Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, September 13

Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, September 13

SPORTS WAGERS

PITTSBURGH -1½ +129 over Chicago

Jake Arietta has two wins in seven starts since the Orioles dumped him off to Chicago. He’s made one road start since the trade and barely made it through five innings after walking five and allowing four runs in those five innings. In total, Arietta has made 11 starts this year and only three of them have been quality one’s. Last year we went 3-9 with a 6.20 ERA in 109 IP at Baltimore. Arrieta has a history of control issues and nothing has changed. He’s already walked 37 batters in 57 frames this year and 17 over his past 28 innings. His line-drive rate is at an alarming 31% and he does not have the luxury of the winds blowing in here like they do at Wrigley. Against a focused and determined Pirates club that has reeled off four straight including a sweep in Texas, Arietta has little chance for success. He’s officially on our stiff list.

The Cubbies have the league’s worst team batting average in the league on the road at .228. Things don’t figure to improve here against Charlie Morton. Morton has been one of MLB's most dominating pitchers during his second half return from 2012 Tommy John surgery with a 3.13 ERA and an absolute elite 65% groundball rate. And he's more than a groundball machine. He has a 94 mph average four-seam fastball. He's still refining the pitch mix that will generate more swings-and-misses from batters, but with his good velocity and the best groundball tilt in MLB, Morton could be the key cog in Pittsburgh’s quest for a championship. He’s that good and it’s no fluke.


San Diego +131 over ATLANTA

The Braves magic number is down to just six games, meaning they are virtually a lock make the playoffs but they are certainly overpriced in the first game of this series. Atlanta is on cruise control right now. They are like an NFL team playing the prevent defense. To give some of its starters some rest, the Braves are turning to a rookie pitcher, making his first MLB start (see our MLB call-ups). In 20 starts with Triple-A Gwinnett, David Hale went 6-9 with a 3.22 ERA, however, he allowed 123 hits in 114 innings for a BA against of .279. A two-way player at Princeton who saw more time in center field than on the mound, Hale continues to play catch-up in his development as a pitcher. He has a quick arm with a fluid delivery that produces a heavy 92 mph fastball. His slider can be a solid offering at times, while his feel for his changeup comes and goes. Hale needs to do a better job of getting ahead in the count and of working off his fastball. His strikeout to walk ratio 36/77 BB/K at the minor league level was pedestrian at best. As a -140 favorite, this rookie brings far too much risk.

Ian Kennedy has enjoyed a renaissance of sorts since being traded from the D-Backs back in early August. Of his seven starts since for the Padres, five of them have been of the pure quality variety. The Padres have won three of Kennedy’s last four starts and over that span, he’s been taken deep just one time. It may surprise you to learn that no team other than the Astros have struck out more than the Braves and that should bode very well here for Kennedy. Over his last 27 frames, Kennedy has whiffed 32 batters. He also brings an outstanding xERA of 2.72 since joining the Padres to this contest. Ian Kennedy was not a good fit in Arizona but he’s been a great fir for the Padres and offers up plenty of value here taking back a tag like the one offered here against a rookie pitcher that was rated as the Braves 16th best prospect heading into 2013.


San Diego -102 over PHILADELPHIA

The Phillies had big motivation on their side when they recently swept the Braves prior to this series but that motivation level is not nearly as high against this “also ran” guest. These two split the first two games of the series with Padres taking the opener 8-2 before losing to Cliff Lee last night, 4-2. Roy Halladay missed his last start due to flu-like symptoms. A shoulder strain nagged him most of last season, resulting in his first sub-200 IP year since '05. That shoulder carried 240 IP per season from 2008 to 2011. Halladay has spent most of this season on the DL. Before going on the disabled list, Halladay's biggest problem was his control and since returning, it has gotten worse. In three starts covering 17 innings, Halladay has walked nine batters while striking out eight. That’s not the only concern. Halladay’s groundball rate is at a career low 34%. His line-drive rate is at a career high of 27%. Age, health and the toll of all those great innings has made Roy Halladay a huge risk and the only thing that has him favored here is his name and pedigree. 

It has been nine straight pure quality starts for Tyson Ross since rejoining the rotation on July 23. He takes on a Phillies team who is playing out the season with a somewhat makeshift lineup. Ross is a must play, spotting less than a nickel or even a dime against Halladay and the Phillies. Ross’s skills have outperformed his results more than any starting pitcher in the game. His 3-7 record does not do justice to his 3.36 xERA, (2.79 actual ERA) 54% groundball rate, 8.4 K’s per nine and solid control. Put Tyson Ross on your radar as one of the most undervalued pitchers in the majors. Ross has nasty stuff, he has game and his chances of winning here are far greater than Halliday’s chances.

Pass CFL & NCAAF

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, September 13

Playersbet

New York Yankees @ Boston Red Sox
Prediction: Boston Red Sox

Another rivalry series begins tonight, with John Lackey starting for the Sox, and Hiroki Kuroda starting for the struggling Yanks. Kuroda is having a successful season with the Yankees, and is coming off a 6 inning and 2 earned run game against Boston that ended in a no decision. Lackey on the other hand, has had a couple of strong outings, but has yet to get the run support. He is coming off a win against the Yankees and went 5 innings and allowed 7 earned runs. The Sox struggled in last night’s game against the Rays, only stringing together 6 hits over 9 innings. The Yankees have had troubles with the Sox, especially in the last series, so I have to say that the Sox will prevail.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, September 13

Craig Davis

Maybe I'm a glutton for punishment, but I just don't see the Yankees going into Boston and getting drummed the way they did last week when Boston came and took three of four from them.

