Free Picks: Service Plays for Wednesday, May 29

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MLB Predictions

Blue Jays / Braves Over 8

These two teams finished off a mini 2 game series in Toronto where we saw totals of 12 and 13. The Blue Jays have scored 5+ runs in 6 straight games and they are averaging 7.33 runs per game during that span. Blue Jays pitching has allowed 5+ runs in 5 of those 6 games. The Braves have scored 5+ runs in 7 of their last 9 games averaging 5.33 runs per game during those 9 games. The Blue Jays have their bats going now as they are 5th in the MLB in May with a .276 team batting average and 2nd in the MLB with a .489 slugging %. Atlanta and Toronto sit tied for 4th in homeruns this month each with 32 , and they sit 2nd and 3rd overall on the season. Tonight’s starter for Toronto will be reliever Esmil Rogers with a spot start given the injury troubles the Jays are facing. Rogers is 1-2 with a 4.56 ERA, .297 OBA and 1.48 WHIP through 22 appearances this season. Kris Medlen is 1-5 on the season despite a pretty solid 3.16 ERA, .249 OBA and 1.32 WHIP. He has given up 3 earned runs or more in 5 of his last 7 starts. Overall he has been good, but not near the form he was in 2012 when he had a 1.57 ERA. The OVER is 22-8-1 in the Blue Jays last 31 overall, 9-4-1 in their last 14 road games, and 5-0 in their last 5 vs a right handed starter. The OVER is 5-2 in the Braves last 7 games and 4-0 in their last 4 interleague games. Also take into consideration that both team’s bullpens are going through some injuries right now. With these two teams swinging hot bats I’ll take the OVER tonight.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Wednesday, May 29

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New York Mets at New York YankeesFOR SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
Pick: New York Mets +1.5 -135FOR SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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The New York Yankees let one get away last night as Mariano Rivera proved to be human in blowing his first save after recording 18 straight this season. He also failed to record an out in a save opportunity for the first time ever in his storied career. The Yanks have bigger problems with a dozen disabled players, and a patchwork rotation that is showing signs of catching up to them. The Yankees are on a three-game skid and have won just 4 of their last 11. The Mets enter at 9-2 in their last 11 interleague games vs. the AL East, and are 5-0 in their last five interleague road games. Things are getting tough for the Yankees, so play the Mets on the runline.

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Detroit Tigers vs. Pittsburgh PiratesFOR SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
Take: Pittsburgh Pirates +100FOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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The Pittsburgh Pirates will look for back to back wins over the Detroit Tigers when the two teams meet tonight at PNCPark in Pittsburgh. The two teams split a two game set in Motown on Monday and Tuesday with the Tigers taking Game 1 6-5 and Pittsburgh bouncing back winning a 1-0 11 inning thriller last night. The Pirates will send AJ Burnett to the mound, who has been good for them all season. He has posted a 3-5 record, due in large past to the sometimes lifeless bats of the Pirates but has a 2.57 ERA, 1.057 WHIP and leads the NL in strikeouts with 85 in just 70 innings pitched. Burnett will be opposed by Anibal Sanchez, who is scheduled to get the start for the Tigers. Sanchez has a decent 5-4 record on the season with a fantastic 2.38 ERA but he done most of that damage at ComericaPark. He is just 1-3 on the road with a 3.29 ERA and 8.6 K/9 compared to 4-1 with a 1.70 ERA and 13.1 K/9 at home. The Pirates, who trail the Cardinals by 2½ games in the NL Central Division, have been very good in the spot they are in here tonight. They are 10-2 in their last 12 games when facing a right handed starter and have won 14 of their last 19 interleague games played at PNCPark. They have also been excellent against the NL Central with Burnett as their starter, winning 4 straight. The Tigers, who lead the AL Central almost by default, have actually struggled a bit in the situation they find themselves in here against the Pirates. They are just 2-7 in their last 9 interleague games when listed as a favorite and have lost 4 of 5 on the road when Sanchez is on the mound. Pair those numbers with the fact that the Pirates have posted a 6-2 record against the Tigers in their last 8 home games and we’ll take the even money price on them to get the win.

