Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, August 23

Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, August 23

Bob Balfe

Seattle Seahawks -2.5

Did you have the Packers last year when these teams played on Monday Night? I know I did. We will never witness another loss like that in the history of the NFL. This is just preseason so the bad blood is not there as much as you would think. To be honest Seattle out played Green Bay in that game and I have real concern with this Packers Offensive Line this year. Aaron Rodgers is a bad offensive line away from looking like Blaine Gabbert. The difference between the best and worst QB's in this league is not as much as you would think. Winning the battle up front is huge in this sport. Seattle is coached to win and play hard no matter it be a preseason game or playoff game. This is a deeper more talented team and I think they win with pure speed tonight. Take Seattle.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, August 23

MLB Predictions

Washington Nationals -101

The Washington Nationals will move onto the Kansas City Royals after winning 3 of 4 vs the Cubs this week (and 3 straight). The Royals were swept by the White Sox at home and have now lost 5 straight games. This will be an all lefty match up with Gio Gonzalez vs Bruce Chen on the mound. Gonzalez is 7-6 on the year with a 3.38 ERA, .227 OBA and 1.25 WHIP. Those are very solid numbers all around, but Gio has struggled at times. Lately though he has been solid - over his last three starts he has posted a 2.00 ERA, .238 OBA and 1.22 WHIP. For the Royals Chen is 5-1 with a 2.20 ERA, .220 OBA and 1.08 WHIP over 26 appearances and 7 starts. As a starter he has been great going 2-1 with a 2.05 ERA over 7 starts. Take note though that his last start lasted just 5.1 innings where he gave up 8 hits and 6 earned runs with just 1 strikeout and a walk. Tonight he will be facing one of the hotter hitting teams in the Majors. The Nationals are 6th in August with a .766 team OPS and 4th with a .345 team OBP. In comparison the Royals are 23rd in OPS in August and 17th in OBP. Take note that the Nats have gone 9-4 in their last 13 overall, and 20-8 in Gonzalez's last 28 road starts. The Royals have lost 5 straight, and are just 2-8 in their last 10 interleague home games. With Gonzalez pitching well and Chen off a rough outing I'll take the hotter team tonight at an underdog price.

Pittsburgh Pirates +134

These two teams met last night for the first game of this four game set. The Pirates took that game 10-5 as underdogs as they out hit the Giants 13-8. The Pirates are now 75-52 (33-30 on the road), while the Giants are just 56-71 (31-34 at home). Pittsburgh has taken 3 of these two teams 4 meetings this season. Charlie Morton will take the mound for Pittsburgh and he is 4-3 on the season with a 3.67 ERA over his 12 starts. His road record is better than at home (3-1 on the road) despite a slightly higher ERA at 3.89. He did face the Giants earlier this year going 5 innings allowing 7 hits and 2 earned runs (4 total runs) with 5 strikeouts and 1 walk. The Giants will counter with lefty Madison Bumgarner who is 11-7 on the year with a 2.82 ERA, .199 OBA and 1.02 WHIP. His numbers are stellar at home where he is 4-3 with a 2.40 ERA, but over his last three he is 0-1 with a 3.94 ERA. Those past three starts haven't been bad, but they haven't been great either and he will be facing a Pittsburgh team that has been hitting the ball well and finding ways to win. The Pirates are 13th in the Majors with a .726 OPS in August, while the Giants are 27th at .665. I also like the fact that the Pirates are 8th in the Majors in team batting avg vs lefties at .260 and 5th in OPS at .740. Pittsburgh is 8-3 in their last 11 games as an underdog, and 11-4 in their last 15 games as a road underdog. The Giants are just 7-20 in their last 27 home games, 1-4 in their last 5 games overall, and 1-5 in Bumgarner's last 6 starts. These teams are going in opposite directions and getting the Pirates at this underdog price is generous in my opinion. I'll take Pittsburgh as a very live dog.

