Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, August 30

Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, August 30

Jeff Alexander

Detroit Tigers -143

The Tigers have won 20 of their last 27 meetings with the Indians. Detroit is also on an impressive 36-15 run at home against the Tribe. Look for the Tigers to continue their winning ways against Cleveland with Porcello on the rubber. They are 6-2 in his last 8 home starts against the Indians. The Tigers are 7-2 in Porcello's last 9 starts overall. Bet Detroit.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, August 30

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B.C. LIONS -6 over HamiltonFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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We’re always looking to buy-low and sell-high and this game fits that philosophy to a tee. Hamilton has won three straight while the Lions, as a 10-point favorite a week ago, lost outright in Montreal. Hamilton’s stock has greatly increased over the past month while the Lions’ stock continues to sink. Hamilton is now 4-4 on the year and just a game back of the Argonauts for first place in the East. What doesn’t show up in the standings is that Hamilton has three wins against Winnipeg and one against Edmonton. Combined, that pair is 2-14. Despite playing the CFL’s weakest schedule thus far, the Ti-Cats defense has allowed more points than every team except for Edmonton, Winnipeg and Montreal. The perception is that the Tiger-Cats are getting in gear and ready to compete with the upper-tier clubs. We couldn’t disagree more because Hamilton’s defense is awful and once they have to start playing catch-up, Henry Burris is very prone to making bad decisions. That will come into play here.
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B.C. has not played well. They are an ugly 5-3 but they will come into this game with a big chip on their shoulders after an embarrassing loss in Montreal. The Lions have also been off since last Thursday, giving them two extra days of preparation for this one. Furthermore, the Lions are still 4-0 at home with wins over Toronto, Edmonton, Winnipeg and Calgary with the average margin of victory being by 7 points. B.C. is loaded with talent on both sides of the ball but has grossly underachieved. Taking a lot of heat in the press ever since last weeks’ loss to the Als and not blowing out any team this entire year, B.C. is primed to take out its frustrations on someone. In looking at these two teams, who appear headed in opposite directions, as a whole, this appears to be a lot of points to be spotting the Tiger-Cats. However, it’s been said for years that the CFL’s real season doesn’t start until Labour Day Weekend and that is now upon us. We’ll see how real the Lions are and it says here they flex their muscles against this very beatable intruder.

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MICHIGAN STATE -28 over Western Michigan
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We usually avoid these types of games but this one warrants a play. The Broncos have a new coaching staff and lost several key personnel on both offense and defense. This was a defense that allowed almost 400 yards against and they are worse this season. Additionally, a weak offensive line also got weaker, as Western returns just one starter from that group. This is a Broncos team in transition that is going to need at least two or three games to get things in sync and function as a cohesive unit.
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Meanwhile, Michigan State's offense returns virtually every key member except for All-Big Ten running back Le'Veon Bell. The Spartans went 7-6 last year but five of its losses came by four points or less, including two in the final seconds and one in double-overtime. They could have easily finished 11-2 and they’re primed to make an impact this season. Defensively, the Spartans ranked fourth in the nation last year by allowing a frugal 274 average yards per game and that group returns seven starters after allowing just 16.3 points per game. Offensively, MSU might be a bit more challenged than a year ago but that is not going to matter in this one and its offensive line is experienced and poised to manhandle the Broncos. Again, Western has a new staff and just suffered an injury to its best offensive weapon in camp. Big numbers like this can make underdogs seem appealing versus favorites without explosive offenses, but four touchdowns isn't all that much when the 'dog can't score. The Spartans have a debt to collect from last year’s many close calls and the Broncos will pay that debt off on opening night.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, August 30