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Detroit Tigers -108FOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Rarely will you get the Detroit Tigers at this kind of price. That's especially the case with one of their best starters in Anibal Sanchez on the mound. I'll gladly take advantage Wednesday and back them to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates on the road tonight.
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Sanchez has been nothing short of spectacular this season. The right-hander has gone 5-4 with a 2.38 ERA and 1.119 WHIP in 10 starts this year. That includes a one-hit shutout last time out in which he took a no-hitter into the 9th inning.
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Sanchez is 2-3 with a 2.50 ERA and 0.917 WHIP in five career starts against Pittsburgh. While A.J. Burnett is having a solid season for the Pirates, he has struggled against tonight's opposition. Burnett has posted a 4.92 ERA and 1.442 WHIP in 11 career starts against Detroit.
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The Tigers are 72-35 in their last 107 interleague games as a favorite. The Pirates are 41-89 in their last 130 interleague games as an underdog. Pittsburgh is 2-8 in Burnett's last 10 starts as an underdog. Bet the Tigers Wednesday.

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Dave PriceFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Arizona Diamondbacks +120FOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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The D-backs are showing value at this price because of how well Brandon McCarthy is going. He's 2-0 with a 0.37 ERA over his last 3 starts and has allowed only 1 earned run in 24 innings during this span. Texas' Justin Grimm is 2-1 over his last 3 starts but has an ERA of 5.00 during this stretch. McCarthy is an impressive 15-6 on the money line in his last 21 starts as an underdog of +100 to +150. McCarthy has also had some success against Texas. He went 2-0 on the money line against the Rangers last season and has held them to 2 earned runs or less in 3 of his last 4 starts against them. Take Arizona.