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Seattle Seahawks at Green Bay PackersFREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
Prediction: Green Bay PackersFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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We love backing Seattle in the preseason, and not only did we back them in each of the first two weeks we released them as our highest-rated 25* Preseason Game of the Year in their 30-point win against Denver. That being said, we have a feeling the Packers have been waiting for this matchup after the ending of last year's meeting in Seattle. That would be the game Seattle "won" thanks to a highly controversial call at the end of the game in the endzone. Packers starters will see heavy minutes in this third week of preseason action and the home crowd will certainly be looking for revenge from last year's fiasco. Seattle's good ATS preseason history prevents us from releasing this as a premium selection, but there is still a big motivational edge to the home side tonight.

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Oakland Athletics vs. Baltimore OriolesFREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
Take: Baltimore Orioles -130FOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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The Baltimore Orioles will look to close the gap between them and the Athletics when the two teams start a huge three game series at Camden Yards this weekend. The Orioles currently trail the A’s by 3 games for the final Wild Card Spot in the AL and Oakland may feel like this is their best shot at the playoffs as they have fallen 2.5 games behind Texas in the AL West after leading the division for much of the season. Baltimore will send Bud Norris to the hill, who was acquired in a deadline deal with the Houston Astros last month. He will be making his fifth start for Baltimore and has posted a 3-1 record with a 3.91 ERA since the trade. Oakland will counter with Dan Straily, who has struggled after a strong start, losing five straight decisions. He is just 6-7 with a 4.22 ERA in 20 starts this year. Oakland will be a bit shorthanded after losing C Derrick Norris and OF Josh Reddick to injuries while dropping two of three games to the Mariners to start the week. The Orioles have been very good in the spot they are in here tonight as they have won 8 of their last 11 games against teams from the AL West and have gone 14-5 in their last 19 home games against teams with a right-handed starter. Oakland, on the other hand, has really been struggling. They are just 1-7 in their last 8 games when listed as a road underdog and they have lost four of their last five games following a day off. Look for the Orioles, who are 28-11 in their last 39 games following a day off to get the win at home and pull within 2 games of the A’s in the AL Wild Card race.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, August 23

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Seattle Storm at Phoenix MercuryFREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
Play: Over 150.5FOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Seattle is currently 3-0 against Phoenix this season, with the third win costing the job of Corey Gaines as the Mercury's Head Coach. So, we can consider tonight's game as a big revenge game for Phoenix. The Mercury's offense has been more dynamic lately with an intention to play inside out with Brittney Griner and Candice Dupree on the frontcourt, while Diana Taurasi leads the backcourt. Thanks to this, Phoenix scored 42, 44 and 46 points in the paint on their last three games! On the other side, on their last game against Seattle, Taurasi had a terrible game with 2-11 FG and 6 turnovers. She'll be fired up tonight and so, I expect Phoenix to have a good offensive game in here.
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On the other side, Phoenix's defense started their new era with a new coach in good form by allowing just 67, 56 and 58 points, but they have already allowed 88 and 86 points on their last two games, including allowing 88 points to the terrible offense of the Silver Stars! The current totals line of 150.5 seems too low for the fired up Mercury that will try to push up the pace against the slow footed Storm. Therefore, I'll be taking the Over in here.

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Sean Higgs

Seahawks vs. Packers
Play: Under 43

I know that Seattle has really been clicking but something tells me not so fast tonight. I think the Seattle defense is pretty deep. I can't see crazy offense in the first half even with the offensive starters getting all the reps. I think GB HC will want to get his defense in order. That has been the Packers short-coming the last couple years.

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Teddy Covers

Chicago vs. Oakland
Pick: Oakland

My very first thought process for any preseason football game involves the favorite, particularly favorites of more than a field goal like Chicago is tonight.  Why is the team favored?  Do they deserve to be favored by more than a field goal? 

In this instance, my question to myself was ‘Are the Bears legitimate favorites this evening’?  My answer?  No way!

The Bears offense scored ten points in their preseason opener and struggled throughout trying to move the football in their first game running Marc Trestman/Aaron Kromer’s brand new offense.   Chicago had 16 first downs, 291 total yards on 14 drives, averaging a well-below-average 4.9 yards per play.

Last week, the Bears hung 33 points on the Chargers.  But don’t be fooled by that final score!  The Bears offense was downright lousy again: 185 total yards, only 13 first downs and a lowly 3.4 yards per play average.  Their 33 points largely came off Charger miscues in their own territory.  Jay Cutler was sacked twice, fumbled once and threw an interception; gaining only 38 yards through the air.  An offensive line featuring four new starters, including a pair of rookies, was not particularly effective.

