Free Picks: Service Plays for Monday, September 23

Free Picks: Service Plays for Monday, September 23

DUNKEL INDEX

NFL

Oakland at Denver
The Raiders look to build on their 6-1 ATS record in their last 7 games in Denver. Oakland is the pick (+15 1/2) according to Dunkel, which has the Broncos favored by only 12. Dunkel Pick: Oakland (+15 1/2)

Game 419-420: Oakland at Denver (8:40 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Oakland 127.801; Denver 139.776
Dunkel Line: Denver by 12; 54
Vegas Line: Denver by 15 1/2; 49
Dunkel Pick: Oakland (+15 1/2); Over

MLB

Philadelphia at Miami
The Phillies look to take advantage of a Miami team that is 2-12 in its last 14 games as a home underdog. Philadelphia is the pick (-120) according to Dunkel, which has the Phillies favored by 1 1/2. Dunkel Pick: Philadelphia (-120)

Game 951-952: Philadelphia at Miami (7:10 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Philadelphia (Halladay) 15.641; Miami (Eovaldi) 14.216
Dunkel Line: Philadelphia by 1 1/2; 8
Vegas Line: Philadelphia (-120); 7
Dunkel Pick: Philadelphia (-120); Over

Game 953-954: NY Mets at Cincinnati (7:10 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: NY Mets (Harang) 15.719; Cincinnati (Cueto) 14.682
Dunkel Line: NY Mets by 1; 7
Vegas Line: Cincinnati (-250); 7 1/2
Dunkel Pick: NY Mets (+220); Under

Game 955-956: Milwaukee at Atlanta (7:10 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Milwaukee (Estrada) 15.495; Atlanta (Minor) 14.396
Dunkel Line: Milwaukee by 1; 9
Vegas Line: No Line
Dunkel Pick: N/A

Game 957-958: Pittsburgh at Chicago Cubs (8:05 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Pittsburgh (Morton) 16.089; Cubs (Samardzija) 14.408
Dunkel Line: Pittsburgh by 1 1/2; 6
Vegas Line: Pittsburgh (-130); No Run Total
Dunkel Pick: Pittsburgh (-130); N/A

Game 959-960: Washington at St. Louis (8:15 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Washington (Roark) 14.508; St. Louis (Wainwright) 16.185
Dunkel Line: St. Louis by 1 1/2; 7
Vegas Line: St. Louis (-165); 7 1/2
Dunkel Pick: St. Louis (-165); Under

Game 961-962: Arizona at San Diego (10:10 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Arizona (McCarthy) 15.454; San Diego (Stults) 14.480
Dunkel Line: Arizona by 1; 8
Vegas Line: San Diego (-110); 7
Dunkel Pick: Arizona (-110); Over

Game 963-964: Baltimore at Tampa Bay (3:10 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Baltimore (Chen) 15.385; Tampa Bay (Archer) 14.393
Dunkel Line: Baltimore by 1; 9
Vegas Line: Tampa Bay (-150); 7 1/2
Dunkel Pick: Baltimore (+130); Over

Game 965-966: Houston at Texas (8:05 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Houston (Lyles) 13.688; Texas (Holland) 15.622
Dunkel Line: Texas by 2; 7
Vegas Line: Texas (-270); 8
Dunkel Pick: Texas (-270); Under

Game 967-968: Detroit at Minnesota (8:10 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Detroit (Verlander) 13.887; Minnesota (Pelfrey) 14.675
Dunkel Line: Minnesota by 1; 10
Vegas Line: No Line
Dunkel Pick: N/A

Game 969-970: Oakland at LA Angels (10:05 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Oakland (Milone) 17.404; LA Angels (Richards) 16.048
Dunkel Line: Oakland by 1 1/2; 7
Vegas Line: No Line
Dunkel Pick: N/A

Game 971-972: Kansas City at Seattle (10:10 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Kansas City (Ventura) 16.500; Seattle (Maurer) 15.170
Dunkel Line: Kansas City by 1 1/2; 9
Vegas Line: Kansas City (-140); 8
Dunkel Pick: Kansas City (-140); Over

