Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, July 21

Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, July 21

Jeff Benton

My Sunday freebie is the Yankees to pull the upset win over the Red Sox on Sunday night in the rubber game of the East rivals three game set.

New York evened the series with a 5-2 win on Friday, and they have CC Sabathia in search of his 10th win of the season going in the series finale.

Sabathia has lost his last pair of starts, and is just 1-3 his last 4 trips to the hill.

Can you say redemption?

Ryan Dempster will go for Boston, and he is just 5-8 this year with an ERA over 4.

New York has had success in Beantown, winning 9 of the past 12 series meetings, and I like them to close it out with the series win on Sunday night.

3♦ N.Y. YANKEES

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, July 21

Brad Wilton

Sunday's comp play is Over the total in the Phillies-Mets game.

Normally I would look towards a lowering-scoring game with All-Stars Cliff Lee and Matt Harvey on the mound, but with the way the runs have added up this weekend at Citi Field - 21 combined runs on Friday, 9 combined runs on Saturday - I am inclined to look for that one big inning once again on Sunday as the Phils and Mets cap their first series back from the break with a 3-0 Over the total sweep.

The Over has been the play the last 3 times the teams have played and 7 of the past 10 series meetings this year. The Over is also 10-2 Philly's past dozen road outings.

Lee and Harvey are All-Stars, no doubt about that, but we do not need too many runs today, so let's play the Over in the Phillies-Mets finale.

1♦ PHILADELPHIA-N.Y. METS OVER

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, July 21

Brett Atkins

My free winner for tonight is on the Los Angeles Dodgers in Washington, and I want you listing ace-hurler Clayton Kershaw against the Nationals in today's showdown. After the Dodgers won in extra inning last night, serving as a gut-check to the Nats, the Dodgers have the mental edge now, and it's perfect time for the Dodgers' ace southpaw to throw a gem.

Kershaw is in after striking out 10 and allowing three runs on six hits over seven innings in his last outing, before the All-Star Break, but unfortunately he took the loss against the Colorado Rockies.

Nevertheless, the best pitcher in baseball - in my opinion - has won three of his past four starts and leads the Majors with a 1.98 ERA. Lifetime against the Nationals he's 4-2 with a 3.27 ERA, and now he has a chance to help his team complete a crucial road sweep and potentially move into first place into the National League West.

I know Washington's Jordan Zimmerman hasn't lost a game at home since May 17, 2012, a span of 22 starts, but this is too good of a shot for the Dodgers to pass up, and a much-needed sweep is exactly what they need.

Take the road team here, and remember, list Kershaw ONLY.

5♦ L.A. DODGERS

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, July 21

Chris Jordan

Take Milwaukee on the Run Line as my free play today.

The Brewers have won three straight, including the first two of the second half of the season, with wins over the Miami Marlins. Now with a chance to finish the sweep and head into the week with a steam or momentum, I like the Brewers to open up the can and win big here.

We have the right pitchers to expect as much, with the Brewers handing the ball to Wily Peralta and Miami giving the nod to Henderson Alvarez.

Milwaukee's young right-hander has allowed just one earned run in his last 21-1/3 innings and threw the Brewers' first complete game in 2-1/2 years two starts back, against the Reds. Peralta is 4-3 with a 2.86 ERA since June 1, and is in a good spot to dominate the Marlins, who are 9-19 against the Brewers since 2010, including just one victory in five meetings this season.

Take the Brewers on the Run Line.

3♦ MILWAUKEE -1.5

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, July 21

Scott Delaney

My free play for Sunday is on the Kansas City Royals against the Detroit Tigers in an American League Central clash, and I want you listing just one pitcher in this game: Big Game James Shields.

Here's the deal, though we're dealing with the American League Central-leading Tigers, and a solid pitcher in right-handed Doug Fister, who went 8-4 with a 2.67 ERA and 1.04 WHIP in the second half last season, Shields is going to be on a mission in this game.

See the Royals have won eight straight games pitched by Shields, but he has six no-decisions in that span. Today could be a motivating factor for him, as I think he may be out to dominate and we could very well see his best stuff.

Shields, who has won just twice in his last 13 outings, has consistently worked deep and has thrown less than 100 pitches just once this year.

The veteran starter with three-quarter arm action knows how to work in pressure situations, and has always had a great feel for pitching. He knows how to locate his low-90s fastball to both sides of the plate and takes hitters off it with a two-plane spiked curveball and features an outstanding changeup. One thing that he does well is throw his change from the same release point as his fastball, and that can throw an aggressive lineup like the Tigers' off balance.

Take the Royals in this one, and list Shields only.

