Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, April 21

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Washington Nationals -138FOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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The Nationals have the edge on the mound with Jordan Zimmerman, who is 3-0 with a 2.45 ERA. Consider that New York's Dillon Gee is 0-3 with an 8.36 ERA. The Nationals are 20-6 in Zimmermann's last 26 starts as a favorite and 6-0 in his last 6 starts as a road favorite. They are also 5-0 in his last 5 starts versus Mets. The Mets are 0-5 in Gee's last 5 starts as an underdog and 0-3 in his last 3 starts versus Washington. The Nats have won 20 of the last 26 meetings overall and 20 of the last 28 in New York. Take Washington.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, April 21

Joe Gavazzi

Miami -13

Seldom lay double digits in the Playoffs but this has all the earmarks of a 4 game blowout sweep. Milwaukee is looking like road kill. The Bucs finished the season on negative slides of 4-12 and 1-5 SU. They also finished 6-14 ATS including 2-8 ATS on the road. Miami went 3-1 in the series this year with no victory by more than 13 points including wins of 9 and 7 on this court. But veteran Playoff teams at home in Game #1 of Round #1 hold a solid and significant advantage against teams who did not appear in the Playoffs last season. Miami enters on a run of 35-1 SU but just 2-8 ATS -10+ on this court of late. But that mark could be well offset by the fact Miami was an amazing 10-3 ATS as HF in the Playoffs last year. Figure Milwaukee to be a much better play in Game #2 of this series.

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NY Yankees +132FOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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The Yankees look for the sweep on Sunday afternoon north of the border with Ivan Nova taking on Josh Johnson and the Blue Jays. Ivan Nova has pitched better than his 0-2 record and 5.59 ERA indicate. Advanced metrics point to a pitcher that has gotten a bit unlucky early in the season and was a little unlucky last season. Nova has a .414 BABip through two starts, partially inflated by his very good 10.24 K/9, but balls in play just happen to be finding holes. Nova's walk rate is not far off from his average and he has not allowed a home run yet this season. His FIP is 2.33, which would mean that Nova should improve as long as he continues to strike out hitters and not allow walks. The Blue Jays strike out a lot and don't walk very much. As a team, the Jays are right around replacement-level offensively. Since Jose Reyes went down, the Blue Jays have scored 22 runs in 8 games, and that's not going to cut it in the American League.
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Josh Johnson takes the hill for the Blue Jays and he is finding out that it's much different pitching in the American League. Johnson has allowed 26 baserunners over 14.1 innings of work. He has struggled with command this season, throwing just 40.2% of his pitches in the strike zone according to PITCHf/x data, which is a 9% drop-off from his career average since 2007. A smart, veteran lineup like the Yankees will make him throw the ball in the strike zone.
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The Yankees lineup is getting a lot of production, while the Blue Jays are struggling a lot. The Yankees have won seven of the last 10 meetings between these two. The Yankees are playing too well for the line to be this high and with the Blue Jays' offensive struggles and Josh Johnson's early season inconsistencies with command, the Yankees are a good play.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, April 21

Greg ShakerFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Hawks / Pacers Over 185FOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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The Pacers have jumped on the Pace Train over the last 1/3 of the season and that makes this one a bargain line. I have 188.3 which is good enough for a 1% play. These teams have played OVER a lot when they do play each other including the last 3 this year with games that have had similar posted totals. No real big rival are these two and both are scoring a lot more than what this number is.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, April 21