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Kansas City -110 over TORONTOFREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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The Blue Jays are coming off a hugely satisfying series win over the Yankees after New York made Toronto their whipping boys the entire year. The Jays don’t figure to as focused here and can now go back to their sloppy defensive play, poor managing and lousy starting pitching. Mark Buehrle needs no introductions. We all know he gets by on guile and experience but we also know that a blowup or a string of them is inevitable and can occur at any time. With pedestrian skills and numbers right across the board (4.08 ERA, .270 BAA, 1.32 WHIP), Buehrle walks a tight rope in almost every start. His strand rate over the past month is on the extreme side of lucky at 89%.  He’ll now face a Royals team that is on fire in both the win column and at the plate.
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K.C. has won five in a row. They’re batting .315 over that span and scored six runs or more in four of them. The Royals 34 runs over that span is second in the majors. Facing a lefty on the road is the best scenario for the Royals because they’ve have hit better on the road all season long and they’ve also hit better against lefties all year. Ervin Santana gets a strong rating here. Santana enters this matchup with a 3.21 ERA and 1.15 WHIP backed up by a solid overall skill set that includes 47% groundball rate. In 11 road starts this season, Santana has allowed 57 hits in 71 frames (.215 BAA) and only four of those hits left the park. This is a cheap line to lay on Santana when you when you consider his current form, overall elite numbers and the big edge he has over his counterpart.
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MILWAUKEE +114 over L.A. AngelsFREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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The Angels are coming off a series win in Tampa but that was against a contending team with a chance to play spoiler. This is not and the Angels don’t figure to be as jacked up to play the Brewers as they were the Rays. L.A. favored in Milwaukee here is bordering on lunacy and once again we get an opportunity to fade one of the most overrated pitchers in the game. There is nothing in Weaver’s profile that says he’s worth backing. He has a 5.08 ERA over his past five starts. Over that span, covering 34 frames, Weaver has a line-drive rate of 28% and a fly-ball/groundball split of 46%/27%. Weaver’s combined fly-ball and line-drive rates is the majors worst combined percentage (73%) of any pitcher in baseball with at least 50 innings pitched this season. On the road, in nine games started, Weaver is 2-4 with an ERA of 4.47. Weaver has been fooling the pundits and oddsmakers for two years now. He’s consistently been able to stave off hit%, strand%, and hr/f regression over his career but his margin for error keeps getting smaller and smaller. Weaver’s fastball velocity has bottomed out at 86.6 MPH and at this park against this strong hitting line-up that plays very well at home, Weaver is likely in for another disaster or something pretty damn close.
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Wily Peralta owns skills that have improved across-the-board since the All-Star Break. Since the break, Peralta’s strikeouts are up 1½ per game to 7 per 9 IP his walks are down 1 per game to 2½ per 9 IP and his groundball rate is up 8% to an elite 60% on the season. Also since the break, Peralta’s average fastball velocity is 94.7 MPH with a swinging strike rate of 10.3% (the league average is 8.8%). Peralta’s overall numbers or surface stats are the result of a brutal start in April and May. After his May 27 start, Peralta’s ERA was 6.35. His ERA today is 4.51. His ERA in July was 2.13 and while he’s likely to battle inconsistency, Peralta has the skills to thrive in any game. There is nothing but profit potential in the Brewers/Peralta combination and you can double those sentiments when said combo is playing at Miller Park. Wrong side favored here.
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Baltimore +120 over N.Y. YANKEESFREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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The Yankees are once again struggling at the plate with three runs or fewer in five of their past six games. That includes two games at the Rogers Center over the past three games, a venue that has been a haven for hitter’s the entire year. C.C. Sabathia has thrown 200+ innings each of the previous six seasons and he’s thrown 178 this year. Sabathia hit the DL twice (groin, elbow) last season and visited Dr. Andrews after the season. Sabathia is an “old” 33, much like a boxer that has been in too many wars at a young age. It’s not like Sabathia is in great shape either. Hide his face and he looks like Bartolo Colon out there. Has this heavy workload caught up to him? Sabathia’s xERA says he hasn't been this bad, but there are still huge warning signs. His velocity declined from 93.6 mph to 92.4 mph from '11 and '12, and he's lost another tick this season (91 mph). At the same time, he's throwing his slider less, so relying even more heavily on his depleted fastball (36% in '12 to 41% in '13) and his strikeout rate has taken a hit. Sabathia’s hr/f% hasn't regressed as expected but don’t be surprised to see some jacks allowed in the final month. Sabathia is also seeing a decreasing strand%. What's most troubling is Sabathia’s hard-hit balls %, which is at a career-high 34%, suggesting he's become more hittable (.273 oppBA confirms that fact). Sabathia's skills are in deterioration mode. This slide is to be expected from a player who's been a workhorse for so many years and his post-All-Star break skills leave us skeptical that things are going to improve. C.C. Sabathia is burned out and frustrated.
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At age 29, Miguel Gonzalez is in his prime; what you see is what you get. While he’s not going to blow people away, he does well enough to serve as a solid, middle-of-the-rotation option. He remains a solid, if not overwhelmingly dominant, starter. He’s posted a 57%/7% quality start/disaster start split in 22 starts, compared to 47%/20% in 2012. He’s also been sharp over his last five starts with a 8/20 BB/K split over 24 frames. That said, this one isn’t about backing Gonzalez, although he’s reliable. It’s all about fading an overvalued Yankee squad with Sabathia on the hill against one of the deadliest offenses in the game. Definite overlay.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, August 30

