Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, July 7

Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, July 7

Scott Delaney

My freebie for Sunday is on the New York Yankees, as I think they're a cheap price for today's game against American League East-rival Baltimore. The Yankees have strung together their best win streak of the season - 6 games - while the Orioles have lost three in a row and are on the verge of being swept.

Friday night the Orioles were cruising to a 2-1 victory when the wheels came off in the ninth inning. Yesterday it was veteran Andy Pettitte recovering from an early pitching mistake to Chris Davis, who launched one over the center-field wall, and then settled down to earn his 11 straight win over the Orioles, who led 3-0 at one point.

The fact is, everything is going the Bombers' way right now. And make note, they're still out to avenge last weekend's three-game series sweep to these Orioles in Baltimore.

With the series taking place on 161st Street set in the Bronx after the Yankees' bats came alive in their series with the Minnesota Twins, I think Baltimore is in big trouble.

The Bombers plated 29 runs during their four-game sweep of the reeling Twins, and then they came home riding the momentum of a four-game win streak. That spree is up to six straight wins now.

Take the home team in this one.

1♦ N.Y. YANKEES

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, July 7

Jack Jones

Chicago Cubs +140

The Chicago Cubs are showing excellent value as a big home underdog to the Pittsburgh Pirates Sunday. I look for them to follow up Saturday's 4-1 victory with another win in Game 3 Sunday to take this series from their NL Central rivals.

Carlos Villanueva is one of the most underrated starters in the league. The right-hander has gone 2-4 with a 3.45 ERA and 1.166 WHIP in 70 1/3 innings pitched this year.

A.J. Burnett is clearly getting too much respect from oddsmakers in this one. The right-hander is 2-3 with a 3.68 ERA in six road starts this season, and 1-1 with a 5.12 ERA in his last three starts overall. He is returning from the DL today, so Pittsburgh won't allow him to go deep into this game.

Burnett is 14-34 (-22.9 Units) against the money line in road games vs. an NL team with an on base percentage .325 or worse since 1997. The Pirates are 1-5 in Burnett's last 6 starts vs. a team with a losing record. He tends to lose his focus against these kinds of teams. Bet the Cubs Sunday.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, July 7

SPORTS WAGERS

Minnesota +151 over TORONTO

To say Scott Diamond's moderate success this season and last is a surprise would be an understatement. Diamond lost 19 games between Triple-A and a brief stint in the majors in 2011 with a 6.28 ERA. Then something clicked, as he cut his control in half and anchored the Twins rotation for the majority of 2012. However, the sustainability of his success depends on multiple factors. His weak strikeout rate means he’s at the mercy of hit%, strand rate % and must rely heavily on his defense. Diamond's skill set lends itself to polarizing results but he also has an upper-tier 59% groundball rate and he knows he’s going to be pitching every fifth day for the remainder of this year. Diamond does not get rattled and at this price against Todd Redmond, he and the Twinkies are certainly worth a play. Hell, if Mike Pelfrey could come in here and easily beat R.A. Dickey, surely Diamond has an equal chance of doing the same to Redmond.

Redmond takes over the vacated slot left open by Chien-Ming Wang who took over for the vacated Russ Ortiz. Think about that for a second. Wang and Ortiz were chosen over Redmond to begin with and it’s not like Redmond is a young, up and coming player that they wanted to mold a little longer. He’s 28 and has over 1200 innings pitched in the minors. Redmond surrendered more than a hit an inning at Triple-AAA Buffalo this season. Redmond has fine control but he also has a troubling 57% fly-ball rate. Redmond has been in the system of the Pirates, Braves, Reds, and Royals before joining the Jays. In a league desperate for good pitchers, they all can’t be wrong and if Redmond and the Jays win today, good for them but we’re going with the best of it here in terms of value.


Boston +121 over L.A. ANGELS

John Lackey owned some of the best skills of any starter in June with an outstanding BB/K split of 4/29 in 37 innings, a 2.86 ERA and a 49% groundball rate. His current year to date command and 50% groundball rate both are the best levels of his career. If you're still clouded by his disastrous '12, it's time to put him on your radar again because John Lackey is back.