4♦ KANSAS CITY

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, July 21

Wunderdog

Atlanta at Tulsa
Pick: Atlanta -5

Atlanta (10-4) and Chicago are battling for the top spot in the East. Atlanta is well rested for this one against a bad Tulsa team (5-13), having had three full days off, and the Dream is 13-3 ATS in their last 16 games playing on three or more days rest. This is the end of a four-game road trip, and they are hungry for a win riding a three-game skid, two of those losses were against the top teams in the West. Atlanta is on a 10-4 ATS run overall, and the Dream is 19-7 ATS against a team with a losing record. Meanwhile, last place Tulsa has a losing record at home, is on a 2-5 ATS run, and the Shock is 3-8 ATS against the Eastern Conference. It's a short turnaround for Tulsa, off a win at Seattle on Friday, and they are still on a 2-7 SU/3-6 ATS run. When these teams meet, Atlanta is 4-1-1 ATS in the last six meetings, including 4-1-2 ATS in the last seven meetings in Tulsa. Play the Atlanta Dream.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, July 21

Greg Shaker

LA Dodgers -109

There are so many reasons to like the Dodgers here but I am going to be as brief as I can. KERSHAW. Was that brief enough? He's good ya know, and the Nats just simply cannot hit Left handed pitching. They have not all year, they have not recently. LAD is Hot right now. The Nationals are not. That was brief too right? Let's also consider the fact that LA's Pen is unhittable recently posting an ERA of just 0.53 over their last 10 games. I know that The Zimmer Man has been solid here at home but he has not been too sporty lately and decided not to pitch in the All Star Classic due to a sore neck. I am not sure if that will be a factor today but perhaps. What will be a factor is the fact that LAD for the 1st time this year will have Kemp, Ramirez, and Crawford in the lineup, all at the same time. I'm gonna play the Dodgers here.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, July 21

Indian Cowboy

Milwaukee Brewers -165

The Brewers finished the first half of this MLB season with the second-worst record in the National League at 38-56, ahead of only the Marlins, with a minus -65 run differential. However, manager Ron Roenicke is optimistic the second half will allow his club to turn the page. And so far, so good for the Brew Crew, which has won the first two games of this series by scores of 2-0 and 6-0. Sunday starter Wily Peralta has allowed just one earned run in his last 21 1/3 innings and threw the Brewers' first complete game in two and a half years two starts ago against the Reds. The young right-hander is 4-3 with a 2.86 ERA since June 1, and Milwaukee has won four of his last five outings. Marlins starter Henderson Alvarez is searching for his first win since September of last year, when he was with the Blue Jays. Since then his teams are 1-5 in games he's started. Milwaukee leads the season series with Miami four games to one, has beaten the Marlins 12 of the last 15 times they've met at Miller Park and 15 of the last 20 meetings overall. And there's no reason to believe those trends won't continue Sunday.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, July 21

Harry Bondi

SAN DIEGO (-145) over San Francisco

Padres send Eric Stults to the mound today and he has been pitching great. He pitched a complete game four hitter against Colorado his last time out and San Diego has won his last three starts. Stutts also has been money at home going 4-1 with a 2.56 ERA in eight starts. Giants will have a little hangover from tim Lincecum's no hitter last night and they are just 17-30 on the road this year. In addition, tonight's San Francisco starter Barry Zito continues to struggle. Zito has not won on the road all year and is 0-5 with a 9.38 ERA in seven starts away from AT&T Park. His numbers in his last two visits to PETCO are even worse, as he's allowed 12 runs on 13 hits over just 7 2/3 innings. Padres romp!

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, July 21

SPORTS WAGERS

Hamilton +7½ over SASKATCHEWAN

The favorites are 3-0 this weekend with all of them winning by nine or more. In almost four full weeks of action with 15 games played, not one has been decided by four points or fewer. That’s an incredible fact when you consider all the close games every year in this league. We mention that because these winning favorites and apparent discrepancy between the good and the bad has this number grossly inflated. The Riders are not as good as their 3-0 record indicates and the Tiger-Cats are better than their 1-2 record suggests. In fact, Saskatchewan has allowed an eye-opening 347.3 passing yards, per game, which is 60 yards more than any other team. You simply can’t keep blowing away teams when you can’t stop the matching band. The Roughriders are a bit too high right now and so is their stock. They have momentum, they have some mo-jo, they’re on top of the world and everything is going right. We often suggest that the best time to jump off a team is when their stock is soaring and that applies here. Also note that although Riders QB Darian Durant is expected to start, he was walking around all week in a walking boot and did not practice the entire week. The Tiger-Cats have everything going against them in this one. They’ll play in a hostile environment, as this stadium will be nuts with the return of Kent Austin to Mosaic Stadium for the first time since walking out on the football club after his Grey Cup season of 2007 when he resigned to take on the offensive coordinators job at Ole Miss. Hamilton has not looked particularly sharp but don’t sell this team short. The Ti-Cats defense is getting better and its offense may just be the league’s best. This is a dangerous visitor taking back points like this and with all attention and focus on Saskatchewan’s 3-0 record and the added pressure by media and fans to put it to Austin and his troops, don’t be surprised to see the Ti-Cats come in here and leave victorious. This is way too many points to be spotting the Ti-Cats and we’re all over it.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, July 21