Craig Davis

My free play winner for Friday is the Dodgers on the Run Line over the Padres.

Los Angeles continues to get strong starting pitching from all of their starters in the rotation, and tonight's starter is actually one of my favorites.

The Dodgers have 21 wins in August and recorded their 19th shutout of the season Wednesday in their 4-0 win over the Cubs.

Pitching two of their shutouts this year is tonight's starter, Hyun-Jin Ryu (12-5, 3.08 ERA) who surprisingly hasn't faced the Padres yet in his career.

Eric Stults (8-11, 3.72 ERA) gets the start for the Padres and is 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA in three starts against the Dodgers this season... and they hit .311 against him in those starts.

That's good enough for me. Nothing is stopping this train from rolling... take the Dodgers on the run line as your free play of the day.

2♦ L.A. DODGERS -1.5

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, August 30

Jeff Benton

Friday's freebie is the Pirates over the Cardinals.

Another battle for the division lead in the N.L. Central, and the last time these teams met at PNC at the end of July, the Bucs took 4 of the 5 meetings off of the Cards.

I like Pittsburgh to start the weekend off with a win over St. Louis, as Francisco Liriano continues to pay dividends for the Pirates.

Liriano has tossed back-to-back wins at the Redbirds this past month, with the most recent win in complete game fashion on August 14th in a 5-1 Pirates win.

Shelby Miller will counter, and while no slouch, Miller was on the losing end in that middle of August battle, as Pittsburgh touched him up for all 5 of those runs (3 earned) in that 5-1 Pirates win.

Should be a good one tonight, but I will side with the steady Liriano to pace the Pirates to the win.

3♦ PITTSBURGH

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, August 30

Brad Wilton

My comp play winner for tonight will be to take the truck-load of points the Owls of Florida Atlantic are getting as they play in-state big brother Miami-Florida for the first time.

No doubt the mighty Hurricanes should be 1-0 after this one is completed, but I have my reservations about the 'Canes covering the big number tonight.

For one thing, Miami does have a rather large home date with the Florida Gators on-deck for next weekend, so one can easily see Al Golden taking his foot off the gas pedal later on in this contest.

Miami is just 5-5 as a home favorite their last 10, and a lowly 2-8 against the spread when listed as the double-digit home favorite since the 2010 season.

Florida Atlantic's Carl Pelini is in his second season as head coach, and he did convert all 3 tries last season when installed as an underdog of 20 or more points, and was 5-0 overall in the dog role a season ago.

Miami to win this one by 28, but Florida Atlantic takes it where it counts...at the ticket window.

Owls plus the points.

2♦ FLORIDA ATLANTIC

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, August 30

Brett Atkins

My free winner for today is on the Atlanta Braves, getting it done at home against Miami Marlins. And we're getting to lay a rather cheap number, since Miami is throwing it Cuban-rookie phenom Jose Fernandez. As good as he is, the Braves are in destruction-mode and are looking to wrap up the National League East. The last thing they're going to do is let the Fish stay close.

Fernandez, a valid candidate for National League Rookie of the Year, has won five straight decisions entering his first career matchup against the division-leading Braves. And it might not be the best time to see them.

Atlanta is in after sweeping a three-game home series from Cleveland, which was stifled to just three runs. The Braves are now a major league-leading 47-18 at home while they've won 16 of their last 19 at Turner Field.

On the flip side of that, Atlanta starting right-hander Julio Teheran gets a Miami team that was just swept by Washington, and has lost eight of their last nine games. This is a perfect spot for Teheran to get right, as he's lost two of his last three starts.

