Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday, May 23

Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday, May 23

DUNKEL INDEX

MLB

LA Angels at Kansas City
The Angels look to take advantage of a Kansas City team that is 1-7 in its last 8 games as a favorite. LA is the pick (+115) according to Dunkel, which has the Angels favored by 1 1/2. Dunkel Pick: LA Angels (+115)

Game 901-902: Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh (12:35 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Cubs (Jackson) 15.158; Pittsburgh (Gomez) 16.671
Dunkel Line: Pittsburgh by 1 1/2; 8 1/2
Vegas Line: Pittsburgh (-140); 8
Dunkel Pick: Pittsburgh (-140); Over

Game 903-904: Minnesota at Detroit (7:08 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Minnesota (Diamond) 15.702; Detroit (Porcello) 14.427
Dunkel Line: Minnesota by 1/2; 9
Vegas Line: Detroit (-180); 9 1/2
Dunkel Pick: Minnesota (+160); Under

Game 905-906: Baltimore at Toronto (7:07 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Baltimore (Gausman) 15.678; Toronto (Morrow) 16.739
Dunkel Line: Toronto by 1; 9
Vegas Line: Toronto (-140); 9 1/2
Dunkel Pick: Toronto (-140); Under

Game 907-908: Cleveland at Boston (7:10 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Cleveland (McAllister) 15.540; Boston (Dempster) 16.932
Dunkel Line: Boston by 1 1/2; 8
Vegas Line: Boston (-150); 9 1/2
Dunkel Pick: Boston (-150); Under

Game 909-910: LA Angels at Kansas City (8:10 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: LA Angels (Blanton) 16.008; Kansas City (Santana) 14.539
Dunkel Line: LA Angels by 1 1/2; 10
Vegas Line: Kansas City (-135); 9
Dunkel Pick: LA Angels (+115); Over

NHL

San Jose at Los Angeles
The Sharks look to build on their 7-1 record in their last 8 games when playing with 1 days rest. San Jose is the pick (+135) according to Dunkel, which has the Sharks favored by 1/2 a goal. Dunkel Pick: San Jose (+135)

Game 29-30: Boston at NY Rangers (7:00 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Boston 12.253; NY Rangers 12.621
Dunkel Line & Total: NY Rangers by 1/2; 4
Vegas Line & Total: NY Rangers (-120); 5
Dunkel Pick: NY Rangers (-120); Under

Game 31-32: Chicago at Detroit (8:00 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Chicago 11.284; Detroit 12.635
Dunkel Line & Total: Detroit by 1 1/2; 6
Vegas Line & Total: Chicago (-145); 5
Dunkel Pick: Detroit (+125); Over

Game 33-34: San Jose at Los Angeles (10:00 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: San Jose 11.950; Los Angeles 11.697
Dunkel Line & Total: San Jose by 1/2; 5
Vegas Line & Total: Los Angles (-155); 4 1/2
Dunkel Pick: San Jose (+135); Over

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Will RogersFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Minnesota vs. DetroitFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
Pick: MinnesotaFREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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I've been on a real roll in MLB lately & don't be surprised to see the Minnesota Twins shock the Detroit Tigers on Thursday. The Tigers had to deal with two lengthy rain delays in Cleveland on Wednesday before ultimately prevailing 11-7. While it was a rewarding series for Detroit (won both games), it was a taxing one as well.  Don't be surprised to see them get caught napping tonight.
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Here are my keys to the game:FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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1. Scott Diamond - He's been "sneaky good" on the road this season, winning all 3 starts and posting a 1.42 ERA and 0.737 WHIP.  Facing a Tigers team that has dropped significant money vs. lefties the last two seasons, including a 3-6 mark in '13, is an advantage for Diamond.  Tigers' starter Rick Porcello has a 6.25 ERA in seven starts this season & a 3-11 TSR in his career when working on 5+ days rest.
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2.  Scheduling Advantage - Though the Twins lost their 8th in a row yesterday, at least the game was over early.  Detroit's game in Cleveland didn't end until much later than anticipated thanks to nearly two hours worth of rain delays.
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3. X-Factor - Minnesota is a perfect 5-0 this year as a road underdog in the +150 to +175 range.

