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Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, May 24

Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, May 24

Dave PriceFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Seattle Mariners +104FOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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The Mariners have lost six in a row (all on the road) but I expect them to get back on track at home where they have won six of their last eight. Joe Saunders has been lights out at home where he's 3-0 with an ERA of 0.94 in four starts. He's been a tremendous investment in the home underdog role throughout his career. In fact, his teams are 17-8 in his last 25 starts as a home underdog of +100 or higher. Take Seattle.

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SPORTS WAGERSFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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TORONTO +101 over BaltimoreFREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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The Orioles are struggling right now with just two wins in their past nine games. They blew a 4-0 lead here last night after the bullpen was rocked for eight runs after the fifth inning. Baltimore pitchers walked eight batters in the game, suggesting the Blue Jays are being patient at the plate and Toronto is going to make O's pitchers throw strikes again here. That’s a problem for Chris Tillman. After going 9-3 with a 2.93 ERA in the second half of 2012, much was expected of Tillman this year. With three wins and a decent ERA, so far, so good, right? Wrong. Regression is forthcoming. While Tillman’s ERA looks good, it’s being helped by an unsustainable hit rate of 21% and a just as unsustainable 86% strand rate. Part of Tillman’s 2012 success was improved control but he hasn’t been able to sustain those gains this year. While it looks like Tillman has picked up where he left off last year, he’s been fortunate in all areas. Those extra walks haven’t come back to haunt him but they will at some point.
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The Blue Jays have scored seven runs or more at home in five of their past seven games and they scored 10 or more in four of those five games. Toronto has also won six of its past seven at the Rogers Center. Sean Nolin makes his major league debut here. Nolin was one of the best, if not the best pitcher in the Blue Jays organization in 2012. He dominated the FSL in 15 starts and then destroyed the Eastern League for three starts. His peripherals were great, averaging 9.6 strikeouts per 9 innings, while only walking 2.4. To go along with his dominant swing and miss stuff, he also didn’t allow the ball to leave the park in 2012, happening just 7 times in A+, and never in AA. If there were any concerns about how Nolin would take to the mid-levels of the minors, he answered all of those questions in 2012 with his unbelievable performance. The tall 22-year-old southpaw features a below average fastball, sitting in the high 80’s and low 90’s but that isn’t much of a concern because he’s a lefty, he can change speeds and because he can touch 94 MPH if needed. He also features an above average change-up and two breaking pitches, a curveball and a slider that gives him a good mix. Perhaps Nolin’s best attribute is that he isn’t afraid to challenge hitters and his big frame is very intimidating coming off of the mound. Nolin has won back-to-back starts at AA-New Hampshire with a 13/4 K/BB over 12 scoreless innings. Nolin may be in a bit over his head here but there’s a chance he’s ready to make this big leap and as a pooch at home with the Jays bats behind him, he offers up some pretty nice value. Additionally, Toronto’s bullpen has been fantastic and will be right behind this southpaw should he run into some trouble. Wrong side favored.
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LOS ANGELES +108 over St. LouisFREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Both teams from L.A got off to rough starts but like the Angels, the Dodgers are a club that could go on a nice run and they’re showing signs of it now. The Dodgers took two of three in Milwaukee, a tough place to win at, and they probably should have swept after leaving 14 men on base in the middle game of that series. The next night, the Dodgers pounded out 12 hits en route to a 9-2 win. Looking from the top of the Dodgers order on down, we see Carl Crawford batting .302, Mark Ellis batting .322, Adrian Gonzalez hitting .309, Matt Kemp up to .270, Scott Van Slyke batting .300 and Nick Punto hitting .330. That's serious. Chris Capuano’s 4.84 overall ERA and 8.03 home ERA is likely going to have many people backing the Cardinals but this small line should raise some flags for Cardinals backers. Capuano has made just six starts this season and his poor surface stats are a direct result of back-to-back disasters on April 16 and May 6. Since then, Capuano has thrown back-to-back quality starts against Miami and Atlanta in which he pitched 13.2 innings combined and allowed just 10 hits and two earned runs. Capuano also struck out 12 over that span while issuing just one walk. Remember, Chris Capuano was lights out in the first half of last year when he was healthy with a 9-3 record and 2.69 ERA, He’s healthy again and he’s undervalued.
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Lance Lynn is 6-1 with a 3.27 ERA and that adds to the Cardinals appeal. Lynn’s strikeout rate is at an elite level with 57 K’s in 55 frames but there are signs that he may not be 100%. In his last start against Milwaukee, Lynn struck out just three batters and walked two. Over the past month covering four starts, Lynn’s profile is trending the wrong way. His groundouts have decreased from 48% to 40%, his line drives have increased from 19% to 23% and his fly-balls have increased from 33% to 37%. In two career starts at Dodger Stadium, Lynn allowed 14 hits in 12 innings for a BAA of .304. All signs point to Lynn laboring and it could be a health issue after throwing a lot of pitches and innings in the first seven weeks of the season. The Dodgers are on our radar this weekend in what could be a pivotal series that turns their season around.
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L.A. Angels -1 +108 over KANSAS CITYFREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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We missed an opportunity with the Angels last night, as they went into K.C. as a 20 cent dog and emerged with a 5-4 victory. It was the Angels fifth straight win and it’s not likely to stop here. The Halos are seeing beach balls right now. They’ve scored 42 runs over that five-game winning streak while hitting .323 over that span. They’ve also gone yard nine times in those five games. Jason Vargas is not high on our list of quality pitchers in the majors but this isn’t about backing him. This is about backing the red-hot Angels against a pitcher they should demolish and against a Royals squad that is going bad.
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The Royals have one win in seven games and that lone victory occurred against the Astros. The Angels are just 4-9 against southpaws and Vargas is one of those. Luis Mendoza beat out Bruce Chen for the Royals’ fifth starter spot. Mendoza had totaled only 20 IP in the majors from 2009-2011 before starting 25 games for the Royals in 2012 and his skill set doesn’t give much cause for excitement. For the most part, Mendoza had sub-par command in the minors and it’s carried over to this level. His strikeout rate remains low so any variations to hit % or strand % will impact his bottom line. In two starts at Kaufman Stadium this season against the Blue Jays and Rays, Mendoza was tagged for 14 hits and 13 runs in a combined 9.2 frames. In those two home starts, Mendoza struck out five while walking four and his BAA was .350. While Mendoza has a rotation slot for now, there’s not a lot to indicate that he will hold it all year and that K.C bullpen has blown quite a few leads over the past couple of weeks after the fifth inning. With that, we’ll ride the hot bats of the Angels.
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Pass NBA & NHL