SPORTS WAGERS

Baltimore +121 over TEXAS

The Orioles have won the first two games of this series and there’s no reason they can’t make it a sweep with this favorable pitching match-up. Chris Tillman is 20-6 since the start of last season. He’s quietly found his way out of the woods, guided by velocity gains, newfound control and great progress v lefties. MLB xERA doesn't buy that he's a sub-4.00 ERA pitcher just yet, but the skills say he's right on the cusp. Tillman is also one of the rare pitchers whose skills actually improve the more times he goes through lineups so if the Rangers don’t get to him in the first two innings, his chances of picking up a win increase dramatically. Martin Perez has started just six games for the Rangers this year. Three of those have been quality and three have been poor. Perez went 1-4 with a 5.45 ERA in 38 innings last season for Texas. This one-time top prospect has seen his star diminish, along with his strikeout rate over the past two years with initial trial in Texas going about as poorly as you'd expect from a kid with a control problems. He's still young and left-handed, so he'll get plenty of chances but everything in his profile from walks to strikeouts to groundball rate to line-drive rate are all trending the wrong way. Growing pains along with several red flags in Perez’s profile tell us that Perez is far too risky to trust as the chalk.


L.A. ANGELS +111 over Oakland

The A’s belted out three hits yesterday en route to a 2-0 loss. Oakland has now dropped the first two games of this series and has scored one run. Over the past 10 games, the A’s are batting .194. Over that span they’ve scored a major league low 26 times and have a major league low 62 hits. This is nothing new. The A’s have been living a charmed life the entire season with one of the weakest hitting line-ups that this league has seen in a long time. The A’s are favored here because Bartolo Colon is on the hill with his 12-3 record and 2.93 ERA. Like the team he pitches for, Colon has been all smoke and mirrors and it simply cannot last over an entire season. Colon has insane command but his strikeout rate is far from impressive. Colon basically uses one pitch, a fastball that tops out at 91 MPH that he throws 85% of the time. Colon uses his changeup 6% and a slider 9%. Most one-pitch pitchers use a nasty slider, like Derek Lowe did for years but we’ve never seen a pitcher have success like Colon has by throwing a fastball 17 times every 20 pitches. Colon’s line-drive rate over his past three starts was 38% and that’s the highest mark of any pitcher in the majors over a three-game stretch this year. Colon’s luck is going to run out very soon and if he wins here, good for him but his chances of getting destroyed are much better. The A’s favored on the road here is completely incorrect. Jerome Williams has started just 12 games this year and has appeared in 23. He doesn’t have impressive numbers but he’s certainly capable of throwing a good game, as he has many times in his career. Williams spent the 1st half in both the rotation and pen, where he displayed respectable skills and mediocre results. His groundball % is solid (52%), and command uptick intriguing but future role is unclear and with long history of medicocrity, taking another step up at his age is unlikely. However, this isn’t about backing Williams. This one is all about taking back a tag against two imposters, the Oakland A’s and Bartolo Colon, as not even Chris Angel could continue to make this illusion work.


Tampa Bay +107 over TORONTO

The Jays have lost the first two games of this series but it’s the way they lost that is troubling. Down 4-2 in the eighth inning yesterday, Tampa issued three consecutive walks to load the bases with none out. The Blue Jays did not score and that’s just one example of the many opportunities they’ve had over the past couple of days. Now 0-2 to start the second half, picking up a win today is going to be extremely difficult for Toronto against Chris Archer. Archer is a hard throwing righty with swing-and-miss stuff that has posted some of the best skills in the league over his last five starts. Over that span, Archer is 3-0 with a 1.69 ERA, a BB/K split of 7/22 in 32 frames, an outstanding groundball/line-drive/flyball profile of 49%/15%/36% and a WHIP of 0.88. This kid is just getting better and is another one of those starting pitching studs in the Rays system. Tampa remains one of the hottest teams in baseball and now we get a tag with one of the hottest starters too. R.A Dickey redefined the knuckleball game last season, adding speed to a pitch that normally relies on deception, and parlaying that into a career year. But so far this season, it seems batters are catching on. Dickey's been unable to match 2012's success for a variety of reasons. The velocity on Dickey's "fast knuckleball" is down from 83 mph to 81, likely contributing to the strikeout rate loss. It's still above average for a knuckler, though. His groundball rate continues to deteriorate, a skill he'll need to regain if his K’s continue to decline. His control has also fallen by the wayside, resulting in limited xERA potential. Rogers Centre is notoriously harsh on pitchers' ERAs, and Dickey is no exception (5.83 home ERA). Dickey's transformation from finesse to "power" pitcher looks to be short-lived, which would be fine if control and groundball were along for the ride. Alas, they've both regressed further, hindering his chance for recovery. Let someone else believe the “buy low” hype, as Dickey remains a strong fade.

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