Game 973-974: Toronto at Chicago White Sox (8:10 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Toronto (Happ) 15.547; White Sox (Quintana) 14.212
Dunkel Line: Toronto by 1 1/2; 7
Vegas Line: Chicago White Sox (-120); 8
Dunkel Pick: Toronto (+100); Under

WNBA

Phoenix at Los Angeles
The Sparks look to build on their 5-2 ATS record in their last 7 home games against the Mercury. Los Angeles is the pick (-7 1/2) according to Dunkel, which has the Sparks favored by 10. Dunkel Pick: Los Angeles (-7 1/2)

Game 667-668: Washington at Atlanta (8:00 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Washington 112.810; Atlanta 108.384
Dunkel Line & Total: Washington by 4 1/2; 149
Vegas Line & Total: Atlanta by 6 1/2; 144
Dunkel Pick: Washington (+6 1/2); Over

Game 669-670: Phoenix at Los Angeles (10:00 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Phoenix 110.163; Los Angeles 120.327
Dunkel Line & Total: Los Angeles by 10; 155
Vegas Line & Total: Los Angeles by 7 1/2; 160
Dunkel Pick: Los Angeles (-7 1/2); Under

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Monday, September 23

Hollywood Sports

Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos
Prediction: Denver Broncos

Denver (2-0) is averaging 45 points in their first two games this season -- and now with the stage of Monday Night Football as well as an extra-day to prepare for this suspect Raiders' defense, look for Peyton Manning to put up another huge statistical display in front of the nationally televised crowd. The Broncos come off their 41-23 win in New York against the Giants in the Manning Bowl as a 3.5-point favorite -- and they have then covered the point spread in 5 of their last 6 games following a victory. Denver has also covered the point spread in 4 of their last 5 games after a point spread win. Furthermore, the Broncos have covered the point spread in 5 of their last games after scoring at least 30 points in their last game. And in their last 6 encounters with a fellow AFC opponent, Denver has covered the point spread in 5 of these contests. Oakland (1-1) looks to build off the momentum of their 19-9 win over Jacksonville as a 3.5-point favorite -- but they have then failed to cover the point spread in 5 of their last 6 games following a straight-up victory. Additionally, the Raiders have failed to cover the point spread in 6 of their last 7 games after a point spread win. Quarterback Terrelle Pryor was solid but unspectacular against the Jaguars after completing 15 of 24 passes for just 126 yards. Pryor is just not skilled enough behind center to keep his team competitive with Manning and his finely-tuned offensive machine. To compound matters, the Raiders have failed to meet point spread expectations in 8 of their last 10 appearances on Monday Night Football. Adapting to the high-altitude in Denver along with Manning pushing the tempo with his hurry-up offense will make things very challenging for Oakland in this one. Lay the points in this one.

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Rob Vinciletti

Texas Rangers -1½ -130

Texas fits a solid system that has won 12 of 14 times and wins by 3 runs per game. We want to play on home favorites in this range that are off a road dog loss and had no errors, vs an opponent like the Astros that are off a road dog loss. Texas will look to get healthy vs an inept Houston team that has lost 10 straight and 14 of 16 vs Texas this season. Houston is 13-30 vs left handers and has lost 32 of 42 vs winning teams this year. Texas is 13-2 at home off a road loss and the Astors have lost 7 of 8 on the road off a road dog loss by 5 or more runs. Houston has J. Lyles on the mound and he has a 6.90 era in his last 3 starts and a 8,55 era vs Texas. The Rangers have D. Holland on the mound and he has won 4 of 5 vs Houston. Look for Texas to coast tonight.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Monday, September 23

Sean Higgs

Oakland Raiders +15½

Yes, you read that right. We are backing the Raiders here. Now, I usually try to break up my article in why I like 1 team and not the other. But for this match-up, we are going to have a pot-luck of information bouncing off one another.

So we are taking Oak-Town here. Believe it or not, the Raiders are actually 7-1 ATS last 8 trips to Denver. The road team has covered 8 of the last 10 in the series. So we have the mighty Broncos, right now probably everyone’s, along with Seattle, the teams to be in the Super Bowl.