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, May 24

Wunderdog

Indiana at San Antonio
Pick: Over 145

The Indiana Fever begins defense of their 2012 WNBA Title tonight in San Antonio. Once a defensive-oriented team, the Fever averaged 78.3 points per game in their 10 playoffs games. This team is now on the move offensively. These teams only meet twice a year, as they are in opposing conferences, but last year they supplied a lot of points with a combined 160 generated in each game. I expect Indiana to come out doing what they do best and that is running the floor. And, as we saw a year ago San Antonio will be a willing participant. This should be an up-tempo game, so play on the OVER.

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Wunderdog

St. Louis at Los Angeles Dodgers
Pick: Los Angeles Dodgers +105

While the St. Louis Cardinals are off and running to a 30-16 start, the LA Dodgers have been an underachieving team with a disappointing 19-26 start. Chris Capuano, after starting the season in the pen for the Dodgers, was elevated to the rotation because of injuries. Capuano has been a streaky pitcher over his career. When he is in a rut, he tends to stay there, but when he pitches well he often strings together several strong outings. He is on a roll now, allowing just a single run in each of his last two starts, covering 13.2 innings. I expect him to have another strong outing tonight. The Cards' Achilles heel has been vs. left-handed pitching where they have dropped their last four. Go with the Dodgers.

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Ian Cameron

Cleveland at Boston
Play: Cleveland

The Cleveland Indians are one of the hottest teams in Major League Baseball right now and it has gone relatively unnoticed by the betting markets. They’ve won six of their last eight games and they've done so with better than expected starting pitching and an offense that can score runs. Cleveland has netted at least 5 runs in 7 of their last 8 games providing plenty of run support for their pitchers including a 12-run outburst in their win against the Red Sox last night. I think they will have a great chance to score more runs tonight against John Lackey. He pitched very well last time out against Minnesota but I still have my doubts about Lackey as he had allowed 5 runs in back-to-back starts prior to his effort vs. the Twins. It's worth noting that Lackey has pitched 7 innings just once in his six starts this season and that is a concern tonight because the Boston bullpen (which has struggled even when rested) is in an extreme state of fatigue after logging 6 innings of relief last night thanks to another rough outing for Ryan Dempster. That should leave the door open for the Cleveland lineup which is on fire right now to score runs early and late in tonight's game.

Justin Masterson takes to the mound for Cleveland and he's had great success against his former team. He enters tonight with a 3.72 ERA in six career starts against Boston. He is in amazing form right now going 3-0 with a sparkling 1.17 ERA in his last three starts. Masterson is on a tremendous scoreless streak of 19 innings which includes back-to-back starts without allowing a run against Seattle and the New York Yankees. There is also very little doubt there is a little added incentive for Cleveland to rally together to win as many games as possible in this weekend series against Boston for their manager Terry Francona who spent many years in Boston as the Red Sox skipper before being rudely shown the door after the well documented 2011 season ending collapse. Cleveland is 19-7 in their last 26 games yet there is still value betting on this team right now particularly tonight in this near pick ‘em price.