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Bryan PowerFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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San Jose vs. Los AngelesFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
Pick: Los AngelesFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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This series appears to be destined to go seven games. That's because neither team is able to win at the other's rink. So far this season, there have been eight meetings of these Pacific Division rivals. The home team has won all eight. So with things moving back to Los Angeles for Game 5 Thursday, one would certainly expect the defending Stanley Cup Champs to have the advantage.
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In addition to the home ice advantage, a number of key trends also point towards a Kings victory here.  They are a perfect 11-0 at home after playing a road game this season while also going 19-8 the last two years when playing with double revenge.  In addition to dominating San Jose here at Staples Center, the Kings have won 24 of 29 home games this season overall.  Conversely, the Sharks are 1-7 on the road after playing a home game this season.  They have lost 18 of 28 on the road overall this season.
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There hasn't been much scoring so far in this series with San Jose totaling just seven goals and Los Angeles at eight.  I think the Sharks will be victimized by a lack of scoring once again here as they barely average over 2 goals per game for the season away from home while the Kings give up less than that on average here at home. Kings go up 3-2 in the series.

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Hollywood SportsFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Los Angeles at Kansas CityFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
Play: OverFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Los Angeles (19-27) has played 7 of their last 9 games Over the Total as an underdog. Additionally, the Over is 18-8-1 in the Angels' last 27 road games. They send out Blanton for perhaps the last time for awhile with the imminent return of Jered Weaver to their rotation. The right-hander has really struggled this season with an 0-7 record along with a 6.62 ERA and 1.97 WHIP. His struggles will likely continue against this Royals team that has seen the Over go 5-2-1 in their last 8 home games against right-handed starting pitchers. Kansas City (21-21) has seen the Over go 5-0-1 in their last 6 games with the Total set in the 9-10.5 range. The Over is also 5-2-1 in the Royals' last 8 home games against teams with a losing record. They counter with Santana who is 3-3 with a 2.77 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP so far this season. But while the veteran right-hander owns a sizzling 1.04 WHIP and .224 opponent's batting average on the road, these numbers do rise to a 1.13 WHIP and .257 opponent's batting average when at home. Lastly, the Over is a decisive 33-15-4 in the Royals' last 52 road games against right-handed starting pitchers. Take the Over while listing both starting pitchers.

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Alex SmartFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Detroit Red Wings +133FOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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With Chicago surprisingly down two games to one in this series, the pundits-the linesmakers and public now believe the mighty Blackhawks will be set to bounce back and tie this series. I , on other hand take a contrarian look at this tilt, and feel that Motown will once again come out flying and make things difficult for the Hawks. The Hockey town USA crew may have not dominated or out skated Chciago in game 3, but they played virtually mistake free hockey. You have to remember the Blackhwaks never really had any prolonged slumps during this shortened season, so don't be surprised if its now slump time and this series continues to spiral downwards and turns into a major fiasco for Chicago hockey fans and the franchise vs a Wings side that must not be underestimated.Detroit has won seven consecutive home playoff games against Chicago and betting number 8 is on the way. Final notes & Key Trends: Red Wings are 35-17-1 in their last 53 home games vs. a team with a road winning % of greater than .600 and 355-158-16 in their last 529 home games.Blackhawks are 1-4 in their last 5 road games vs. a team with a winning home record. Coach Quenville of Chicago is 0-5 all-time series against the Red Wings in the postseason.

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Rob VincilettiFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Baltimore Orioles vs. Toronto Blue JaysFREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
Play: Toronto Blue JaysFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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We will play against the Orioles here in this one,as we note that road dogs off a home dog win by 2 or more runs that scored 5 or more runs have lost 9 straight times the last 3 seasons, v an opponent off a home win. The Jays have finally started to hit a little as they are averaging over 6 runs per game the past week. Tonight they will fave Baseball Americas #26th overall rated prospect in Kevin Gausman. Tonight Gausman will be making his first start after 8 starts in Double AA Bowie where he had a 2-4 record with a 3.11 era. He will oppose hard throwing Toronto righty B. Morrow. In his last 2 starts vs the Orioles Morrow has been solid allowing just 3 earned runs in 13 innings. Look for Toronto to do enough here to get the win at home against Baltimore.