Denver off a cross-country beat down of the New York Giants and Manning’s younger brother Eli. That win on the heels of Peyton’s 7 touchdown opening night. No bones about it, this Broncos team can score in bunches. I will just put it out there that I was on both the Ravens and the Giants. I will doggy-up again here with Oakland.

So the Raiders trot out Terrell Pryor at QB. The kid was respectable on the road in Indy and at home vs the Jaguars. I get that both of those teams aren’t in Denver’s league. I can hear the Broncos backers right now. The defense picked off 2 Super Bowl MVP Quarterbacks Flacco and Manning 6 times! What are they going to against this kid!

Denver is averaging 45ppg so far this year. And yes, they should be able to dominate the Raiders here. But I like to think outside the box. And I will grab a big double digit division dog nearly every step of the way. I said in my early analysis of Denver and I will say it again. I think the defense is a bit weaker than last year. Teams can score on them. They can’t count on 3 turnovers a game and punt returns for TDs every week.

Two plus touch-downs is a nice chunk of points to start with. I will grab the OAKLAND RAIDERS and the +15.5 as of this writing.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Monday, September 23

Jim Feist

Kansas City Royals at Seattle Mariners
Pick: Kansas City Royals

The KC Royals had to go 10 innings on Sunday, but broke a scoreless tie with a walk-off Grand Slam Home run to take two of three from the Rangers. The Royals trail both Tampa Bay and Cleveland for the two wild card spots by 1 1/2 games. Still an outside shot here for the Royals, but they will have to win their remaining seven games if they have any hope. That starts here on Monday at Seattle. Yordano Ventura is expected to start for the Royals with just 5.2 innings pitched this year. Brandon Maurer should oppose him with a 4-8 record and 6.95 ERA. The Twins are 0-7 in Maurer's last seven starts. Maurer also has a hefty WHIP of 1.66 and is 0-3 in his last three starts with a 7.90 ERA. Royals have hopes here because they do well against bad teams, going 13-3 their last 16 against a team with a losing record. They are also 16-5 in their last 21 games as a road favorite. Royals can't afford to lose and this is a team and pitcher they should beat up on.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Monday, September 23

Jimmy Boyd

Toronto Blue Jays +105

The Toronto Blue Jays lineup is built to face left-handed starters. They have a .269 team batting average and have scored 4.7 runs per game against lefties this season. The White Sox have not had that same success against lefties, posting a .253 batting average and scoring just four runs per game. Chicago will have its hands full against J.A. Happ, who has a 2.12 ERA in his last three starts.

The Blue Jays are 5-1 in their last six games against AL Central opponents, and 7-3 in their last 10 road games. The White Sox have struggled in series openers, posting a 17-35 record in their last 52 game one of a series situations. The White Sox are also 1-9 in their last 10 games against AL East opponents. With Happ pitching so well right now, and Toronto having such a large offensive edge, the Blue Jays are the play in this game.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Monday, September 23

Steve Janus

Pirates/Cubs Over 7½

Tonight's pitching matchup features Pittsburgh's Charlie Morton vs the Cubs' Jeff Samardzija. While both starters are coming off strong performances, I look for both offenses to be effective in this one.

Morton in is 1-3 with a 7.52 ERA over four career starts at Wrigley Field and Chicago is coming off a series against Atlanta where they swung the bats well. Samardzija has showed a lot of promise in 2013, but he's a ticking time bomb. I really believe fatigue is starting to kick in, as he's thrown a a career-high 201 innings. Prior to holding the Brewers to just 3 runs on five hits, Smardzija had allowed at least 5 runs in each of his previous three starts. He's also just 2-4 with a 5.76 ERA in his last 11 starts. With the wind expected to be blowing slightly from right to left (8 mph ESE), I expect to see at least 8 runs with the potential for double-digits.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Monday, September 23

Justin Bay

Arizona / San Diego Over 7

Brandon McCarthy will be throwing for the D-backs against a team that he has had very good success game this season with a 0.64 ERA. McCarthy has struggled bad on the road this year with a 5.59 ERA. He is coming off a solid start against the Dodgers going six innings giving up three earned runs. The one thing I am looking at during his last outing was the ten hits he gave up. Most teams in this league will not let you get away with giving up ten hits.

