Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, July 20

Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, July 20

Brett Atkins

On the heels of last night's winner on the L.A. Angels, I come back with this series and play the Oakland Athletics this time around, and I only want you listing the Angels' CJ Wilson.

I won't get into specifics, and I know he closed out the first half as the Halos' top guy, but my sources in Anaheim have been telling me Wilson has been tight and his mechanics are off. He's not delivering where he wants and he isn't pitching with his best stuff right now.

The A's will be looking to get their bats going early and should be able to do that against the Angels' left-hander.

Take Oakland here and list Wilson only.

4♦ OAKLAND

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, July 20

Brad Wilton

My comp play winner for Saturday will be the Atlanta Braves to make it 2 in a row at US Cellular Field this Saturday afternoon as Paul Maholm will take on Jake Peavy who is coming off yet another stint on the DL.

The Braves won the opener 6-4 last night, as Atlanta improved to 55-41 for the season, while the White Sox dropped to 37-56 with yet another loss.

Chicago is just 7-16 when the face left-handed starters, so that should bode well for southpaw Paul Maholm as he climbs the mound for the Bravos this afternoon.

It also helps that the Pale Hose are on a 5-14 overall slide their last 19, and they own an A.L. worst 6-12 mark in interleague play this season.

Atlanta gets it done on the south side once again.

3♦ ATLANTA

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, July 20

Jeff Benton

Saturday freebie is the Phillies to continue their rise against their division-rival the Mets.

Philly got out early and held on on Friday for the 13-8 win, as the Phils have now won 3 straight and 7 of their last 9 games overall.

Last night's win also improved the Phillies to a rock-solid 11-3 their last 14 games against the Mets.

Zack Wheeler is a promising talent, but this is just his 6th big league start, and he is facing a Phillies team that knows how to win. A Phillies team that has owned the Mets, and a Phillies team that will start the surging Cole Hamels.

Hamels is on a 2-0 run his last 4, and has allowed 2 runs or less in each of his last 3 starts.

Have to side with a Philadelphia team that appears to be gaining steam as we get set for the stretch drive.

Phillies the call.

2♦ PHILADELPHIA

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, July 20

Craig Davis

Free play of the day on the UNDER in the Washington/LA Dodgers game today in the nation's capitol.

Zack Greinke gets the call for the Dodgers and is looking for victory #100 and has won his last five starts.

He's allowed just one run, one run, four runs and two runs over his July starts and has faced the Nats seven times in his career, posting a 1.86 ad on three wins.

Greinke (8-2, 3.49 ERA) posted a 2.50 ERA and while holding his opponents to under three runs in each of his last three starts, holding oppoents to a batting average barely over 2.00.

As for Gio Gonzalez (starter for the Nat), he's also enterng tonight's game with a bit of his own hot streak, having won his last four starts.

Gonzo posted a 2.00 ERA during his most recent run and I know the time off isn't going to hurt him.

Free play of the day on the under in the Washington/Dodgers game.

1♦ L.A. DODGERS-WASHINGTON UNDER

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, July 20

Chris Jordan

My freebie for tonight is one of those games where the line is very touchy, right on the fringe of being a run line play, but you want it to stay around 160/165, so you don't have to lay it cause it could very well be a one-run game.

I want you laying the chalk with the Tigers over the Royals and want you listing Justin Verlander only in this game.

Verlander comes in after he took a no-hitter into the seventh inning against the Texas Rangers his last time out, before allowing a double with two outs. He also left that game with a tight right quad muscle.

From all accounts I've read, the bother is not expected to linger into ths start, and I don't think it'll effect him today against the Royals.

The only numbers you should be concerned with are 15-2 and 2.56. That's the right-hander's record and ERA against the Royals, and that'll make the difference in this game.

List Verlander only, and play Detroit.

2♦ DETROIT

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, July 20

Scott Delaney

My freebie for Saturday night is on the Texas Rangers over the Baltimore Orioles, and I don't want you listing either pitcher. I simply think the American League West powerhouse will overrun the O's in Arlington.

These two split a four-game set in the penultimate series before the break. The Rangers took the first two games, scoring eight runs in each, then scored a mere one run in each of the last two games as the Orioles evened the series. Texas then lost last night in the series opener, once again scoring only one run.

Tonight the Rangers might erupt for who knows how many.

I won't speculate, and I'm not worried about who is going here. I simply like Texas to roll in this game based on revenge and motivation.