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Art AronsonFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Los Angeles Angels vs. Kansas City RoyalsSERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
Play: Kansas City RoyalsFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Joe Blanton (0-7, 6.62 ERA) toes the rubber for the visitors; Blanton gave up 11 hits and two walks over 4 1/3's frames of work, striking out six and allowing four earned runs vs. the White Sox on Saturday. The beleaguered right-hander was lucky to earn the no-decision. With the expected return of ace Jered Weaver at the end of the month, Blanton's time in the rotation is coming to an end. Blanton will be opposed by Ervin Santana (3-3, 2.77 ERA) who gave up two earned runs off four hits and three walks in seven frames vs. the A's on Saturday, striking out five, unfortunate to get saddled with the 2-1 loss. So far the 30-year old has gone at least six frames in each of his eight starts this season though. Blanton's mechanics are absolutely brutal right now; Santana is coming off one of his better starts of the year and will look to take advantage of this situation and beat his former team. I feel the talent discrepancy on the mound and the motivational factors working in favor of Santana warrants the home side a second look.

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Red Dog SportsFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Cleveland Indians +135FOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Terry Francona's Cleveland Indians are playing well in 2013. They are 11-9 on the road and play at Boston on Thursday night. Boston is 13-10 at home and starts Ryan Dempster in the first game of this series. Dempster's ERA is at 7.03 in his last 3 starts and the team is just 4-5 in his starts. Zack McAllister will pitch for the Indians and the team is 5-3 in his starts. His overall ERA is 2.65 and just 1.71 in his last 3 starts. Cleveland is getting offense from Michael Brantley, Carlos Santana, Nick Swisher, Jason Kipnis, Mark Reynolds and Yan Gomes. I like the road underdog on Thursday at +135.

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Bruce MarshallFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh PiratesFREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
Pick: Chicago CubsFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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The Pirates are hardly destroying the opposition yet they continue to find ways to win, the latest nailbiter a 1-0 success on Wednesday vs. the Cubs and nemesis Jeff Samardzija, who again flummoxed Buc batters but was simply outpitched by the Buc hurlers paced by in-form starter Francisco Liriano. Indeed, the Pittsburgh staff has a 2.15 ERA while winning 10 of 12, including a pair of 1-0 victories (Sunday vs. Houston, and last night vs. the Cubs) during the current three-game winning streak, and even ex-Indian Jeanmar Gomez has been able to step into the breach with a couple of solid efforts since James McDonald went on the DL. But the Cubs are pitching pretty well themselves (starters have a 3.36 ERA, fourth-best in MLB) and Thursday starter Edwin Jackson has been pitching in some bad luck, with a 1-5 record but flashing some better form in recent outings, picking up his first win as a Cub on May 11, giving up two runs in 5 1/3 IP of an 8-2 victory over Washington, then allowing three runs in 6 2/3 IP of a 3-2 loss to the Mets last Friday at Wrigley Field. Jackson;s numbers are even better on the road, with a 3.22 ERA and 1.07 WHIP. With this series being played tightly, and the Pirates not scoring a lot of runs (just seven in their current three-game win streak), there looks to be some value on the Cubs side.

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Jim Feist

Minnesota at Detroit
Pick: Under

Detroit's Comerica Park is huge, great for pitchers and tough on hitters. A pair of pitchers are on the mound who throw strikes, which will be dividends. Minnesota has talented young arm Scott Diamond going, who has walked 9 in 39+ innings. He's thrown 39+ innings against Detroit, too, and has a sharp 2.72 ERA. Minnesota's offense is weak, 17th in runs scored and 27th in slugging and they face Rick Porcello, who has walked 8 in 38 innings. He's also been on a nice run with a 2.89 ERA his last three starts. The under is 6-1 in the last 7 meetings, including 4-0 under the total in the last 4 meetings in Detroit. Play the Twins/Tigers under the total.