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MINNESOTA +100 over MilwaukeeFREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Marco Estrada has started 10 games for the Crew this season and his quality-start/poor-start split is 6/4. The story on Estrada is that he’s a fly-ball pitcher with decent base skills that overcomes ordinary stuff to record a nice bottom line. Last year, Estrada had a strong follow-up to '11 rotation shot but how sustainable are those second half gains? He's legit, but his frequent poor starts temper expectations. Estrada has surrendered 11 jacks already in just 58 frames. His BAA is a pedestrian .263 and his ERA is at 4.94, which is right in line with his career ERA of 4.43. As a dog, Estrada holds some value, as a favorite, pitching on the road for the ice-cold Brewers, he offers little. Jean Segura had six hits last night in Milwaukee’s loss to these same Twins in 14 frames. Segura had more hits in one game than the Brewers have wins in May. Since May 1, a stretch of 25 games, the Brew Crew are 5-20. Overall, Milwaukee has won just seven of 21 games on the road.
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Sam Deduno does not, nor has he ever put up pretty surface stats. He has a career ERA of 4.70 in just 90 innings but most disturbing of all, Deduno has walked 60 batters in those 90 frames. His career WHIP of 1.62 is a direct result of all those free passes. Thing is, Deduno has nasty stuff. When he’s throwing strikes he wins games. He can be downright dominant because of his extreme groundball bias profile (62%) and his strikeout rate. Often when Deduno walks someone, he induces the next batter into hitting into a double play. Unlike the other Twins starters, at least Deduno has a live arm. It’s also worth noting that the Brewers are one of the league’s worst in drawing walks. That could come into play here, as losing is not only contagious but it has hitters pressing at the plate and swinging at a lot of bad pitches. As they’ve shown all season, the Twins don’t need much out of their starters to win games but could get a very good performance out of Deduno here.
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Toronto +163 over ATLANTAFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Over the past 15 games, the Blue Jays have scored 96 times to lead the league. The closest team to them over taht stretch was the Angels 85 runs scored. Toronto’s .301 batting average over that same span is also tops in the league and is almost 50 points higher than the Braves .253 team batting average over that same stretch. The Braves are a big price here because of the perceived pitching mismatch in the Braves favor but under the surface, it’s not a pitching mismatch at all. Kris Medlen seemingly has continued the fantastic finish he had in 2012. He has a 3.13 ERA after 10 starts. Problem is, that ERA comes with nearly zero skill support. In 63 innings, Medlen’s walks are up (23) and his K’s are down (47). He has a pedestrian 40%/23%/37% groundball/line-drive/fly-ball profile. Medlen’s 82% strand rate has kept his ERA at bay but with an xERA of 4.74 and a WHIP of 1.32, regression is on the way. Kris Medlen has one win in 10 starts and some folks may figure that he’s due for a win with such a nice ERA. The only thing Medlen is due for is an ERA correction and it’s not in his favor.
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Also influencing the price is Esmil Rogers making his first start of the season after appearing in 22 games in relief.  Rogers hasn't thrown more than 43 pitches in an outing this year and hasn't started a game since 2011 so there's only the slightest possibility he'll pitch deep enough to qualify for a win or quality start. However, the Blue Jays bullpen is one of their strengths should Rogers fail. With a 4.56 ERA and a 1.43 WHIP, Rogers may not seem like much but he’s no stranger to starting games and he’s pitched brilliantly in relief lately. Over his last four relief appearances and it included back-to-back, three inning outings, Rogers has not allowed a single run in 7.1 frames. Over that stretch, he’s walked just one batter while striking out five. Rogers has a very light frame (6'0" 150 pounds), but generates an 88-94 mph fastball because of his quick, fluid arm and clean mechanics. Rogers commands his fastball well and is able to work down in the strike zone to lure groundballs. He’s earned this opportunity to start and pitching for the hottest hitting team in the majors and taking back this ridiculous price, he and the Blue Jays are more than worthy of a wager.
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ST. LOUIS -1½ +112 over Kansas CityFOR SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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The Royals just hosted a two-game set with their two best pitchers going, James Shields and Earvin Santana, and lost them both by three runs each. Now on a seven-game losing streak, K.C. goes into St. Louis with its worst starter scheduled to go.  If you’re looking for a pitching mismatch, look no further. Luis Mendoza comes in with a 5.05 ERA, a 1.46 WHIP, a .279 BAA and 17 walks issued in just 41 innings. His career BAA is .291. Mendoza was a low strikeout rate and current Cardinals are hitting .308 against him with a gaudy OPS of .804. Mendoza has sub-par command and with a low number of strikeouts, any variations to hit% or strand% will impact his bottom line. He has a rotation for now but there’s not a lot to indicate that he will hold it all year because he remains one of the most hittable pitchers in the game. Chances are, he’s not going to fool these well-disciplined Cardinals hitters.
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Lance Lynn transitioned from relief to rotation without a hitch last season. A 6+ ERA and 1.91 WHIP in August was just an aberration. Lynn rebounded with an elite September that has carried over to this season. Lynn’s strikeout rate (66 K’s in 61 innings) and command trends confirm that there's plenty more growth on the horizon. With consistency and an addition of a third pitch, Lance Lynn has been among the beast in the game. His ERA after 10 starts is 2.95 and it comes with full skills support. His early-season strikeout rate spike is fully supported by his elite 11.8% swinging strike rate. At home, Lynn is 4-0 with an ERA of 2.81. If you take away Lynn’s first start of the year in Arizona in which he was tagged for four runs in four innings, his numbers would be off the charts. In closing, we get a huge pitching mismatch in our favor and we get the host with the major’s best record at 34-17 against a garbage pitcher, a gassed bullpen and a team that can’t wait for May to end. That works. 
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Los Angeles (NL) +160 over L.A. ANGELSSERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Jered Weaver comes off the DL to make this start after he broke his left non-throwing elbow on April 7th against the Rangers. Weaver went 20-5 last season with the Angels with a 2.81 ERA. It was one of those seasons where absolutely everything went Weaver’s way and as a result of that incredible year, he’s grossly overvalued this season. Weaver’s xERA last season was 4.01. In two early starts this year, his xERA was 5.64. Weaver continues to be stingy with the free passes but there are warning signs. His hit% can't stay as low as it did last season. His strikeout rate is dipping and his command isn’t far behind. Since 2006, covering his entire career, Weaver has never had a groundball rate over 36%. In fact, he’s usually at around the 30% mark. His line-drive rate last year of 21% was the highest in his career and we’re here to tell you that everything that was hit off Weaver the entire season was hit right at people. He was MLB’s luckiest pitcher and it wasn’t close. Some will overlook Weaver’s two starts this year and attribute them to early season rust. In 11 innings, he walked six batters and struck out six but his peripherals were exactly the same as last year only this time those hard hit balls and fly-balls to the outfield did not land in someone’s glove. In his last start on April 7, Weaver faced 25 batters and only five of them grounded out. Someone will pay for his 20 W/sub-3 ERA from a year ago and lay the big juice. Don’t follow suit because Jered Weaver is nothing but smoke and mirrors, he’s not a 20-game winner and his skills suggest that a huge regression is forthcoming.
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We could talk about Chris Capuano but it’s not relevant, as this play is all about fading an overpriced Weaver. Of course, anything can happen in one game. Capuano could get whacked and the Angels could win going away. That’s not relevant either. Our philosophy is centered around playing value and that’s precisely what we’re doing here because this tag is based on what Jared Weaver, a pitcher that is perceived in the market as being elite, did last season. Truth is, Weaver is not that good and will be exposed as such in the coming weeks. Sell high.