Biggest thing for me, however, is I'm not going to list either pitcher, as this one is about momentum. Take the Braves over Marlins with straight action.

4♦ ATLANTA

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, August 30

Chris Jordan

My free play for Friday night is on the Detroit Tigers over the Cleveland Indians.

In a key American League Central series, I have to side with the Tigers here, as the Tribe arrives in Motown after being swept by the Atlanta Braves in Interleague play.

Atlanta limited the Indians' suddenly futile offense to a mere three runs, as Cleveland went 0-for-18 with runners in scoring position.

The Tigers, on the other hand, used a two-out Torii Hunter three-run walk-off home run to avoid a four-game sweep by the Oakland A’s. And that might be the right motivation the jungle cats need for this weekend set. Those wondering about MVP-candidate Miguel Cabrera, who left yesterday's game after aggravating a left abdominal strain, he is expected to play tonight.

The Tigers, who have won 20 of the last 27 meetings dating back, have won five straight over Cleveland this season. Take the home team here and lay the cheap chalk.

4♦ DETROIT

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, August 30

Scott Delaney

My free winner for Friday night is on the Texas Rangers on the Run Line, as they host the lowly Minnesota Twins, and it shouldn't even be close.

Now make note, while I know all Run Line plays automatically list pitchers with the starters who are scheduled to go at the time of the wager, I am not concerned with who goes for either team tonight and want you playing this game on the Run Line regardless. Thus, IT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to be sure you have action even if one of the pitchers scheduled to start is scratched, and re-wager the game if that takes place.

See, while everyone might still be enamored by the Los Angeles Dodgers, the fact it, August has been scorched by the red-hot Texas Rangers, who will win their 20th game this month tonight. The Rangers, who have commandeered the American League West and lead the Oakland Athletics by three games, own the best record on the junior circuit by one percentage point over Boston thanks to a 19-6 run this month.

Texas comes into this one having won three straight and seven of nine, while the Twins have lost five in a row.

And even though I'm not listing pitchers tonight, I don't mind telling you i do feel good seeing the Rangers hand the ball to right-hander Yu Darvish (12-5, 2.68) and the Twins giving it to Liam Hendriks (0-2, 6.20 ERA). The Texas-ace has won three straight decisions and is 4-1 with a 1.85 ERA over his last seven trips to the slab.

Love the Rangers on the Run Line, no matter who starts for either team.

3♦ TEXAS -1.5

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, August 30

John Ryan

San Francisco Giants at Arizona Diamondbacks
Prediction: San Francisco Giants

The simulator shows a high probability that SF will win this game. Arizona I not in a solid money sport for a win tonight based on several key game situations. Diamondbacks are just 15-24 (-18.4 Units) against the money line in home games facing low power teams averaging 0.75 or less HR/game over the last 2 seasons; SF is a solid 11-3 (+9.3 Units) against the money line in road games revenging a loss to current opponent as a home favorite over the last 2 seasons. Lincecum has posted some very poor results over his last three starts. However, he has a strong tendency to regain form and pitch at least to his season averages after a series of rough outings. Moreover, I feel confident he will do very well against an Arizona team that knows they are not in the playoff race. Delgado has been effective, but he has been the beneficiary of strong run support. he has allowed FIVE HR over his last three starts reflecting pitches that are far too often thrown up in the zone. I like the Giants tonight.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, August 30

Harry Bondi

Texas Tech -5

We have written repeatedly in the Bondi Bulletin over the last two years that the main problem at Texas Tech was Head Coach Tommy Tuberville. With Tuber gone to Cincinnati, we expect the Red Raiders to be much better on both sides of the ball under new Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury. A former Texas Tech star and one of the best offensive minds in college football, Kingsbury was the offensive coordinator at Texas A&M last year and was responsible for the offense that made Johnny Maziel "Johnny Heisman". He has installed that same fast pace offense at T Tech and they have looked good running it in spring and fall camps. Even though starting QB Michael Brewer may not play or see limited time tonight because of a back injury, backup's Davis Webb and Baker Mayfield have gotten plenty of reps and are ready to run the high octane offense. Red Raiders have won 14 straight over SMU including 13 by double-digits and keep that run going tonight.

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