3♦ TEXAS

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, July 20

SPORTS WAGERS

Edmonton +9 over B.C. LIONS

These two also played last week in Edmonton but that game was played in a heavy downpour and the result was a 17-3 Lions win. We’re not going to put a lot of emphasis on that loss. It was difficult conditions for a rookie QB and these Lions do possess a very good defense. This week expect much more from Edmonton QB, Mike Reilly. This guy is very undervalued right now. He sees the field well and he also reads defenses very well. The results haven’t been there yet but Reilly is on the verge of making a name for himself. He’s surrounded by good personnel and the Eskies defense might just be the best in the business. Edmonton has played one road game this season. Back in Week 2, they went into Guelph as a 6-point pooch and buried the Tiger-Cats while holding Hamilton’s strong offense at bay the entire outing.

We mentioned last week that the Lions have looked out of sorts and nothing has changed. The Lions offense has scored just 73 points in three games and now they’re being asked to spot a significant margin to a great defense. The Lions are 2-1 but both wins over the Argos and the aforementioned win last week against Edmonton were unimpressive. Perhaps B.C. puts it all together this week and has a tremendous outing. They have the talent to do precisely that. However, Edmonton is no pushover despite what their record and stats suggest. The Eskimos are without question, a team on the rise, undervalued and a dangerous dog. We’re calling the big upset in this one but will gladly accept the generous points.


CALGARY -7 over Montreal

These two met in Montreal last week and the result was a 22-14 win for the visiting Stampeders. That score is flattering to the Alouettes, as they couldn’t move five yards the entire game and somehow hung around when a late TD by their special teams made it closer than it should have been. On its home field, Montreal was dominated in every department. This season, after three games, the Als offensive and defensive lines have looked like university squads. They will now enter this game minus their best guard in Scott Flory. Flory is a significant loss because his absence leaves aging Anthony Calvillo will far less protection. Montreal has no big-play capabilities anymore. Its defense has been brutal and they now get its toughest test of the season when traveling to Calgary. Remember, Montreal was fortunate to win its first game. They’ve faced the useless offense of the Blue Bombers twice and didn’t look pretty against that pathetic group. Montreal has 30 two and outs this season, which was the worst mark in the league heading into Week 4. The Als have no idea what’s in store for them here.

Calgary is an offensive juggernaut. They probably should have piled up another 14 points last week in Montreal but that works to our benefit with this beatable number. Kevin Glenn made his first start of the year and completed 22 of 28 passes for 268 yards. He’ll be more dangerous this week. The Stamps have played just one home game this season back in Week 1. They buried the Lions in that game 44-32 but they let up in the second half after they built up a 31-6 halftime lead. These Stampeders will be thrilled to get back home to play in front of their enthusiastic supporters and the unfortunate recipient will be the CFL’s worst team in every department. Expect Calgary to bury this visitor by 21 or more.

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SPORTS WAGERS

Baltimore +105 over TEXAS

A quick glance at today’s starting pitchers will reveal R. Wolf starting for the Rangers. We’re sure some of you are going to think that the Rangers are using long-time major-leaguer Randy Wolf but they’re not. This is Ross Wolf, a career minor-league journeyman. In 2010, the Athletics acquired Wolf from Baltimore in a June '10 trade and they promoted him to the majors for the first time since '07. Wolf pitched 12 innings with the Marlins in '07 and posted an 11.68 ERA. He's a low upside pitcher who pitches primarily off of his high 80s sinker. He’s worked primarily in relief this year and in 33 innings, Wolf has just nine K’s. In fact, it’s safe to say that he’s been the Rangers mop-up man, as he’s entered games when Texas was losing 14-5, 6-1, 6-1 again and 9-2 among others. He got a start last time out when Yu Darvish was placed on the DL and sure enough that start came in Baltimore against these same Orioles. Wolf caught lightning in a bottle that day by allowing just three hits (2 of them bombs) in six innings and picked up the win. Lightning will not strike twice. Wolf is 30-years old with 58 career ML innings and he’s not about to go R.A. Dickey on anyone.

One of the stalwarts on the surprising 2012 Orioles was Miguel Gonzalez, who went 9-4 in their second-half playoff drive. After missing 2008 and 2009 with arm issues, Gonzalez worked his way up the minor league ladder in the Boston system before coming over to Baltimore. Gonzalez’s skills are consistent with last year. He’s not piling up huge strikeout numbers, but he does a good job of avoiding free passes, as his command will attest to. After a slow start (4.60 ERA in April), he’s pitched better of late. Gonzalez was 4-1 a 2.88 ERA in five June starts. He’s allowed three runs or less in seven straight and while he may not fare as well today at this unforgiving park, he’s a much better option taking back a tag than Ross Wolf is spotting one.