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Detroit +185 over CHICAGOFOR  FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Under some pressure to close out the series and with a 3-1 series lead, the Red Wings were not at their best the past two games or perhaps Chicago was. Now the pressure shifts back to the Blackhawks after they tilted the ice in its favor with two must win games. A lot of people now believe that this game is just a formality, suggesting that the Red Wings had their chance and blew it. That might be true. However, don’t ever count out a Mike Babcock coached team that has had their backs to the wall numerous times over the years. Don’t ever count out a team that has Pavel Datsyuk on their side. Datsyuk is not only one of the best players in the game, he can will his team to victory on his own.
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No question the Red Wings are up against it here, as Chicago is this year’s most talented and deepest squad. They proved so the entire year and they proved it once again in the past two games. However, this is one game and anything can happen. A hot goaltender can steal a game on his own and we trust Jimmy Howard can do that more than we trust Corey Crawford to do so in a one-game take all scenario.  So now it’s two teams on the brink of elimination. Chicago has proven that it can elevate its game to the challenge of this series. The Wings managed to win a Game 7 on the road to eliminate Anaheim in the first round and they also defeated the Blackhawks in Game 2 in Chicago and dominated play in Game 1. With a take-back of +185, Detroit has too much experience, talent and strong goaltending to pass up on and once again, we’ll play the value and let the chips fall where they may. C’mon Detroit – ONE TIME!!!!