Bears offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer: “We’re going in the right direction, [but] we still have a long way to go.”  Quarterback Jay Cutler: “We’re just trying to get plays in. We’re just trying to rep plays and see what they look like. We’re not really worried about the defense that we’re going against or trying to pair up a certain play with the defense. There are some plays that we’re running that normally you wouldn’t want to run against that coverage, or that defense, or that front. There’s ups and downs. Some of the plays look good. Some of the plays not so good.”

It’s surely worth noting that Mark Trestman and his staff have not done any significant gameplanning for the Raiders.  That’s not the case for Oakland, looking to bounce back off last week’s miserable showing in New Orleans (five first half drives and five scores for the Saints).  They’ve been game planning for the Bears all week.  And while the Bears are expected to pull their starters after halftime, Raiders head coach Dennis Allen said that his starters could go for the entire third quarter, giving Oakland a legitimate second half advantage, when the majority of pointspreads are decided.

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Larry Ness

Texas vs. Chicago
Pick: Chicago

Chris Sale deserves so much better than his 9-11 record, as he ranks last in the majors with a 2.94 run-support average...

The AL West-leading Rangers will be seeking a club record-tying ninth straight road win when they visit U.S. Cellular Field tonight in Chicago. However, awaiting them are the White Sox, who enter the game on a six-game winning streak, as well as featuring one of MLB’s best pitchers as tonight’s starter. The 74-53 Rangers lead Oakland by 2 1/2 games in the AL West and have surprised most by going 12-3 since losing Nelson Cruz to a suspension involving the Biogenesis mess. Texas is averaging 6.3 runs since Cruz's suspension (go figure?).

Martin Perez, who has won three straight starts and has a 2.12 ERA over his last four, gets the nod for Texas. He’s 6-3 with a 3.48 ERA in 12 starts this year (Texas is 8-4) but let’s NOT ignore that his road ERA (4.46 ) is double that of his home ERA (2.20). Perez has never faced the White Sox.

The last-place White Sox (52-74) just completed a three-game sweep of the Royals in Kansas City, giving them a season-high six-game win streak. Sale deserves so much better than his 9-11 record, with the team going 12-11 in his 23 starts in 2013. He owns a 2.78 ERA and has allowed just 141 hits over 165.1 innings with a 175-36 KW ratio but Sale ranks last in the majors with a 2.94 run-support average! That said, he’s won three straight starts (1.93 ERA), owns a 2.06 home ERA in 2013 and is 3-0 with a 3.48 ERA in three lifetime starts vs the Rangers. I’m backing Sale and the White Sox.

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Ben Burns

Arizona vs. Philadelphia
Pick: Under

The Phillies are currently on an 8-1-2 "under" streak.

With both starters in excellent current form, this has the makings of another potentially low-scoring affair.

Hamels has been much better in recent weeks and his seen his overall numbers improve considerably. He's got a 1.96 ERA and 0.87 WHIP his last three starts.

Miley has always pitched well of late. He's got a 2.86 ERA and 1.091 WHIP his last three.

Miley's lone start vs. the Phillies came in the spring of 2012 and saw him toss six shutout innings. Hamels' lone 2013 start vs. Arizona had a final score of 2-1. I won't be surprised if this one also proves relatively low-scoring. Consider the Under.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, August 23

Stephen Nover

Milwaukee Brewers vs. Cincinnati Reds    
Play: Milwaukee Brewers

When it comes to consistency and trust, Homer Bailey is Homer Simpson.

Bailey has proven capable of not allowing a hit. He's also proven he can be lit up. He's way too untrustworthy to back at such a big price making the Brewers a value play.

Milwaukee starter Yovani Gallardo has a 2.49 ERA the past eight times he's faced the Reds. He hasn't yielded a run the past two times he's faced Cincinnati spanning 12 1/3 innings.

Gallardo returned from the DL, where he had been out with a strained hamstring, and gave up just three hits in 6 1/3 innings in a 2-0 victory against the Reds this past Saturday. Gallardo has had a highly disappointing season, but the time off may have done him some good.