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Dave CokinFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Baltimore Orioles at Toronto Blue JaysSERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
Pick: Baltimore OriolesFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Brandon Morrow will be on the mound for the Blue Jays as they open an important weekend set with the Orioles. The Birds will counter with highly touted rookie Kevin Gausman, who will make his big league debut tonight.
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Toronto is a huge disappointment thus far, but it's still only May, and they're just one hot streak away from getting back into the chase. The Jays are off a series win against Tampa Bay, so they're hoping to keep a little positive flow going here. As for the Orioles, they're hanging in there in the rugged AL East, and closed to within three games of the Yankees with the Wednesday night win.
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Morrow has had a very bad time of it for Toronto. There have been some back issues for Morrow, and perhaps that's at the root of his problems. Whatever the reason, he has not been very good, and the Morrow peripherals indicate that the poor start is no fluke. This is a guy who has averaged more than one strikeout per inning for his career. But this season he's getting less than seven K's for every nine innings pitched, and there's no question in my mind that's of substantial significance. Morrow is also getting fewer ground balls, he's allowing an inflated fly ball percentage, and his swinging strike rate is a career low. Those are all negative stats for a guy who is clearly a power pitcher. I'd rather be fading than taking Morrow right now.
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Kevin Gausman has been living up to the hype at AA Bowie, despite just a 2-4 record. Gausman has displayed exceptional control with only five BB's in 46 innings, and three of those came in a game where he was pulled in the fifth innings. Gausman is off his best game of the season, a dominating six-inning showing with ten K's.
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My guess is that Gausman will be on a fairly strict pitch count here, probably in the 80-85 range. He will certainly be tested by a few of the big bats on Toronto's lineup, but Gausman will also have the advantage of being an unknown live quantity to those same hitters.
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I'm generally a fan of taking first time starters more often than not, and I really like the fact that Gausman is not simply being called up to make an emergency start. He has a legit chance to stick with the big club if he shows well. There's not much doubt as to which is the better team right now, and given Morrow's problems, the visitors might also have the better pitcher going here. I'll cast my lot with the Orioles to grab the series opener.

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JEFF BENTON

Thursday freebie is the Blue Jays to down the Orioles in the opener of their 4 game set at the Rogers Centre.

Baltimore gained some traction with back-to-back wins over division front runner New York the past two days - that after a 6 game slide - and now they give the ball to top prospect Kevin Gausman who will make his major league debut.

Toronto is gaining some traction too, as the Jays just took 2 of 3 from division rival Tampa Bay, and have now won 6 of their past 9 overall. The Jays send Brandon Morrow to the hill, and Morrow is in need of a solid showing as the veteran is just 1-3 for the season with an over 5 ERA.

Morrow has been bothered by neck soreness, but did pitch pretty well in his first start back versus the Yankees his last time out.

The O's took 2 of 3 off the Jays in April's first go-round, gonna side with the Jays to open this go-round with the "W".

3* TORONTO

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Big Kat SportsFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Chicago Blackhawks vs. Detroit Red WingsSERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
Take: Chicago Blackhawks -140FOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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The Chicago Blackhawks will face their first must win of the season when they take on the Red Wings tonight at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. Chicago won Game 1 of the series at home but has been outscored 7-2 in losing Games 2 and 3. They had the best record in the league since day 1 of the season and easily won their first round series over the Minnesota Wild. This team is full of veterans, most of which have a Stanley Cup ring and we like their chances tonight when faced with a bit of adversity. Corey Crawford, who has been very streaky since becoming the starter in Chicago will once again be between the pipes for the Blackhawks. He has posted a 5-3 record in his 8 playoff starts with a 1.81 GAA, .933 save % and 1 shut-out. He has been left out to dry by his defense a few times in the last two games so the 7 goals against hasn’t been as bad as it looks on paper. Crawford will be opposed by Jimmy Howard, who will be making his 11th start of the playoffs for the Red Wings. He has posted a 6-4 record with a 2.43 GAA and .923 save % in the playoffs and has yet to record a shut-out. Despite losing the last two games of this series, Chicago has been very good in the spot they are in here tonight. They are 8-2 in their last 10 games after scoring 2 goals or less in their previous contest and have dominated the Central Division dating back to last season, winning 42 of their last 56 games. They have also been excellent away from the United Center, winning 21 of their last 28 games on the road. The Wings, who could take a commanding 3-1 series lead with a win tonight have actually struggled a bit in the situation they find themselves in here tonight. They are just 3-13 in their last 16 games when playing with 2 days of rest and are just 2-8 in their last 10 head to head meetings with Chicago. Pair that with the fact that the Hawks have a 9-2 record in their last 11 games at The Joe and we’ll lay the price with them on the road tonight to get the win and return to the Windy City with the series tied 2-2.