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NellyFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Baltimore Orioles - over Washington NationalsSERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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In a match-up of rookie starters last night Washington got the best of Baltimore to even the season series between these nearby clubs. It was Washington that had more work in the bullpen last night however and Baltimore has blown away the recent offensive numbers for the Nationals. Overall this season Baltimore is hitting .271 compared with .229 for Washington and over the last 10 games the Orioles are scoring 5.0 runs per game while batting .300. Jordan Zimmermann might seem like a good candidate to shut down the Orioles with his glowing 8-2 record and 1.71 ERA. Zimmermann is certainly emerging as one of the better pitchers in the NL but he also has one of the highest gaps in baseball between his ERA and his FIP, suggesting regression is coming. The Nationals have also had real problems in the bullpen with a 5.70 ERA over the last 10 games. Chris Tillman owns solid numbers for the year and he has gone seven straight starts without allowing more than three runs. The Orioles are 5-2 in his last seven starts and while his advanced numbers suggest some potential trouble ahead he has also been a bit unlucky with seven home runs allowed in his last four starts. Almost all of his runs surrendered in that span have come by the long ball but this is a Washington lineup that has hit just 47 home runs, compared with a MLB leading 71 for the Orioles. Bryce Harper has hit more than a quarter of those Nationals home runs and he will again be sitting out tonight. The Orioles have scored at least three runs in nine straight games including topping five runs in six of the last seven games and this lineup has a good chance to get to Zimmermann. Half of Zimmermann's starts have come against the offensively challenged NL East and he could face a rude welcome to an AL park.

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Bob Balfe

Oakland Athletics +110

We get a taste of two great strikeout pitchers tonight, but the main factors in me taking Oakland are Lincecum walks more batter than Milone and the Giants offense can be non existent at times while Oakland can usually be depended on for scoring runs. Lincecum sometimes gets rocked in the first inning of games and if Oakland can jump out of the gates quickly I just don't see the Giants coming back in this one. Take the A's.

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Teddy Covers

Detroit vs. Pittsburgh
Pick: Pittsburgh

Tigers starter Anabal Sanchez threw 130 pitches last time on the hill, losing his bid for a no hitter in the ninth, but finishing the game with a complete game, one hit shutout.  Sanchez is pitching on normal rest today.

The last time Sanchez threw more than 110 pitches, in his next game, he failed to make it out of the third inning, giving up nine hits and six runs in a 7-2 Tigers loss.  Following a 121 pitch effort against Atlanta back in April, Sanchez was on the wrong end of a 6-2 home loss to the light hitting Twins.  Clearly, I’m not expecting his best effort today, and the Tigers bullpen behind him is not likely to have key set-up man Joaquin Benoit after he threw 38 pitches over the past two games.

Pittsburgh’s AJ Burnett has been dominant all year: 85 strikeouts in just 70 innings of work with a 2.57 ERA; numbers that are even better at PNC Park.  He’s thrown quality starts in each of his last six trips to the hill; a consistently good hurler.  The Pirates lineup can’t match Detroit’s potency, but hasn’t mattered one iota when it comes to profitability this year – Pittsburgh is up more than 15 units of profit, while Detroit supporters are in the red.  And Pittsburgh continues to eke out wins in low scoring games, just as they did in last night’s extra inning affair in Detroit. 

The numbers don’t lie.  Pittsburgh is 14-4 in their last 18 games, and have played .667 baseball at home this year.  Detroit is a .500 team on the road, and they’ve been a .500 team for the better part of the last month: 10-10 in their last 20 games.  A plus price return on investment with the Pirates as home dogs is a clear choice for this bettor!  Take Pittsburgh.

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Ross Benjamin

Cleveland -138

The Cleveland starter Justin Masterson has displayed stellar form over his last 3 starts posting a 2.05 ERA, a 0.86 WHIP, and a better than 4:1 strikeout to walk ratio. Masterson has gone 2-0 in his last 2 team starts versus the Reds while posting an excellent 1.06 ERA and 0.47 WHIP in those outings. In his last 4 starts versus the Indians the Reds starter Bronson Arroyo has been lit up as evidenced by a 9.30 ERA and 1.77 WHIP in those appearances.

Any team with a winning record versus a road underdog of +100 to +150 on the money line that has won 4 of its last 5 games, and that road team has a winning percentage of .620 or better is 98-40 (71%) since the start of the 1997 season. Play on the Cleveland Indians on the money line as my free selection of the day.