The Brewers could be pumped as All-Star outfielder Carlos Gomez is expected back.

Bailey beat the Brewers, 9-1, this past Sunday. Prior to that game, however, Bailey was 1-7 with a 6.03 ERA in his career versus Milwaukee.

Editor's note: Stephen Nover was the No. 1 NFL handicapper last year cashing 69 percent of his plays. Stephen has his Preseason Game of the Year going this weekend. It's available for purchase now on his home page along with his various subscriptions, which have just now become available.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, August 23

Jack Jones

New York Yankees +100

Ryan Dempster and the Boston Red Sox awoke a sleeping giant when they intentionally hit Alex Rodriquez. The New York Yankees (68-59) have won five straight to get back in the AL East and AL Wild Card races.

With ace Hiroki Kuroda on the mound Friday, I look for the Yankees to win a sixth straight tonight over the Tampa Bay Rays. Kuroda is 11-8 with a 2.41 ERA and 1.054 WHIP over 25 starts this season. He has posted a 2.61 ERA in his last three starts as well.

Chris Archer is having a solid season for Tampa, going 6-5 with a 2.95 ERA over 15 starts. However, Archer has struggled of late, going 0-1 with a 4.61 ERA in his last three starts. He is no match for Kuroda in this one.

Tampa Bay is 3-10 (-9.1 Units) against the money line when playing with a day off this season. The Yankees are 5-0 in Kuroda's last 5 starts during game 1 of a series. Tampa Bay is 2-7 in its last 9 vs. a team with a winning record. Bet the Yankees Friday.

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Joseph D'Amico

Bears vs. Raiders
Play: Over 38

Both teams have played to OVER'S in each of their four pre-season contests, with Chicago posting 50 points and yielding 52, while Oakland has scored 39 points and given up 45. In LY'S exhibition play, the Bears final 3 games saw the team tally 81 points. The Raiders accounted for 61 points in their last 3 exhibition games and allowed a whopping 72 points. During the regular season, the Oakland "D" allowed 27.6 PPG while Chicago either seemed to score points and hold opposing squads or was held and allowed foes to roll. The Raiders offense has been well-balanced, with the passing game racking up 332 yards in the air and the ground game totaling 178 yards rushing. The Bears "O" has accounted for 213 YP and 263 YR. Chicago's stop-unit gave up 292 yards to Carolina's "O" and a remarkable 204 yards on ST'S. While San Diego rallied for 383 offensive yards and 134 more with their return squad. Oakland's "D" yielded 291 yards top Dallas' offense plus 122 more to ST'S and were embarrassed by New Orleans' 23 first downs, 286 YP, 83 YR, and 140 ST'S yards. Right now, Chicago is 30/1 and Oakland 200/1 to win it all. Both squads give up points and both are vulnerable to the pass. Not to mention that each team has a "soft" ST unit. This game will fly OVER.

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Jeff Alexander

San Diego Padres -123

San Diego's Volquez is 5-0 (7-0 on the moneyline) with a 2.76 ERA in 7 career starts against the Cubs. These 7 wins have come by an average of 4.6 runs. Chicago's Jackson, on the other hand, is 0-4 (1-6 on the moneyline) with a 5.56 ERA in 7 career starts versus the Padres. These 6 defeats have come by an average of 4.0 runs. Bet the Padres.

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Dave Price

Cleveland Indians -157

The Indians, winners of 7 of 10, should take care of business against a Minnesota club that's dropped 7 of 10. The Tribe is 9-0 in its last 9 home games versus AL clubs that are averaging 4.2 runs or less per game. In addition, they have won 7 of Jimenez's last 9 starts at Progressive Field. The Indians are 7-0 in their last 7 games as a favorite of -151 to -200 and 6-1 in Jimenez's last 7 starts as a favorite. The Twins are 4-9 in the struggling Deduno's last 13 road starts and 1-7 in his last 8 road starts versus a team with a winning record. He's 0-3 with a 7.02 ERA over his last 3 starts. The Twins are just 2-5 in their last 7 meetings in Cleveland. Take the Indians.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, August 23

Steve Janus

Houston Astros +127

The Blue Jays are a miserable 1-6 on their current 10-game road trip and after getting swept by the Yankees they have now lost five straight. Hard for me to believe a team like Toronto with such huge expectations coming into the season will be motivated at all to play a team like the Astros. The sooner this season gets over the better for the Blue Jays.