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Jesse SchuleFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Cleveland vs. BostonFREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
Pick: ClevelandFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Cleveland's offense has been firing on all cylinders in recent days, and yesterday not even Justin Verlander could could stop them from putting up seven runs. The only problem, Cleveland's pitching staff couldn't stop Detroit either, and the Tigers won the game 11-7.
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It might be a different story tonight, as Zach McAllister takes the mound at Fenway in  the series opener against the Red Sox. McAllister (3-3, 2.65 ERA) has been very consistent for the Indians lately, and they have won each of his last four starts.
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He allowed a pair of runs on six hits over 7 1/3 innings in a 5-4 win over Seattle his last time out. Prior to that he surrendered three runs (2 earned) on eight hits over six innings in a 4-3 win over the Tigers.
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The Red Sox send veteran Ryan Dempster to the mound, and he's been roughed up in consecutive starts. Dempster was tagged for five runs on eight hits over just 4 2/3 innings at Minnesota in his last start. Prior to that he allowed six runs on seven hits over five innings in a 12-4 loss to Toronto.
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Dempster has struggled with his command, walking six batters in his last start. The Indians will make him pay if he can't throw strikes tonight.

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Jimmy Boyd

Detroit Tigers -174

It seems as though reality has finally sunk in for the Twins. They hit a nice win streak early in the season but they are now quickly back below .500 on the year. They have now lost 8 consecutive games after getting shelled by Atlanta last night. Now they are traveling from Atlanta to Detroit without rest to face a Detroit team that had the luxury of sleeping in their own beds last night.

The Tigers will have Rick Porcello on the mound for today’s game. Porcello has posted a 2.89 ERA in his last three starts with a 0.911 WHIP. The Twins will send 3-4 Scott Diamond to the mound along with his 4.99 ERA. The matchup between starters is heavily in favor of the Tigers. When you add in the fact that Detroit is hitting .280 as a team against a Minnesota team with a .221 batting average in their past 7 games and we have all the makings for a big Tigers win.

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Jason Sharpe

Detroit Tigers -1.5

Detroit Tigers starter Rick Porcello is on my list of pitchers to bet on right now as Porcello came out of Spring Training as a guy primed for a much better season in 2013 but struggled a bit out of the gates. That has all changed over the last month as Porcello has been as good as he has ever been in his career. He comes in with an ERA of just 3.24 in his last four starts and a WHIP below 1.00. Even more impressive than those numbers is the fact Porcello has gone three straight starts striking out six batters or more for the first time in his career and has averaged nearly a strikeout per inning during that stretch. This hasn't been coming against bad offenses, either, as his last two starts came against two of the top offenses in all of baseball, the Indians and Rangers. The Tigers once again look to be one of the top teams in baseball this season at home. Detroit also leads both leagues hitting a! scorching hot .280 as a team right now.

Minnesota has really started to fall apart as they went into Wednesday's game losers of seven straight games overall. They have been outscored by a 43-19 margin in those seven losses. Left-hander Scott Diamond takes the hill for the Twins and comes in off his two worst outings of the season, allowing six earned runs in each game without making it out of the sixth inning in either contest. The high-powered Tigers offense should have little problems here against Diamond. Take Detroit minus the run and a half in this one.

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CRAIG DAVIS

Free play of the day on the Pittsburgh Pirates over the Chicago Cubs in today's National League matinee.

Since entering the starting rotation, Gomez (2-0, 2.78) has gone 1-0 with a 2.89 ERA in four outings, even though he didn't pitch well in his last outing.

Though he's never faced the Cubs in his career, he's catching them on a good day.

First off, the Pirates didn't supply much offense in last night's 1-0 win over the Cubs. Francisco Liriano had to pitch a gem and that's exactly what he did.

But for as bad as Pittsburgh's offense was last night, they've never struggled like that for two straight games.