Eric Stults will be on the bump for the Padres and he has not had very good success against the D-Backs this season with a 4.43 ERA. He has been a little better at home with a 3.17 ERA, but in the month of September he has ERA over six. Since the All Star Break, Stults has a 5.26 ERA and I think the amount of innings he has pitched are catching up to him.

Look for both lineups to take advantage of two pitchers that have either struggled on the road or in the month of September. Both lineups can put up runs especially the D-Backs who do not hurt you with power, but find ways to bunch hits together. Look for this game to be an OVER 7 before the halfway point of this game.


Tampa Bay Rays -142

Wei-Yin Chen will be taking the mound for the Orioles in this Monday afternoon matchup against the Rays. Chen has had pretty good numbers against the Rays this season with a 2.84 ERA. He has been struggling as of late with a 5.32 ERA in the month of September and gave up 11 hits through 5.2 innings in his last start against Boston.

Chris Archer will be on the bump for the Rays and in his last start against the Orioles he went 7 innings giving up only two hits. He has been very good at home this season with a 2.70 ERA. He has a mediocre 4.12 ERA in the month of September, but is coming off a solid outing going six innings while only letting up two earned runs against the Rangers.

Every game that these two teams play from here till the end of the season will determine whether or not they will make the playoffs. I like the Rays at home against an Orioles team that has not had good success against Chris Archer. Archer should get some run support from his lineup who is facing a pitcher that does not have good success on the road.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Monday, September 23

Nick Parsons

Texas Rangers -1½ -130

The Rangers are desperate to get back to their winning ways and hang on in the jammed AL wild-card race.

Having won eight-straight in this season series, a matchup vs. the Astros is just what the doctor ordered to get untracked.

Jordan Lyles (7-7, 4.92 ERA)

Lyles brutal season continued on Tuesday vs. the Reds, giving up nine runs off nine hits with three walks over just 3 1/3's innings of work in his team's eventual 10-0 setback.

The right-hander has now given up 17 earned runs over his last 15 2/3's frames of work.

When Lyles last faced the Rangers back on May 12th he'd get shelled for eight runs over just four innings.

Derek Holland (9-9, 3.40 ERA)

Holland pitched well enough to win in his last start vs. Tampa Bay on Wednesday, but was saddled with a no-decision, giving up two earned runs off six hits and no walks over six innings.

It was a step forward for the southpaw, who had been sliding over his previous three games.

Note that Holland owns a very respectable 3.67 ERA home record.

The Bottom Line

"Our season has definitely been up and down, but we have to put that behind us and finish strong," Rangers' outfielder Craig Gentry said yesterday. "Right now, every game means something."

As mentioned off the top, Texas truly has taken it to the Astros of late, winning 14 of the last 16, averaging 6.5 runs per game while collectively batting .280.

One player to keep your eyes on today is the home side's Adrian Beltre who is hitting .444 with five home runs, six doubles and 13 RBIs over the last 14 in this series (Beltre is also 3 for 3 with two doubles vs. Lyles this year).

Holland has a big opportunity and I expect him to make the most of it. The Astros are limping to the finish line, scoring just 14 runs and posting a .136 average with runners in scoring position during a season-worst nine-game slide.

The overwhelming situational and motivational factors combined with the talent discrepancy both on the mound and at the plate makes laying the 1.5 runs for this very reasonable line a price that we can live with.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Monday, September 23

Doug Upstone

Atlanta Braves -121

Nice pitching matchup tonight in Atlanta. The Braves are still playing for something as they try and wrap up home field advantage. Play the Braves behind crafty lefty Mike Minor Monday night, they have won their last 7 hosting Milwaukee.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Monday, September 23

Jack Jones

Cincinnati Reds -1½ -110 

The Cincinnati Reds (89-67) have saved their best baseball for last when they have needed it most. They have won five of their last six games overall while scoring six or more runs in each victory. I look for them to beat the hapless New York Mets (71-84) by multiple runs tonight.

