming off a 5 inning starts allowing just 4 hits and 1 ER. Braves starter Teheran is struggling mightily allowing 9 ER in 11 innings worked spanning his first two starts of the season. Take the Pirates.

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Hollywood Sports

Chicago White Sox at Toronto Blue Jays
Prediction: Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays have lost the first two games of this series after their 7-0 loss yesterday -- but they have then rebounded to win 9 of their last 12 games following a defeat. Toronto has also won 8 of their last 11 games after allowing at least five runs. They send out Dickey who struggled in his first two starts but showed signs of regaining his 2012 form after allowing only five hits and one run in 6 1/3 innings of work at Kansas City. The Blue Jays have won 5 of their last 7 home games against teams with a losing record. Chicago (7-8) has lost 4 of their last 5 games after scoring at least five runs in their last contest. Additionally, the White Sox have lost 6 of their last 7 games after allowing at least two runs or less in their last game. They counter with Sale who is 1-1 with a 5.21 ERA and a 1.32 WHIP this season. The left-hander was not as effective on the road this year where he endured a 3.77 ERA, 1.29 WHIP and .253 opponent's batting average as opposed to his strong 2.30 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and .215 opponent's batting average when at home. Chicago has lost 5 of their last 6 road games with Sale on the mound. Take the Blue Jays with the money line in this one.

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Joe Gavazzi

New York Mets vs. Colorado Rockies
Play: Colorado Rockies -1.5

This afternoon, the Mets play their last of 8 games away in 10 days. That’s presuming we don’t get another snow storm in Colorado and it stays above the freezing mark (predicted high 34 degrees). Niese admitted he had problems with the cold temperatures in Minnesota. In that game, he allowed 5 runs, 5 hits,4 walks in 5 IP of a 16-5 NY win. Niese has a 7.94 ERA pitching from this mound. Far prefer the Rockies who enter on a 5 game win streak are a perfect 5-0 at home and have beaten the Mets 6 straight times. Garland has seemingly recovered well from missing 2012 due to surgery. In a pair of outings to date, he has a 3.75 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP. Garland has a strong history vs. the Mets with a 3.00 ERA in 5 outings.

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Ray Monohan

Chicago vs. Toronto
Play: Over 7.5

The White Sox have won two straight after dropping the series opener against Toronto. With another win they will reach the magic.500 mark - not bad considering they have been missing a key member of their rotation (Danks) and a member of their starting lineup due to injury (Beckham). This team is probably going to slug their way to victory more than pitch to it. Yesterday’s 7-0 win was a pleasant combination of both. Tonight is a matchup of opening day starters and supposed aces. Lefty Chris Sale was phenomenal last season but he might be suffering from the after effects of last year’s huge innings increase - it really is a thing, you can look it up. The Jays need a win just to take a draw from this four gamer. Toronto has the worst run differential in the American League and the injury bug is nibbling away with SS Jose Reyes on the disabled list and OF Jose Bautista in and out of the lineup. Last time out R.A. Dickey made his first quality start as a member of the Blue Jays. The fact that is was on the road is hopefully just a coincidence because he insists that there is no issue with throwing the knuckler in a dome - the evidence says otherwise. For every reason imaginable the Jays need him to put forth another consistent outing. From what we are seeing I think it is fair to have more confidence in Dickey than Sale coming into this one. Toronto still has more than enough offense even with injury absences and their lineup matches up well against lefties. Nice value on Toronto too as the short favourite so I would punch it.

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Teddy Covers

Tampa Bay vs. Baltimore
Pick: Baltimore

The Rays entered last night’s game in Baltimore in the midst of a 1-7 slide.  They had scored a grand total of 14 runs and hitting .160 as a team; shut out twice and held to two runs or less on four other occasions during that span.

Yes, the Rays got a couple of clutch hits in their 6-2 win over the Orioles yesterday, but this is still very much a struggling lineup these days.That’s bad news against emerging Orioles starter Mike Gonzalez, who shut down this Tampa lineup repeatedly last year and dominated them again in a 6-3 win at Tampa in his 2013 debut less than two weeks ago. And Baltimore’s bullpen remains an elite level unit just as they were last year; far more effective through the first few weeks of the season than Tampa’s suspect ‘pen.

The Orioles have hit southpaws better than righties in early season play, and they’ve had live bats against Tampa’s David Price here at Camden Yards.  Price has lacked consistency in early season starts – his strikeouts are down, his walks are up, and he’s given up at least one home run in all three previous starts this year.   This Orioles squad has bounced back with a win following each of their last three losses, and has only one multi-game losing streak so far this season.  Don’t expect another skid to start today!  Take the Orioles.

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Jeff Alexander

Boston Red Sox -128

Boston has rattled off five straight wins and has an excellent chance to extend its streak with Lester taking the mound. The southpaw is 2-0 (3-0 on the money line) with an ERA of 1.42 this season. He is also a lights out 5-1 (8-3 on the ml) with an ERA of 3.34 in 11 starts versus Cleveland. He's given up just 1 run in his last 3 starts against the Tribe. The Indians are 18-43 in their last 61 games as an underdog and 4-13 in their last 17 games as a home underdog. Bet Boston.

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NHL Predictions

New York Islanders +113

Tonight two teams that many didn't see making the Eastern Conference playoffs will square off and both are sitting in a playoff spot. The Leafs more comfortably with 53 points, while the Islanders are 3 points up on the 9th place Jets with 49 points. A loss tonight for New York would give the Jets a chance to win and be within 1 point. The Islanders are playing solid hockey right now winning 5 of their last 7 games, including their latest a 5-2 win over Florida. New York has allowed just 12 goals against over those 7 games. Toronto on the other hand has looked out of sorts in their last two games. Although they picked up a win at home vs New Jersey the Leafs had just 13 shots on net, and were flirting with a record low with just 5 after two periods. In their latest game they lost 5-1 to Washington. These two teams have met twice this year with each team winning on the road. The Islanders won 7-4 in Toronto, while Toronto won 5-4 in OT in New York. The Islanders have won two straight in Toronto. Tonight's pick comes down to who is playing better hockey right now and that is the Islanders. Although we know Randy Carlyle will be all over the Maple Leafs to get things going, the Islanders are much more desperate for another victory tonight. I like getting the Islanders at +113 and will take that for tonight's lone underdog play.

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