Andre Gomes FOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Indiana -7FOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Atlanta's offense has some similarities to Houston's offense. They attempt a lot of treys and just the Knicks, the Rockets and the Lakers attempted more treys than them during the regular season. Even though they weren't one of the teams in the league with more volume of shots at the rim, they are an elite team in finishing at the rim with 70% FG during the regular season! To add to that, they are also an elite transition offense team with Devin Harris and Jeff Teague, an area where they were #3 in the league. However, the Hawks have two offensive flaws: they are a poor offensive rebounding team by being just #27 in the league with a 22.2% offensive rebounding rate and they are also a poor FT/game team, with just 19.7 free throw attempts per game (also #27 in the league). As you all can imagine, the Pacers's defense is an elite team on all these areas where the Hawks's offense excel. Indiana was #3 in the league on rim defense with 60.6% FG allowed during the regular season, they were #1 in the league on 3pts defense with 32.7% allowed and they were also #2 on transition defense.
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On the other hand, I expect Indiana to surprise Atlanta on offense. The series between these two teams in the regular season ended 2-2, with the Hawks winning the first two games, still played in 2012, while the Pacers won the last two, much more recently. Indiana's offense went from poor to average on the second half of the regular season, mostly due to an offensive improvement from Roy Hibbert, something that it was also clear on the games against Atlanta this season. Hibbert shot 4-12 FG and 0-2 FG on the first two games against the Hawks, but then shot 6-8 FG and 8-17 FG in the other two games against Atlanta: 4-14 FG vs 14-25 FG! With Hibbert at a good level on offense, Atlanta's frontcourt is just way too small to handle both David West and Roy Hibbert! They will have to send an extra guy to hold them, something that will give space to the Pacers's perimeter, who has been streaky on their shooting all season long, but who have also shown in the past that they can be dangerous when given the space to shoot.
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I expect the Pacers's offense to score at a decent rate today by using their edge on the frontcourt, while their defense is built around to stop teams like Atlanta. Therefore, I expect Indiana to start this series with an easy win and so, I'll be taking them in here.

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L.A. Lakers +8½ over SAN ANTONIOSERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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A franchise history's worth of turmoil, disharmony and injuries to their key players has earned the Lakers the No. 7 seed but the Spurs aren’t exactly the healthiest bunch either. It appears as though all of the Spurs players will be available for this opener but nagging injuries to key personnel playing at less than 100% is not a good remedy for spotting significant points. When a team loses its best player to injury, it often bonds and plays better together in his absence and that’s the situation that surrounds the Lakers. The Lakers are supposed to go quietly in this series but we’re not so sure.  Pau Gasol's playmaking ability has spurred on the Lakers during their 8-1 run to close the season. It's staggering that it took almost six months for Gasol to buy into high-low action with Dwight Howard as opposed to settling for jump shots. For the Lakers to be successful they have to continue to ride the recent success of the Gasol-Howard one-two punch and the perimeter shooters (Steve Blake, Earl Clark, Jodie Meeks, Metta World Peace) have to bring their A-games in terms of spacing the floor.
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The Spurs are very likely going to try and turn this into a track meet and if the Lakers oblige, L.A. may get buried. However, we see a total of 190 in this opener, suggesting that a track meet is unlikely. A Spurs game with a total this low hasn’t occurred since way back in March 3, when San Antonio hosted the Bulls. San Antonio may be forced to go with Tim Duncan and four “smalls” in an attempt to run the Lakers off the floor. If the Spurs decide to try and match up bigs that will play into the Lakers plan and allow L.A to potentially pull off this game one upset. 8½ points is a lot of wiggle room, especially if the Lakers can get out to a lead or win two of four quarters outright. Greg Popovich will game manage in terms of minutes for his stars. He needs a healthy team to be ready for OKC somewhere down the road and he’s not going to blow his players up in round 1. Expect the Lakers to hang around here.