While Johnny Cueto's season has been injury-plagued, he has been effective when healthy. The right-hander is 5-2 with a 3.02 ERA and 1.081 WHIP in 10 starts this year, including 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA and 1.000 WHIP in four home starts.

Aaron Harang is far past his prime and one of the worst starters in the league this days. The right-hander is 5-12 with a 5.69 ERA in 24 starts this season, including 1-5 with a 5.96 ERA in nine road starts. Harang is also 0-2 with a 7.02 ERA in his last three outings.

Cueto is 9-1 against the run line (+10.1 Units) in home games when playing against a bad team (Win Pct. 38% to 46%) in the second half of the season in his career. The Reds are winning 6.2 to 3.2 in this spot, or by an average of 3.0 runs per game. Bet the Reds on the Run Line Monday.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Monday, September 23

Art Aronson

Philadelphia / Miami Over 7

The visiting Philadelphia Phillies will send veteran Roy Halladay (4-4, 6.71 ERA) to the hill in what could one of his final starts in a Phillies uniform. Halladay was better in his last start on Tuesday, yielding one run and four hits in six innings of a 6-4 win over Miami. Note that game was the “over” as well. Halladay is 2-0 with a 4.28 ERA in five starts since returning from right shoulder surgery. He's 4-1 despite a 6.51 ERA in his last five starts against the Marlins. The Marlins will send Nathan Evoldi (3-6, 3.79 ERA) who will be making his second straight start against the Phillies. Evoldi gave up three runs (two earned) in five innings of work. He's 0-4 with a 5.40 ERA in five previous meetings, pitching past the fifth inning only once. The higher number has hit in 1o of Halladay’s 12 starts this season and I expect that trend to continue here that the line is just a little high here. The Phillies are looking to get off to better start in this series after getting swept by the Nationals over the weekend. Take a strong look at the “over.”

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Ben Burns

Toronto at Chicago
Pick: Under

When looking at the pitching matchup, Happ vs. Quintana, one doesn't initially think "pitcher's duel." However, a closer look reveals that this has the potential to be a well-pitched affair. Quintana has been solid all season and he's currently in excellent form. He's allowed only one run in 13 innings over his last two starts and he's got a 1.80 ERA over his last three. For the season, he's got a 3.26 ERA in 16 home starts. Note that Quintana is also 2-1 with a 2.10 ERA vs. Toronto. He'll face a Jays' lineup which is missing its two biggest bats. Happ's road numbers admittedly aren't very good. However, like Quintana, he's also in fine current form. Last time out, he allowed a single unearned run, while limiting the Yankees to four hits run through seven innings. He's got a 2.10 ERA his last three starts, the last two of which have both fallen below the number. Happ will face a Chicago lineup which averages just 3.8 runs per game in this park. These same two pitchers opposed each other back in the spring, the only previous time that Happ started against Chicago. That game stayed below the total and I think this one has a solid shot at doing the same. Consider the Under. (*Line is at 8. If dips to 7.5, would be a no play.) Off a huge weekend, Ben Burns is now 19-8-1 the L5 days. Over the last 9+ months, Ben has delivered 157 more winners than losers. During that stretch, his record is 662-505, good for $41,876 in profits. In addition to being 13-7 his L20 NFL, he's a perfect 10-0 his last 10 on the diamond.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Monday, September 23

SPORTS WAGERS

MIAMI -109 over Philadelphia

The Phillies closed out their home schedule this past weekend by getting swept by the Mets and losing four in a row overall. Now this veteran laden team will take to the road to close out the season and it’s hard to imagine the Phillies being very interested. Since returning from the disabled list, Roy Halladay has alternated between competence and disaster. Aside from this up-and-down trend, the skills just aren't there any more: 27 IP, 16/17 K/BB, 38% groundball rate, 24% line-drive rate, 6.71 ERA and a 1.55 WHIP. Halladay has Mike Pelfrey like skills but his past pedigree has him and the disinterested Phillies wrongly priced here.