Chicago +138 over COLORADO

The Cubbies took the opener last night 3-1 and have now won 12 of their past 19 games. Chicago continues to get timely hitting, good pitching and contributions from several different sources each night. They were undervalued yesterday and they’re undervalued again today with another pitching matchup in their favor. Carlos Villanueva is no stranger to starting games. He started a game before the break against St. Louis and went six solid innings (four hits, two runs). In his career, Villanueva has started 66 games in over 300 appearances and he’s been effective no matter what role he’s in. Villanueva was one of the NL's biggest surprises in April (2.29 ERA, 0.82 WHIP). He has a nice 9.0% swinging strike rate. While his 87.8 mph average fastball velocity does not leave any room for error, he has used it with his 80 mph change-up to keep hitters off balance. Hitters managed only a .128 BA and .308 Slg against his change-up. He’s also using a good sinker to induce plenty of groundballs. Villanueva has a strong arsenal of pitches. He comes in with a solid xERA of 3.77 and another strong start here would be of no surprise.

The Rockies have lost five of Juan Nicasio’s last eight starts. Nicasio has just five pure quality starts in 17 tries this season for one of the worst dominant starts/disaster starts splits in the majors. Micro-fracture knee surgery last July ended his season, curtailing his comeback from a fractured vertebrae that ended 2011. Nicasio has spent 177 days on the DL over the past three seasons and his 88 innings pitched this year is a career high at this level. In those 88 frames, he has just 59 K’s but has also issued 31 free passes. Nicasio’s 4.89 ERA is fully supported by his ugly xERA of 5.09. Nocasio’s current combination of a middling strikeout rate, shaky command, poor durability and allowing too many runners to cross home plate all conspire to make him a very risky and unappealing favorite.


Tampa Bay +100 over TORONTO

The Jays began the second half the same way they began the first half. Toronto has now dropped two in a row and four of its last five games. It’s also worth noting that the Rays have won six of the past nine games against Toronto and this might be the Jays worst matchup of them all. Mark Buehrle was crushed in his last start in Baltimore in which he was tagged for three jacks and eight runs in six innings. Buehrle occasionally throws a lucky game when all those hard hit balls are right at people. However, his skills keep deteriorating with age and he’s missing fewer bats than ever. Buehrle comes into this start with a 5-6 record, a 1.37 WHIP, a 4.89 ERA and a .277 BAA. At home his numbers look much better (4-1 with a 3.30 ERA) but he’s been the exact same pitcher at home as he’s been on the road in terms of poor skills. That tells us that ERA regression at home is inevitable and these Rays have plenty of weapons to start that regression today.

Jeremy Hellickson is the exact opposite of Mark Buehrle. Hellickson owns a 4.67 ERA due to no fault of his own and that’s fine with us, as that hugely misleading ERA has him way undervalued here. Hellickson’s ERA is a direct result of an unlucky 63% strand rate. Hellickson has posted an xERA of 3.06 over his past six starts. That’s an xERA equivalent to Matt Harvey, Clayton Kershaw and Justin Verlander. Hellickson has outstanding control, a good strikeout rate (26/97 - BB/K in 118 innings), a solid batted ball profile of 49%/16%/34% groundball/line-drive/fly-ball and he has a legit shot to post a 3.50 ERA in the second half. He’s also pitching for a hot team and the fact that Hellickson is a dog to Buehrle is ridiculous. Wrong side favored.


Miami +149 over MILWAUKEE

Yovanni Gallardo has been one of baseball's biggest pitching disappointments. The Milwaukee Brewers have been one of baseball’s biggest team disappointments. Now this combination of big disappointments is a -160 favorite? Gallardo’s velocity has continued its trend downward from his peak performance in 2011.  His skills in May and June were at least somewhat respectable, but July has been his worst month so far with 11 K’s, 7 walks, 15 earned runs allowed and a 39% groundball rate in 15 July innings. Overall, the Brewers have lost four of Gallardo’s last five starts and that includes a July 1 start in Washington is which he allowed eight runs in three innings. The biggest red flag of all is Gallardo’s 28% line-drive rate over his past 10 starts and there isn’t a pitcher on the planet that is going to have sustained success with a line-drive rate that high.   

Nathan Eovaldi has started just five games this season and all five starts have been of the pure quality variety. Eovaldi’s stock is still low because he went 4-13 with a 4.30 ERA in 119 IP last year for the Marlins and Dodgers. However, last season, Eovaldi was a rookie that had just 168 IP above A+ ball and was learning on the job. He struggled with strikeout rate and control but made strides in keeping the ball on the ground. In September of last year, Eovaldi posted a 3.72/3.32 ERA/xERA, good command and a 51% GB% in 29 IP. Combine that with this year and these are the seeds of something with very good profit potential. Eovaldi has mid 90’s raw stuff and in his five starts he has a 47% groundball rate, a 16% line-drive rate a 1.04 WHIP and an ERA of 2.93. It’s no fluke either, making him one of the most undervalued pitchers on today’s card.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, July 20