Jered Weaver is considered to an ace and that label has this very average pitcher extremely overvalued every time he takes the hill. It's been a season so far that Jered Weaver would like to forget. He's been far from the pitcher who was among the league's best for three seasons. We hate to say we told you so (okay, maybe we like to a little bit), but we pointed out a trend that made him a risky pick and that pigeon, as they say, has come home to roost. Weaver’s strikeout rate shows significant decline over the past few years, without any gains in control to offset it. In fact, his control is way off this year, making a bad situation worse. Weaver’s xERA trend highlighted the risks. Despite his fine surface stats in 2012, his 4.31 xERA was a warning sign. Out-of-the-ordinary hit % and strand % kept his ERA down and those have now normalized. There are really no signs here that point to a rebound to his elite status. Perhaps he will get stronger as the season progresses, but that's just speculation. The skills right now point to a guy who's going to have to be at his best to stay above replacement level and it’s not a sudden thing either. With a 32% groundball rate over eight years in the majors, Weaver has outpitched his xERA longer than any pitcher in the majors. He’s a below average pitcher and it’s finally caught up to him.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, July 7

Wunderdog

Baltimore at New York Yankees
Pick: New York Yankees -125

We've been on the Yankees this entire series, and will go with them for the sweep here. A win here would give New York their second straight series sweep, after being swept themselves by this Orioles team just a week ago. This team is feeling it and is enjoying some home cooking right now. On the season, the Yankees are just a bit over .500 on the road, but at home they are 25-18. Baltimore has similar home/away stats and bring a .500 road record into this one. New York trots out Hiroki Kuroda, who has been very good this year posting a 2.95 ERA. At home he is 5-2 with a 2.16 ERA. New York remains one of the best home teams in the Majors, and they are 96-48 the past three seasons in day games. They are also 28-18 this season following a win. Take the Yankees here.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, July 7

Harry Bondi

CLEVELAND (+130) over Detroit

Indians starter Cory Kluber has given his team's starting rotation a much-needed boost and has been much better at home, where he has a 2.93 ERA, compared to on the road where his ERA is more than 4.00. Detroit's Doug Fister is a bit overrated this season if you consider that his team has lost seven of his last nine starts, despite his 6-5 record. Cleveland gets back on the winning track at home behind another solid effort from Corey Kluber.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, July 7

Ian Cameron

Edmonton at Hamilton
Play: Under

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats spent much of their practice time leading up to this afternoon’s Week 2 matchup against Edmonton retooling and working on their defense. Last season, it was the team’s achilles heel and the problems on defense reared its ugly head once again last week when the Ticats allowed 39 points and nearly 500 total yards to the Toronto Argonauts. Head coach Kent Austin has made several changes on defense entering today’s game; some of them due to injuries and others due to underperformance. As a result, I expect a much stronger and better effort despite the fact they are still a work in progress on that side of the football. Anyone that watched Edmonton last week saw an offense that was pathetic and completely out of sync. Edmonton starting quarterback Mike Reilly was off target throughout the game and the Eskimos’ offensive line was a disaster failing to open holes for the ground game or adequately protecting Riley who took several sacks in last week’s ugly 38-18 loss to Saskatchewan. Reilly completed just 48.6% of his passes with one touchdown and three interceptions. Even a suspect Hamilton defense should be able play much better as they are taking a major step down in class going from arguably the best offense in the CFL with Toronto to the worst.

Hamilton’s offense is the strength of their team and it was on full display last week against Toronto as the Ticats and veteran quarterback Henry Burris put up 34 points. However,  most of that output came in the first half and once Toronto made their halftime adjustments on defense, Hamilton was held to just three points after the break. The ability to make plays at key times was a problem for Hamilton’s offense last season and while they can strike at any moment, today’s game will be a test for the Ticats offense because they will be facing what had been one of the best defenses in the CFL. The Eskimos didn’t really show it in their season opener as the defense was gashed for 39 points but the stats look worse than how things truly unfolded. Saskatchewan scored a touchdown off a Mike Reilly pick six and two more of their toucchdowns came directly off Edmonton turnovers which gave Saskatchewan terrific field position. All of that resulted in 21 of their 39 points. Edmonton’s defense didn’t play well but they were not as bad as the final score indicated. They will be facing a Hamilton offense that will be without a significant component today as wide reciever Andy Fantuz is out with a lower body injury. I usually don’t overreact to the absence of one player, particularly a receiver, but Fantuz led Hamilton in receiving yards and receptions last week – he was clearly a prime target for Burris. His ability to find open spaces on the field and make big time catches can’t be replaced so Hamilton may rely more on the run game today with C.J. Gable and Lindsey Lamar.

I think we have a little bit of inflation with this total sitting at 55.5 after a 4-0 Over sweep in Week 1. Two of the three Week 2 games have gone under and I look for that mini trend to continue. Play it UNDER.

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