Nathan Eovaldi has quietly has become one of the most dominant starters during the last month with 7.3 K’s per nine, few walks and a 51% groundball rate. Eovaldi’s 96 mph four-seam fastball average velocity is the highest in MLB. There are seeds of something really good here. In 16 starts this season, Eovaldi has thrown 12 pure quality starts for a rate of 75% and that too, is one of the best in the business. This guy can pitch but his 3-6 W/L record and the team he pitches for has Eovaldi undervalued here. That’s a good time to step in.


SEATTLE +115 over Kansas City

The Royals are hanging in there and now sit 3½ games back with just seven games remaining. For KC to get into the post-season, they are going to have to run the table or at the very worst, win six of its final seven games. The Mariners are obviously out of it but these teams that are playing for nothing take great pride in knocking out contenders and the M’s have that opportunity here. We can assure you that Seattle will show up and give it everything they have in this series, especially in the opener against a rookie pitcher making his second career start. Yodano Ventura made his first start last week against the Indians and on paper he fared well by going 5.2 innings and allowing five hits and one run. However, he walked two batters while striking out just three and many balls were hit hard (24% line-drive rate). In 15 games at the Triple-A level prior to his call up, Ventura’s BAA was .271. He has a high velocity fastball and a decent curve bit his arsenal does not include much more and two-pitch pitchers in this league rarely have success. Ventura’s ceiling is high but he’s been called to the big leagues a little prematurely and should not be trusted in the role of the favorite.

Brandon Maurer was a highly touted pitcher out of high school. Prior to this season he had no experience at the Triple-A level. He was prematurely rushed to the big leagues in much the same manner as Ventura and was not ready. Maurer had a very rough April and May and was subsequently sent down to Triple-A Tacoma to hone his craft. He was brought back up in late July and worked out of the M’s bullpen before being inserted back in the rotation for his last two starts. His last start was in Detroit, where he gave up two solo shots in five innings and that’s all he surrendered. He struck out six Tigers in those five frames and gets another shot here. Overall, the results in his major-league career have been terrible (7.18 ERA, 1.68 WHIP) but he’s quietly put together a small string of dominance over the last month that underscores his potential: 14 IP, 10.3 K’s per nine, 0.6 walks per nine, a 50% groundball rate and a 12% swinging strike rate. Over his past 15 innings, Maurer has walked three and struck out 17. He could take a big leap forward in 2014 and under no pressure he has a chance to thrive tonight as well. Maurer has paid his dues while Ventura has not and that makes the M’s very playable here in a good spot.


Milwaukee +112 over ATLANTA

Atlanta is among three teams that clinched yesterday along with St. Louis and Oakland and we’re going to fade all three because it’s a huge letdown spot for all three after six months of blood, sweat and tears. There's a good chance that the Braves will be nursing hangovers rather than fielding a major league lineup in this game and the same can be said for the Cardinals and A’s. There is no point in breaking down the pitching matchups because it’s not relevant. This trio of plays is based solely on fading teams that clinched in their previous game with no day off in between.


L.A. ANGELS -1½ +143 over Oakland

The Angels are among three teams that clinched yesterday along with Atlanta and St. Louis and we’re going to fade all three because it’s a huge letdown spot for all three after six months of blood, sweat and tears. There's a good chance that the A’s will be nursing hangovers rather than fielding a major league lineup in this game and the same can be said for the Braves and Cards. There is no point in breaking down the pitching matchups because it’s not relevant. This trio of plays is based solely on fading teams that clinched in their previous game with no day off in between.


Washington +155 over ST. LOUIS

St. Louis is among three teams that clinched yesterday along with Atlanta and Oakland and we’re going to fade all three because it’s a huge letdown spot for all three after six months of blood, sweat and tears. There's a good chance that the Cardinals will be nursing hangovers rather than fielding a major league lineup in this game and the same can be said for the Braves and A’s. There is no point in breaking down the pitching matchups because it’s not relevant. This trio of plays is based solely on fading teams that clinched in their previous game with no day off in between.