And I believe Hiroki Kuroda is going to get back on track as the Yankees know that every game from here on out is a must win game if they are going to get into the Wild Card game.

They are coming off a very impressive series win over the Baltimore Orioles, and although the last three games were very close, the Yankees found a way to win all three.

Boston did take two of three from Tampa in Tampa, and that allowed the Yankees to get back to within one game of the final Wild Card spot in the American League.

Kuroda does have two no-decisions in his last two starts, but the Yankees managed to win both of those games. He's not quite back to where he was  in July, but he's slowly getting closer.

As for John Lackey, his last start was against the Yankees, and I'm still scratching my head as to how they won the game despite his performance.

He allowed seven earned runs over 5 2/3 innings of work, but he escaped with a no-decision.

Not today. The Yankees steal one in Beantown. Take New York as your free play of the day.

1♦ N.Y. YANKEES

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, September 13

Jeff Benton

Your Friday freebie is the Over in the Rays-Twins game.

Tampa Bay has had all kinds of issues getting their offense going, but a weekend trip to Target Field will get them back on target tonight, as Minnesota pitching has been serving them up lately.

The Twins have played Overs in 8 of their last 10 games, as opposing teams have scored 6 runs or more in 7 of those 10 games.

If that stat doesn't get the Rays hitters licking their chops, then nothing will!

Rays rookie hurler Chris Archer has come back down to earth, as he has an ERA of 4.91 over his last 3 starts, and the Over is on a 5-2 run the last 7 times he has made the start.

Kevin Correia just allowed 5 runs over 6 innings in his last start at home against Toronto, so there is a strong chance the dormant Tampa offense can get something started tonight.

Gong to play the Over in the first of three from Target Field this Friday night.

2♦ TAMPA BAY-MINNESOTA OVER

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, September 13

Brad Wilton

Friday's free play winner will be the underdog Royals as they take on the division-leading Tigers this evening at Comerica Park.

Detroit may lead the division, but they have not done so at the expense of Kansas City, as the Royals own a 9-7 season series mark against the Tigers, and they have handled Justin Verlander with no issue this season.

Verlander is on an 0-3 slide this year versus the Royals with an ERA that approaches 5, and his team has lost all 5 of his season starts against Kansas City.

Kansas City is in the thick of the Wild Card chase, and they have won 13 of their last 18 games entering play this weekend in the Motor City.

Bruce Chen will make the start for the Royals, and he did win over Detroit last Sunday, going 7 innings while allowing just 2 runs to score. The southpaw is on a 2-0 run his last 3 starts with a 2.41 ERA.

The price looks right here, as KC has shown they can handle both Detroit and starter Verlander.

Go with the upstart Royals to pull the upset win.

2♦ KANSAS CITY

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, September 13

Brett Atkins

My free winner for tonight is an underdog, as I like the Houston Astros getting it done against the Angels of Anaheim.

Why not take the Astros in this game? The Angels are in after sweeping the Toronto Blue Jays, and they're going to be a bit overconfident for this game and series. But the Astros have won three straight after a three-game sweep at Seattle.

This has simply been a disappointing season for the Angels, who spent a ton of money off-season, but are looking at another October on the sidelines. The Astros look can clinch the season series, as they're 9-7 against the Angels, one of only two AL teams against which Houston owns a winning record.

Let's play the home pup here.

4♦ HOUSTON

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, September 13

Chris Jordan

My free play for tonight is on the Toronto Blue Jays at home against a suddenly struggling Baltimore Orioles.

The Orioles are fading fast and I don't know if they can duplicate their 2012 postseason run. And knowing how excisted the Jays were for this season, only to have their playoff hopes dashed, they'll love pouncing on the O's, who bring a three-game losing streak into tonight's series opener.

The Orioles are in after losing a 6-5 decision to the New York Yankees on Wednesday and falling 2-1/2 games behind Tampa Bay in the American League wild-card race.

And even though I'm not listing pitchers in this one, I can tell you I don't mind the fact we're going against Baltimore's Jason Hammel in his first start since being placed on the disabled list in late-July with a forearm injury, but is still 0-6 in his last 11 starts.

Take the Jays tonight.

5♦ TORONTO

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, September 13

Scott Delaney

My free play is on the Texas Rangers on the Oakland Athletics in a huge American League West clash, and I want you listing both pitchers scheduled to start in this game: Oakland right-hander Dan Straily (9-7, 4.15 ERA) and Texas southpaw Derek Holland (9-8, 3.17).

I know Straily has won three straight, but this streak is after a seven-start winless streak. And yes, he turned in one of his best performances of the year his last trip to the hill, but he struck out seven in as many innings and threw two-hit ball against the lowly Houston. The catch for me is that he is 2-1 with a 4.23 ERA in five starts against Texas, including a win in the most recent meeting Sept. 2 in Oakland, and that win came at the expense of Holland.

I like the revenge factor in this game.

If Holland wants to do anything for his team, it'll be to shake his funk after losing his last two starts, in which he's allowed 12 runs over 10-1/3 innings. In fact, he is winless in his last six outings. But Holland is 5-3 with a 2.83 ERA in 15 games (11 starts) against Oakland, so there should be some confidence there.

Texas is 3.5 games back of the A's in the West, so this is a crucial series. Take the Rangers.

4♦ TEXAS

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, September 13

Bob Balfe

Texas Rangers -130

Oakland is really impressing me this year, but they don't hit the ball as well against left handed pitching and Texas has the slightly better pitcher on the mound this evening. The heat is on the Rangers as they are looking to win a division or at the very least stay on top of the wild card standings. This is a must win and I like their chances tonight. Take the Rangers

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