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N.Y. Yankees +131 over TORONTOSERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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This just keeps getting better. The Blue Jays dropped the opener 9-4. Yesterday, Toronto rallied from a three-run deficit in the eighth to tie it up and instead of riding that momentum to a much-needed win, they lost again in 11 frames. Going to the eighth inning, the Blue Jays had two hits. The Blue Jays have now dropped four of five. Their only win over that span came against the White Sox in a game they mustered four hits in. Team morale is down and the pressure is mounting. We could write a book about the costly managerial errors that John Gibbons makes every game but let’s just say that Gibbons is way out of his league here. Josh Johnson’s decline in strikeouts and his normalized hit % and strand % are all it took for him to go from elite to mediocre last year and not much has changed this year. Johnson has a 1.81 WHIP through three starts covering just 14 frames. Johnson had an average fastball velocity of 94.0 mph in April 2011. That number dipped to 92.6 mph in April 2012 and it’s dipped again this season to 91.6. Also this year, Johnson’s groundball rate has declined and his line-drive (27%) and fly-ball rate have increased. The Blue Jays overpaid for Johnson just like you will today if you pull the trigger on him here.
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Under the cover of a disastrous ERA spike last season (particularly in 2nd half), Ivan Nova posted noteworthy strikeout gains without sacrificing control. The result is a heel turn from a pitcher who had been outpitching his skills to one whose skills exceed his outward results. Nova’s groundball tilt says hr/9 problems should abate. His surge in strikeouts came with good support too. His swinging strike rate jumped from 6.6% in 2011 to 9.0% in 2012. Nova added more on his strikeout rate last year than any other AL SP not named Max Scherzer. This year, Nova has 11 K’s in 10 innings. If he can tap into the 50%+ GB% he owned in 2010-11, and signs point to him doing just that, Nova has the goods to be a really good mid-rotation starter. Nova will now face a Blue Jays lineup that is swinging at everything and usually missing. In fact, one has to wonder how the reeling Blue Jays are even going to compete here.
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N.Y. METS +125 over WashingtonSERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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1st 5 innings. Jordan Zimmerman is 3-0 with a 2.45 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP. Dillon Gee is 0-3 with an 8.36 ERA and 1.79 WHIP. As a result of the surface stats, Zimmerman’s stock is soaring while Gee’s is sinking and that provides us with another buy low, sell high opportunity. Zimmerman has faced the Marlins and their team BA of .209 twice and the White Sox once (BA of .235). Zimmerman has elite control and has maintained his control numbers throughout his 61 post-surgery starts and that includes this season in which Zimmerman has walked just three batters over his first 22 frames. However, when we look under the hood we see some troubling issues. Zimmerman’s strikeout rate of 11 K’s in 22 frames this season shows a steep decline in his KO rate. He also has an alarming 24% line-drive rate. Perhaps the biggest red flag in Zimmerman’s profile is that batters are making contact on his pitches 94.4% when inside the strike zone and 80% on pitches outside the strike zone. That’s up more than 11% on his career numbers and now Zimmerman will face a Mets team that is third in the majors in runs scored behind Colorado and Oakland. A regression in Zimmerman's numbers are forthcoming.
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By contrast, Dillon Gee has pitched in Colorado and Philadelphia and was hit hard at those two hitter-friendly venues. In one start at Citi Field this season, Gee went six full against the Padres and allowed three hits and one run. Gee had a 4.10 ERA and 1.25 WHIP in 110 IP in 2012 before his season ended due to a shoulder problem. Those marks hid his elite skills that included a high strikeout, a low walk rate and a 50% groundball rate. In addition, Gee improved his dominant-start/disaster-start variance more than any other NL starter between 2011 and 2012. If healthy, he's got a great shot to post a sub-4.00 ERA. Three starts into the season and we see many skewed surface stats on starting pitchers. This is a good example of that and it has created one of the biggest overlays of the year so far. With the Mets’ bullpen being so erratic, we’ll take that out of the equation and play the Mets in five innings.
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MILWAUKEE -1½ +151 over ChicagoSERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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The Cubbies have dropped two in a row and overall have just five wins in 16 games. To avoid the sweep against the red-hot Brewers, Chicago will have to rely on Scott Feldman. Pressed into the Rangers rotation due to injuries last season, Feldman responded with excellent command and some decent overall skills. However, it’s much easier to pitch when your team is giving you tremendous run support than it is when you’re constantly behind on the scoreboard. Feldman has pitched 6 innings or less in fewer than 40% of his career games His .802 OPS last season with runners on (.808 career mark) is chronic. This season, Feldman has more walks (7) than K’s (4) and that’s just in nine frames. Feldman’s history says to avoid him and so does this year’s current form.
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The Brewers have won six straight. The more we see this team, the more we like them. SS Jean Segura looks like the real deal giving the Crew a deadly one through five batting order. Milwaukee has scored five runs or more in three straight and in four of its past five games. That’s with Rickie Weeks in an unsustainable hitting funk. If Weeks were hitting, and he will break out of it, the Brewers would be scoring even more runs. Wily Peralta went 2-1 with a 2.48 ERA in 29 IP for Milwaukee last year. Peralta spent most of year as starter in AAA, walking too many but striking out a batter per IP. He earned a Sept call-up, where he posted three pure quality starts in five attempts. While Peralta’s control is a work in progress, his big strikeout rate and elite GB tilt (64% this year) will cover a few too many BBs. Peralta has the skills to dominate a line-up and is on the verge of being a mainstay in the rotation if he can throw more strikes. The Brewers should get plenty today, allowing Peralta to be very aggressive here and go right after this weak hitting Cubs lineup. For the Brewers, the beat goes on and it’s likely to be by two runs or more.