While the Astros come in on a three-game losing streak of their own. You have to expect they are still going out there and trying to win, especially at home in front of what should be a decent crowd on a Friday night.

Houston's Jordan Lyles doesn't have very strong overall numbers (5-6, 5.19 ERA and 1.510 WHIP), but he's coming off a masterpiece against at Oakland. Lyles held the A's to just 1 run on 5 hits in 7 innings of a 5-4 Astros victory. Toronto counters with Todd Redmond, who will be making just the 9th start of his career. He quieted Houston earlier this season, holding the Astros to just 1 run on 3 hits. Keep in mind that was at home and typically a pitcher has the edge the first time they face an opponent. The Astros should have a much better understanding of what to expect from Redmond this time around.

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Calgary +3 over TORONTOFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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You’re going to read about how the Stamps have a horrible history against the Argonauts over the past decade or so, especially in Toronto. In fact, the Double Blue has defeated the Stamps in 11 of the past 13 matchups, including six in a row. It gets even worse so try to wrap your head around this. The Stampeders are missing their starting quarterback (Drew Tate), starting tailback (all-star Jon Cornish), starting right guard (all-star Dimitri Tsoumpas), and four starting receivers in all-star Nik Lewis, Maurice Price, Joe West and Johnny Forzani. This is not privy information. Everyone knows the Stampeders come in here with more casualties than a Quinton Tarantino movie and a poor history. Why then, is the first place Argonauts just a small three-point choice here? That should make Argonaut backers a little bit nervous. The entire betting world is on the Argos and that’s another red flag we’re always aware of. That said, the Stamps are going to come in here and play their hearts out. They are sick of losing to this team and they’re even sicker about hearing about it every time they play Toronto. It’s time to put a stop to it and even without their top players, the Stamps are capable of coming up big. 
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The Argonauts are saying the right things. They are insisting that they will not take this decimated team lightly. The Argos also have the league’s top rated passer in Ricky Ray, who has not thrown a pick the entire year and that has completed a sick 78% of his passes. For this game, the Argonauts stock is soaring while the Stamps stock is lower than it’s been all year. We’ve seen it over and over again in this league for years. That being, a team that looks great falters when least expected. The Riders looked unstoppable and all of a sudden, in the span of two weeks, they look awful. We saw signs of the Argonauts being in trouble when Mike Reilly carved up the Toronto defense for 511 passing yards and three TD’s last week. The Stamps have very capable back-ups at the QB and RB positions in Kevin Glenn and Matt Walter, respectively. Said Kevin Glenn about RB Walter, “You can’t go to sleep on him. He has that deceptive speed type of thing. He’s very quick in and out of the hole. I think he does a very good job of that”. In relief of Cornish last season, Walter averaged 7.1 yards per carry so the Argos better not take this guy lightly. In the end it would not surprise one bit to see the Argos roll over this intruder once again but we can’t get on board for that because it looks too easy and everyone is on that side. It’s also difficult to pull the trigger on the Stamps because of so many unknowns but one should never underestimate a banged up team with motivated players getting an opportunity.  With that, we’re going to sit this one out and watch from the rail. No bets.