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Jeff Alexander

Chicago Cubs +140

The Cubs are worth a small wager at this price with Scott Feldman on the bump. The Cubs have won each of his last five starts, and his ERA is only 0.46 over his last three. Bronson Arroyo has been pitching well also, but not quite to the level of Feldman. Besides, the Reds are 1-4 in Arroyo's last 5 home starts versus the Cubs and 1-4 in his last 5 starts versus division opponents. This is Cincy's first home game following a lengthy road trip, and this has been a vulnerable spot. The Reds are 1-4 in their last 5 home games following a road trip of 7 or more days.

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Greg Shaker

Detroit Tigers -1.5

Likely bounceback by Sanchez after a poor outing at Texas. He has been throwing very well dating back to last year and really his only non-quality outing was last time out in a 14 game stretch. The Tigers are crushing all pitchers at this park, averaging 6.7 RPG here. The Twins are in a huge slump losing their last 9 and run production is down. Not much is known about Deduno at least by me, except that he has had success in the minors and threw briefly in the bigs late last year. But a tough way to get this year underway throwing at the Tigers and being backed by a Pen that has been Iffy at Best over the last 10 games and getting plenty of work in the process. I don't lay the 1.5 very often but I certainly will here for 1%.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, May 24

Ross Benjamin

NY Yankees -105

The Yankees starter David Phelps enters tonight in stellar form over his last 3 starts posting a 1.83 ERA. The Yankees are a very profitable 10-3 this season following 3 or more consecutive road games, and are a terrific 26-8 the last 2 seasons when playing on a Friday. The Tampa Bay starter Roberto Heranandez is 0-4 in his team starts since 5/30/2009 versus the Yankees with a monster 11.34 ERA and 2.58 WHIP. Hernandez has also been a bit shaky over his last 3 starts posting a lofty 5.14 ERA and 1.50 WHIP. Play on the New York Yankees as a money line selection.

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Brad Diamond

Los Angeles Dodgers +110

The Dodgers finished in second place in the West last season 86-76. A good overall campaign statistically, but very disappointing from the perspective of a fan. Here we are approaching the beginning of June and LA is struggling with a 19-26 start, 11-13 at home sitting last in the division. The Dodgers showed positive signs on Wednesday night with a solid 9-2 road victory over Milwaukee, taking the series. Manager Don Mattingly goes back to lefty Capuano (1-2, 4.84) for a shot at continuing on the up-tick. Since coming out of the pen the veteran has thrown back-to-back quality outings, including a masterful 7 1/3 inning log against the Braves, giving just 1 run to that hard hitting unit. The Dodgers are 8-2 Capuano’s starts after allowing two runs or less in their last game.

We know the Cardinals are riding high with an incredible 30-16 record to begin the season. The pitching is in good order backed by a hitting unit bringing six, .300+ hitters to the playing field. Tonight the mound host for St. Louis is RHP Lance Lynn who has a solid 6-1 (3.27) record in 2013. Lynn is 1-1 with a 4.26 ERA L3 times out, but is coming off a mediocre performance versus Milwaukee. The hurler gave up four runs in five innings. It was the first time in recent efforts Lynn did not complete seven innings of work. As far as effective pitching cycles go, Lynn maybe on the down side of the curve.

In closing, the Cardinals are just 2-6 L8 outings on the coast and 0-4 L4 vs. LHP. So, if Capuano can put together a solid 6+ innings the Dodgers should pick up a much needed win in this hotly contested rivalry.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, May 24

Nelly

Braves / Mets Under

A quick glance at the numbers for Mets pitcher Jeremy Hefner would lead one to conclude that he has been one of the worst pitchers in baseball this season, sitting with a 0-5 record and a 5.00 ERA. The Mets are in fact 0-8 behind Hefner starts this season but he has had very limited support, including a total of just 11 runs scored for the Mets in the last five games he has started combined. Hefner has not allowed more than four runs in any of his last six starts and he has three quality starts in his last five outings. At Citi Field he owns a 3.52 ERA and he is capable of a strong outing against the Braves. The Braves own a 28-18 record but this team has been carried by its pitching staff. Atlanta has scored 4.5 runs per game with several home run threats but the team is batting just .241 collectively. Atlanta also strikes out in 24 percent of its at-bats, a rate better than only the lowly Astros this season. The 'over' is on a strong run in Atlanta road games but keep in mind they have had recent visits to high scoring parks with sets in Colorado, Detroit, Cincinnati, and Arizona, as well as San Francisco where scoring has been uncharacteristically high so far this year. On the year Citi Field has been one of the worst hitting parks in baseball with batters hitting .229 and the sixth lowest ballpark OPS in baseball. Rising star Kris Medlen owns a deceptive 1-5 record as he has pitched well this season, featuring six quality starts in his nine outings this year. Only once in nine starts has Medlen allowed more than three earned runs and he has also been the victim of poor run support, getting four or fewer runs from the offense in all but one of his starts. Medlen gets to face a New York lineup batting .210 over the last 10 games and scoring just three runs per game on average. The bullpens are rested with off days for both teams on Thursday and this should be a pitcher's duel despite the terrible records for both starters.

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