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EDMONTON +110 over AnaheimSERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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OT included. No team wants to limp into the playoffs but the Ducks are doing just that and there is no off/on switch in the world that can change that. In order for the Ducks to regain momentum, they are going to have to dig down deep and play their hearts out. We haven’t seen that from them in weeks. Anaheim has dropped four in a row. Over their past 15 games, the Ducks have just five wins. The Ducks have scored two goals or fewer in five straight and in six of seven. Three of their past four losses have occurred against Calgary, Columbus and Colorado. This guest is in poor form, they have no set #1 goaltender heading into the playoffs and right now their mindset appears to be just waiting for the playoffs to begin.
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The Oilers played themselves out of playoff contention with a recent six-game losing streak at the worst possible time. Edmonton snapped that six-game losing streak with a win in Colorado but pretty it was not, as the Oilers were once again outplayed. However, the Oil has scored seven times in the past two games while not being in good form. Talk of promise and potential stardom is becoming old school already for this talented host. Although out of it, it’s time the Oilers put together a 60-minute effort and give their fans something to cheer about. This one is sold out and with an edge in power play, penalty killing and goals allowed, Edmonton is in a better position to win than this disinterested intruder.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, April 21

MLB Predictions

Philadelphia Phillies +106

Tonight the 10-7 Cardinals will face off with the 7-11 Phillies in the Sunday Night prime time game. The Cardinals ar 6-5 on the road while the Phillies are 4-5 at home. This is a 4 game series and so far the Cardinals have taken 2 of 3 winning 4-3 and 5-0 last night, while the Phillies won 8-2 on Friday. The Cardinals will send Jake Westbrook to the mound who is 1-1 on the season with a 0.00 ERA (he allowed an unearned run in his first start that gave him the loss). Although his 0.00 ERA looks great he has walked 10 batters while striking out just 4. He also pitched on Tuesday and gave up 4 earned runs against Pittsburgh, but since the game was rained out those don't count towards his numbers. On the other hand we have Kyle Kendrick going for Philadelphia. Kendrick is 1-1 with a 3.38 ERA on the year, and his numbers are getting better with every start. He allowed 5 earned runs in 5.2 innings of work in his first start, but then allowed just 2 earned runs over 6 innings and 0 earned runs and just 2 hits over 7 innings in his past two. Note that the Cardinals are just 1-4 in Westbrook's last 5 starts, while the Phillies are 5-2 in Kendrick's last 7 home starts. They are also 5-2 in their last 7 as a home underdog and 6-2 in Kendrick's last 8 starts as an underdog. Kendrick has had success against St Louis as the Phillies are 5-1 in his last 6 starts vs the Cards. I think the pitching match up favors the Phillies and I like the value we have on them at +106.

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