That doesn't bode well for Jackson (1-6, 5.76 ERA), who has the second worst ERA on the team. He's been decent over his last two starts, but he's terrible on the road and just can't go the amount of innings he used to.

That puts too much pressure on the Cubs average bullpen to win a road game against a team that didn't hit the ball well and still won.

Take Pittsburgh as your free play of the day.

2* PITTSBURGH

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BRAD WILTON

Your free play for Thursday is an intangible play, as I am gonna back Cleveland in Terry Francona's return to Fenway Park for the first time as manager of the Indians.

Should be an emotional night for former Sox skipper Francona, and with his team just having lost a short 2 game set to division rival Detroit, the Indians are in need of a win tonight.

Zach McAllister was roughed up by the Red Sox in an April 4 game sweep by Boston in the teams first meeting of the year. McAllister is in a groove right now, with a 2-0 mark his last 4, and an under 2 ERA. I expect an improvement tonight from the Indians hurler.

Ryan Dempster is looking to end his losing streak, as he is 0-2 with an over 7 ERA his last 3 starts.

Let's jump on the Tribe to take this one in Francona's first game back to the place where he lead the Red Sox to a pair of World Series triumphs.

2* CLEVELAND

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SPORTS WAGERSFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Chicago +111 over PITTSBURGH (5 innings)SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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1st 5 innings. Jeanmar Gomez is 2-0 with a 2.78 ERA after four starts and nine appearances overall. Gomez is a prime “sell high” candidate because regression is guaranteed to occur over the coming weeks. Last season, Gomez went 4-5 with a 5.96 ERA in 91 innings for the Indians. His early season success hides the ugly major league strikeout rate and walk history. Including this season, Gomez has just 131 K’s in 239 major-league innings. More disturbing is the 85 walks he’s allowed. In 32 frames this year, Komez has 14 walks and 19 K’s. Gomez’s profile isn't good enough even with a strong groundball rate and he's crossed 50% in that department only once. xERA (4.88), command, and dominant/disaster splits history are all telling us to stay away. Never ignore xERA.
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Edwin Jackson is the complete opposite of Gomez in that Jackson has ugly surface stats but under the hood, it reveals that Jackson is as good as ever and his ever-changing address (Chicago is his eighth different uniform) has only reinforced the “eh” factor of his surface numbers. Jackson’s xERAs the past three seasons have all been sub-4.00 and that includes this years, xERA of 3.87. His disaster start rate is just 11% during that time. Jackson’s groundball rate 51% this year) is trending upwards, which should also keep implosion starts at bay. He’s just 29 and is as durable as they come with at least 31 starts in each of the past six seasons. Edwin Jackson doesn’t attract much attention but he’s a pitcher who is reliable (‘AAA’ rating) and has some hidden upside, as his 2012’s skills shows. His 1-6 record has also decreased his value from a betting perspective and we’re buying low. We’ll play the Cubbies in the first five innings because they seldom come from behind and they often lose leads late in the game.
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Baltimore +122 over TORONTOFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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The Blue Jays are certainly playing better baseball of late with nine wins in their past 15 games but a close look reveals that all but one of those wins came against below average starters. The Jays nine wins over their past 15 games were against the following starters: Joe Saunders, Jeremy Hellickson (twice), Roberto Hernandez, Ryan Dempster, Barry Zito, Ryan Vogelsong and Jake Odorizzi. They did beat Clay Buchholz and deserve credit for doing so but the Red Sox scored just twice and the Jays won 3-2. The Blue Jays still have many issues that include a low hit total (370) that ranks them third last in the AL and a poor infield defense. Through eight starts, Brandon Morrow is looking less like the potential Cy Young candidate he was touted as in many publications and more like the maddening version bettors knew all too well prior to last year's breakout. Unlike in years past, Morrow can't blame poor luck for his struggles. He's managed to keep fly-balls somewhat at bay since he became a full-time starter in 2010 but the pendulum is swaying back into dangerous territory. Accuracy issues that plagued him in the past have returned, only this time he's not striking out enough batters to counter it. Hit % and strand % were scapegoats for his ERA/xERA gaps in '10 and '11. However, there's no silver lining this year, as his results match his skills Morrow has one win in eight starts. He’s allowed 49 hits in 45 frames and eight of those have gone yard. Morrow has surrendered two bombs in four of the eight games he’s started this season. Morrow has also been ineffective against lefties, which was a strength of his in the past. With no xERA potential to speak of, the new Morrow offers very little upside. 