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TAMPA BAY -108 over N.Y. YankeesFREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Give the Yankees credit for an outstanding run of late including a just completed four-game sweep of the Blue Jays. Since being swept by the White Sox upon A-Rod’s return, New York has won 10 of 14 games but seven of those 10 wins came against two reeling and banged up clubs, the Angels and Blue Jays. That run and the all the attention surrounding the Yanks has once again made them an overvalued proposition. Things get much more difficult on the road here for A-Rod and the Yanks where New York is two games under .500 this season. Hiroki Kuroda is having an outstanding season but he was whacked in his last start against the Red Sox in Boston and these Rays have also hit him hard. In fact, current Rays have a .304 batting average and an eye-opening .904 OPS against Kuroda in 92 AB’s. At the Trop, Kuroda has made two starts and has allowed 16 hits and 10 earned runs in 11.2 frames for an ERA of 6.17. Kuroda has a career batting average against at this venue of .333.
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The Rays are 41-23 at home. That’s close to a 65% winning percentage at the Trop, yet they are priced here as a team that wins about half of its home games. That’s value. Chris Archer is a hard thrower with swing-and-miss stuff that finally reined in his control. Archer’s overall skills mark his progress. Archer flashed the second-highest average fastball velocity (94.9 mph) in July of any AL SP with at least 20 IP that month. With his top prospect upside and 0.73 ERA, 0.65 WHIP line in July, Archer is gaining more confidence with each passing start. What really sticks out in Archer’s profile is a 16% line-drive rate and that suggests that hitters are having a difficult time squaring up on him. Lastly, current Yanks have just nine hits combined (.180) in 50 AB’s versus Archer, making him and the Rays a rock solid choice spotting less than a dime. 
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Washington -104 over KANSAS CITYFREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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The Royals have gone from contenders to pretenders by losing five in a row and eight of their past 10 games. This untimely run of poor results has K.C. sitting 9½-games back of the Tigers in the Central Division and 7 games back in the Wild Card race. With a chance to make up some ground with three games at home against the Marlins and White Sox, who were a combined 39-83 on the road this season before coming into Kaufman Stadium, the Royals proceeded to lose five of those six games. Reeling and in a demoralized state of mind, the Royals are a solid fade here with Bruce Chen trying to stop the bleeding. Chen's 5.09 xERA on a 2.20 ERA is the red flag here. An 84% strand rate has kept the base-runners who contributed to his 1.46 WHIP as a starter from scoring. While Chen maintained a decent strikeout rate as a reliever this year, that rate has dropped dramatically as a starter. Chen has just nine K’s over his past 19 frames and just three K’s in 12 innings in two of his past three starts. Bruce Chen couldn’t crack this rotation to start the year. He’s been moving from starter to reliever and back for years. Since 1998, when he first broke into the big leagues, Chen has pitched for Atlanta, Philly, the Mets, Cincinnati, Boston, Houston, Texas, Baltimore and finally K.C. They all can't be wrong. His ERA this season is a complete mirage. He has a disturbing fly-ball/groundball rate of 27%/54% and an even more disturbing rate of 23%/61% since being asked to start.
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The Nationals have won three in a row and scored 20 runs over that span. Gio Gonzalez had a horrible 5.34 ERA and 1.64 WHIP in July, primarily due to one awful start. His base skills in July were actually great with 35 K’s in 28 innings and a 58% groundball rate. Gonzalez was done in by an unlucky 42% hit rate and 19% hr/f in July. That hit rate was the highest of any starter in MLB that month. In three August starts, his hit rate has normalized and Gonzalez has allowed just four earned runs in 18 innings. He also struck out 16 batters while inducing 58% groundballs. Chen favored over Gonzalez might have had some merit a month ago but it has no merit right now considering the way that K.C. has fallen. Truth be told, Chen favored or at a pick’em over Gonzalez right now is bordering on ludicrous. 
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Minnesota +149 over CLEVELANDFREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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The Indians return home from a nine-game trip with the last six games on the West Coast in Oakland and L.A. Cleveland won six of those nine games but luck played a huge role in the majority of those games, as the Tribe could have easily lost four of those six wins. Over its past 15 games, Cleveland is batting .219, which is the worst mark in the AL over that stretch. Ubaldo Jimenez continues to struggle with his consistency and control, two factors that make him a poor play in this matchup. Over his past five starts, Jimenez has an ugly 1.88 and 25% of his starts this season have been pure disasters outings. Between decreased velocity and the inability to avoid free passes, Jimenez is a huge risk spotting a price like the one here.
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The spoiler role is one that every team in every sport loves to play. The Twins just took two of three in Detroit and will welcome the opportunity to make life miserable for the Tribe. Sam Deduno is the definition of "mixed bag". Walks have always been a problem for Deduno, but he's made strides in managing the strike zone so far, cutting his control nearly in half from his career numbers. That’s a positive sign. He keeps the ball on the ground thanks to a sinking fastball with decent velocity (90-91 mph), which somewhat mitigates the need to rack up Ks. Deduno’s groundball rate is outstanding at 59% for the year. Stranger things have happened than a 30-year-old suddenly seeing the light (see: Dickey, R.A), and while his strikeout rate still needs work, his heavy GB tilt has made him fairly disaster averse (45%/18% quality start/disaster start). Sam Deduno is becoming very interesting and as a rather large dog against Jimenez and the cold bats of the Tribe, he and the Twinkies offer up some strong value here.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, August 23