Greg Shaker

Colorado -1.5 +135

This one is worth a flyer on the runline at this price. Most likely a lot of runs scored in this contest at Coors and that makes the -1.5 worthy, considering the fact that the Cubs pitcher is marginal at best and has had a lot of trouble at this park and against the Rocky lineup. The Colorado thrower has actually been pretty good at Coors comparative to how he has been when he has traveled. The Rockies are a strong right handed hitting team averaging right at 5.5 Per 9 here in the mountains. Despite the loss yesterday, they have dominated the Cubs here at home and I think 11 of 12 from them. Bounceback very likely and a good price to work with here grabbing the Dog Runline Play.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, July 20

Fezzik

Edmonton Eskimos +8.5

How does a coach react after his lifeless team commits 11 penalties for 103 yards? Probably a lot like Edmonton Eskimos mentor Kavis Reed did after his club stumbled through a rain-soaked 17-3 home loss to the BC Lions.

"There has to be consequences now," Reed promised. "Enough talking about it, there has to be consequences, it's just not acceptable. We're not good enough to be as undisciplined as we are at home and allow teams to continue drives and allow our drives to be stalled because of it."

Many of the penalties were committed by some of the Eskimos top players, and the 17-3 loss to BC saw the offense garner only 145 yards, have no play longer than 18 yards, and at no point crack the red zone.  But the driving rainstorm and the mistakes that fueled poor field position had a lot to do with that.

The best situation after an embarrassing performance is to face the team that subjected you to the humiliation.  That's the setup here, as the Eskimos head to BC Place for an immediate rematch with the Lions, who will have a hard time being motivated to take on a team they stifled just a week ago.  And "fat and happy" is taking on "angry and hungry" as Edmonton is in last place in their division, and are in danger of falling out of the race.

Edmonton is a difficult team to support right now, but we know that a team is never as bad as it looks, or as a good as it looks, and to get more than TD with the Eskimos in immediate revenge when they are playing for their season has "good spot" written all over it.   Take desperate Edmonton plus the big points at BC as the Eskimos will be poised for a big performance and make this a ballgame.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, July 20

Jeffrey Brandes

Rays / Blue Jays Over 9

Pitchers:
TAMPA BAY RAYS: JEREMY HELLICKSON (R) ERA: 4.67 W/L: 8-3
TORONTO BLUE JAYS: MARK BUEHRLE (L) ERA: 4.89 W/L: 5-6

Early this season JEREMY HELLICKSON struggled with the big inning.

MARK BUEHRLE struggled in his final start before the All-Star Break, allowing eight earned runs in six innings against the Orioles on July 12. It was the most runs he's allowed since July 12, 2009.

These teams went OVER last night.

Key Trends:
The total has gone OVER in 5 of Toronto's last 6 games
The total has gone OVER in 6 of Toronto's last 9 games at home

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, July 20

Ian Cameron

Dodgers at Nationals
Play: Under

I don’t bet nor recommend very many Unders in MLB but I think we have what should be a lower scoring game tonight between the Dodgers and Nationals at Nationals Park. To say the Nats lineup has struggled would be an understatement scoring just 3 runs or less in six of their last eight games dating back to before the All-Star Break. They won’t find it easy to get their offense untracked tonight against LA Dodgers Zack Greinke who has been very strong in his last two trips to the hill. He has posted 16 innings of shutout baseball and allowed just 4 hits in his last two starts against Arizona and Colorado. The best part of his last two starts is that Greinke has reeled in his control which had become a bit of an issue for him as he’s issued just 3 walks along with 16 strikeouts in his last two starts. He held Washington in check earlier this season allowing just a run on 5 hits to the Nationals in 5.1 innings of work and I expect him to deliver a solid performance tonight against a struggling Washington lineup.

Gio Gonzalez should have a good chance of neutralizing the LA Dodgers lineup tonight as well. LA’s lineup had been red hot for the better part of the last month or so before the break but they were shut down last night by Stephen Strasburg who allowed just 2 runs in 7 innings. LA has scored just 3 runs or less in their last four games. Gonzalez entered the break in fantastic form allowing just 6 runs in his last four starts combined. He has a terrific 1.74 ERA and 1.06 WHIP in his last three starts allowing just 4 runs with just 5 walks and 17 strikeouts in 20.2 innings during that span. He shut down the LA Dodgers when he faced them last year allowing just 2 runs on 3 hits in 6 innings of work. Gonzalez has been sharp pitching here in his home ballpark with a 3.23 ERA in 9 home starts this season and I expect him to neutralize the LA Dodgers tonight.

Washington is on a 7-3 Under run in their last 10 games mostly because their pitching has been good enough and their lineup has struggled to score runs. LA is on a 9-1 Under run in their last 10 games largely due to the fact that Dodgers pitching has yielded more than 3 runs only once in their last 10 games. Expect a low scoring pitcher’s duel tonight in the nation’s capital between a pair of surging starters.

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