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With the Orioles in need of a starting pitcher to fill in the rotation, they have summoned the highly-touted Kevin Gausman to fill the void. Ranked as the Orioles’ number two prospect and the 53 rd best prospect in the minors, Gausman has number two upside due to his power arsenal and ability to command all his pitches. Tall and lean he brings a plus fastball sitting in the 92-98 range with plus movement. His second best pitch is his change-up that features plus fade and solid depth. To accompany his fastball-changeup combo, Gausman shows a solid curveball and slider but due to his arm action he may be more likely to scrap the curve and stick with a plus three-pitch mix down the road. In the meantime, all four pitches work and until he shows otherwise they will remain intact. To complement his power stuff, he displays plus plus command of his pitches and constantly pounds all quadrants of the strike zone. While there is not much more to his ceiling, he is already plus across the board. With the Orioles lacking a front of the rotation starter, if Gausman can translate the same success he had in the minors he may be holding down the top spot for years to come. Through 61.1 innings of work in the minors, Gausman has pitched to a 3.23 ERA and he and the O’s are worth a wager against the overvalued Blue Jays. 
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Cleveland +132 over BOSTONFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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The Indians drop two in a row and all of a sudden they’re taking back a tag like this against Ryan Dempster and the Red Sox? Ridiculous. Prior to dropping two straight, the Indians had won 18 of their last 22 games. They lead the majors with a road batting average of .274 and a road OPS of .804. The entire team figures to be extra jacked up today in support of their manager, Terry Francona, who will be going back to Boston for the first time since he was fired. Zach McAllister entered the season as a premium sleeper with upside, especially if he could improve his results against right-handed bats. He has a nifty 2.65 ERA and 1.18 WHIP after 51 IP, in large part due to his elite command against RH bats. Batters haven't been able to do much against his 91 mph four-seam fastball. After managing a .470 SLG % against it in 2012, they have a mere .370 SLG when facing it in 2013. It has plenty of horizontal movement and it's been keeping hitters off balance all year.  McAllister’s groundball rate is trending the right way, his line drive rate was just 12% of his past three starts and the Indians have won five of his eight starts. Incidentally, the Indians two losses over the past two days were to Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, two of the elite pitchers in the game today. Ryan Dempster is not among that group.
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Dempster put up a 3.30 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in his first 30 innings in April. Then May rolled in and Dempster’s ERA is now at 4.27 and his WHIP is up to 1.31. In his last start, Dempster walked six batters and now has issued 25 walks in 53 frames. Dempster has been tagged for 15 hits and 11 runs over his past two starts covering just 9.2 innings. He’s also benefitted from facing the Blue Jays twice, the Twins twice and Houston once in five of his eight starts. He does have an unusually high strikeout rate of 63 batters in his 52.2 innings so far and it’s due to Dempster using his splitter to generate a lot of swings and misses. Batters had a 0.37 BA against that splitter in the first month but the film is out and in May, batters caught up to Dempster with a BA against the splitter of .372. Ryan Dempster is 37-years old with a ton of mileage on his arm. His fastball has shown a three-year velocity decline and it now tops out at 89 MPH. We always stress to play value and while anything can happen in one game, there is no question the Red Sox are overpriced here and with that, we’ll gladly step in and accept that terrific value.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday, May 23

Wunderdog

Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh
Pick: Pittsburgh -135

The Pittsburgh Pirates have suffered through a couple of decades of futility. But it appears that is going to end this season. The Pirates at 28-18 are legitimate contenders, and hot ones at that, having registered 10 wins in their last 12 games. They have outscored those 12 opponents 50-29, and the pitching has been sensational. The Cubs are an equally frustrated organization, but have not turned the corner, or even come close for that matter . The Cubs enter this game at 11-40 in their last 51 as a dog from +110 to +150. The Pirates have been lethal at home vs. right-handed pitching, at 7-0 in their last seven. Go with Pittsburgh.

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