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Usmanee +400 over MendezFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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IBF super featherweight title – 12 RoundsFREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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This is a superb match-up for Mike Tyson’s foray in the promotional end of boxing. Argenis Mendes was a talented amateur that has begun to find his way in pro ranks. He is fairly solid in every department. He can box, hit with authority and is quick. Argenis has also improved over the past two years, as evidenced by performing better in rematches with quality fighters Martin Honorio and Juan Carlos Salgado. Mendes lost to Salgado in late 2011 but was able to score a tremendous KO in their rematch earlier this year.
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Arash Usmanee is a native Afghan that has resided in Canada since he was a child. He also had a decorated amateur career and put on an impressive showing in a controversial loss to Cuban prospect Rances Barthelemy. After losing the first two rounds, he was able to walk down and land on Barthelemy for the remainder of the fight. Teddy Atlas had it 9-3 in rounds for Usmanee but he was in the Cuban’s backyard in Miami and was simply robbed. Usmanee is not the slick stylist that Mendes is. And he’s probably not the better puncher but he brings toughness and a work rate that can be a handful. The similarly stylish Barthelemy simply couldn’t discourage Usmanee, who kept walking forward and landing excellent power punches. If Mendes isn’t able to hurt Usmanee, he will have a tough fight on his hands. Usmanee threw over a 1000 punches in his bout with Barthelemy and had a lot of gas in the 12th round. Mendez is not 4½-1 better than Usmanee and we would go as far as saying that no result would be a surprise. In other words, Usmanee’s chances are so much better than these odds suggest and with him being such a large underdog, he’s absolutely worth a bet.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, August 23

Craig Davis

Your free play winner this Friday night is the Yankees-Rays game to hold Under the total.

I'm not sure if it has anything to do with A-Rod joining the team or not, but the Yankees are playing their best baseball of the season right now, winning 11 of their last 14 games to push to within six games of Boston for first place in the AL East.

While the hitting has definitely improved, I see the most improvement from the starters and the pen.

Andy Pettitte pitched brilliantly last night while Phil Hughes, who is flat out awful, pitched well over seven innings Wednesday to beat Toronto.

Tonight we get Hiroki Kuroda vs. Chris Archer in what should be a great matchup.

Archer is only 6-5 on the season despite a 2.95 ERA... and that's because his offense just simply doesn't support him with runs.

Kuroda is in a similar boat with the lack of run support, but he does own a better overall record (11-8) than Archer and comes in with a 2.41 ERA.

Kuroda hasn't allowed an earned run in three of his last five starts and is coming off his worst performance of the year... and he only allowed three earned runs if that tells you how good and consistent he's been all season.

Take the Rays and Yanks to go UNDER the posted total as your free play of the day.

3♦ N.Y. YANKEES-TAMPA BAY UNDER

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, August 23

Jeff Benton

Your Friday freebie is the Dodgers over the Red Sox

Possible October preview here, and for my money the Dodgers are now the team to beat this upcoming postseason.

Another win yesterday afternoon for Los Angeles, and they come back home with a 10-2 run working for them over their last dozen games. In that span, the LA pitching staff has held the opposition to just a 1.86 ERA.

Ricky Nolasco is a man with a new lease on life after getting dealt to the Dodgers from the last place Marlins. Nolasco is 4-1 with Los Angeles with a 2.98 ERA in his 8 starts in Dodgers blue.

John Lackey goes for the first place Red Sox, and his road numbers are far inferior to the work he has done at Fenway Park, as Lackey is just 3-8 with a 4.12 ERA on the highway this year.

Dodgers to draw first blood in this "barometer" series.

4♦ L.A. DODGERS

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