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GamePlan

Seattle Mariners +146

Seattle is 27-13 (+15.1 Units) against the money line when playing against a bad team (Win Pct. 38% to 46%) over the last 2 seasons. Seattle is 28-12 (+25.3 Units) against the money line after having lost 6 or 7 of their last 8 games over the last 2 seasons. San Diego is 93-113 (-36.4 Units) against the money line in home games after a win by 4 runs or more since 1997. Saunders is 5-3 when starting against San Diego with an ERA of 2.67 and a WHIP of 1.156 in 9 starts in his career. Take Seattle as a nice underdog tonight.

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Joe Gavazzi

Atlanta -1 ½

Atlanta returns home after a split north of the border with Toronto. The Blue Jays send Rogers to the mound who has a 4.56 ERA this year. This will be the first time he has started a game this year, a role in which he has a 6.24 ERA in 22 starts. Last year, the big Brave bats lit up the scoreboard every time Medlen took the mound making it an automatic play. This year, things have evened out as despite a 3.16 ERA, Medlen is receiving just 2.6 runs / game in support leading to a 1-5 record. However, in 4 starts from this mound, that ERA is 2.08. And in his last 17 home starts, Medlen has allowed 3 or less earned runs. Feel comfortable knowing that 26/31 Atlanta wins including 12/15 on this field have come by 2 or more runs. Consider splitting your total risk between the money line and the run line on a field where Atlanta is 15-5 for the highest home won/loss percentage in MLB.

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Jeff Scott Sports

3 UNIT PLAYS

ST LOUIS -1.5 (+100) over Kansas City: The Royals are joining the Marlins and Astros as one of the leagues worst teams. The Royals come in having lost 7 in a row and 18 of their last 22 games and a trip to the leagues hottest team is not what they need to right the ship. The Cards have the best record in baseball and they are 14-8 at home, plus they have taken 5 in a row and 6 of the last 7 in this series, with all 6 of the wins coming by at least 3 runs. The Royals have had real troubles scoring of late, putting up just 1.9 rpg in their last 7 games and it doesn't figure to get much easier tonight vs Lance Lynn, who has pitched very well for the Cards this year. Lance comes in at 7-1 with a 2.95 ERA overall, while at home he is 4-0 with a 2.35 ERA. In his home starts the Cards are 4-1 and all 4 wins have been by at least 2 runs, while overall at home they have outscored their opponents by 3 rpg in his starts. Luis Mendoza has pitched well for KC of late, but will that last. In his career he is just 13-17 with a 5.08 ERA in 48 starts and he is 0-1 with a 5.23 ERA in 2 career starts vs the Cards. I expect him to struggle tonight vs this very good St Louis offense. Now bot starters are righties and that also favors the Cards. At home the Cards hit righties well at 5.06 rp/9 (.278 BA) compared to hitting just .212 and scoring just 2.95 rp/9 off of lefties at home. For the Royals it is the opposite as they hit just .249 and score 3.89 rp/9 off of righties on the road, compared to hitting .297 and scoring 5.35 rp/9 off of southpaws away from home. Just one of many edges for the Cards in this one and it all should translate in to a win of at least 3 runs.


Houston/ Colorado Under 10: (Added) Very seldom do I take an under in a Rockies home game, but this spot warrants it. Erik Bedard had a rough start to his year, but he is in a groove right now, having allowed just 2 ER's in each of his last 3 starts. Tonight he will be taking on a Rockies offense that is struggling some, having scored just 4.2 rpg in their last 10 games, including 3.4 rpg in their last 5 games. The Houston offense has not hit well for much of the year and they come in averaging just 3.2 rpg in their last 10 games. Tonight their task of getting runs will not be easy at all, as they face Tyler Chatwood, who has been dominant of late. Overall Tyler has 4 starts on the year and a 1.90 ERA in those starts, while in his last 3 starts he allowed just 1 total ER, while posting an ERA of 0.51 over that stretch. Both offenses come in struggling, while both starters are in a groove and that should lead to at most 7 or 8 runs.

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