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Mike O'Connor

DENVER (-15) 33 Oakland 17

The Raiders come into this game with a win under their belts as they defeated the mighty Jacksonville Jaguars 19-9 at home last week. The Raiders were dominant in this game and that is evidenced by the divergent rushing numbers exhibited here; 226 yards at 6.6 yards per rush for the Raiders to 34 yards at 1.8 yards per rush for the Jags. The Raiders played the Colts very well in Indy in Week 1 also, and after two weeks have a huge rushing advantage against their opponents thus far. The Raiders are averaging 198 yards rushing at 5.9 yards per rush while giving up just 81 yards rushing at 3.8 yards per rush. Their passing game is still a work in progress as QB Pryor is averaging just 158 yards passing at 5.5 yards per pass.

Meanwhile, the Broncos look like the cream of the crop as they steamrolled their second consecutive opponent in the 2nd half. After taking a slim 10-9 lead into the break, the Broncos proceeded to score 31 second half points against the Giants (very similar to Week 1 versus the Ravens where they trailed 17-14 at half, then scored 35 2nd half points). Whatever adjustments they are making at halftime seem to be working fairly well. After two games they have the largest positive yards per play differential in the league (they average 6.9 yards per play on offense and give up 4.9 yards per play on defense) while also having the largest positive point differential (averaging around 45 points scored to 25 points against). What makes these stats more impressive is that they were put up against pretty good competition in the Giants and the Super Bowl Champion Ravens and without top CB Champ Bailey and pass rushing maven Von Miller.

As you might expect, matchup analysis shows significant advantages for the Broncos in every area and my ratings favor them here by about 16 points. The Broncos won last year at home versus the Raiders 37-6 but this is a little bit of a different Raiders team. Their defense appears to be improved and they are rushing the ball and stopping the run fairly well. Denver should be ready to roll in this game as it is at home in primetime on Monday Night Football. I don’t have any situations that apply to this game and don’t have a real strong opinion either way, but based on the modest line difference I will lean with the Broncos minus the points.

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Bob Balfe

Denver Broncos -16

Las Vegas has a huge day yesterday. They beat the average gamblers and they beat the sharps. It was an ideal week for them. Tonight we have a huge favorite which the public is still backing. In the past few seasons big favorites have not shown up in games, but I just can’t give the Raiders much hope with a banged up and young offensive line, missing a tight end, Pryor as the main quarterback and receivers who just are not that great. Denver really has it all on offense. They will be without their left tackle for the rest of the year, but tonight against a defense with 9 new starters and one of the past years starters out of this game it will be very difficult to stop the big physical receivers, the running game and then of course the shifty Wes Welker. This is a division game so I really don’t like the spread being this high, but again there is no positive evidence to back Oakland except for the fact of just hoping they don’t lose by X amount of points. Even their best offensive player has been their kicker and he has struggled this year with a new holder in place of Shane Lechler. There is no stopping Payton Manning right now. Even the Denver special teams can put up 6 in a blink of an eye. Take the Broncos.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Monday, September 23

Bryan Power

Phoenix vs. Los Angeles
Pick: Over

Though the first two games of this series have gone Under, I see tonight's winner take all Game 3 going Over. These were two of the highest scoring teams in the league during the regular season, so the recent rash of Unders on both sides have been uncharacteristic.  Both Games 1 & 2 were very close to going Over.

Phoenix has gone Under in five straight games dating back to the end of the regular season.  They did score 86 points in Game 1 of this series, an upset on this floor.  Defense has been an issue on the road this season for the Mercury as they are allowing 82.6 PPG.  Offensively, they actually average about 1 PPG more on the road (80.6 PPG) compared to at home.  They were last in the league defensively during the regular season and were top three offensively.

Los Angeles averages 85 PPG at home. They were one of two teams to average 82 PPG for the year (Minnesota) and just hit that number exactly in their win in Phoenix in Game 2.  Previously, they had allowed 83 points or more in four of six games before that road win. The last three times these teams have met, the game has gone Under each time, and that just doesn't seem right to me.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Monday, September 23

Dave Price

Texas Rangers -1½ -125

The Astros are 0-9 in their last nine games with these losses coming by 3.7 runs on average. The Astros are also 0-8 in their last eight games against the Rangers, losing them by an average of 3.3 runs. Houston is 0-5 all-time in scheduled starter Jordan Lyles' starts against Texas, losing these by 3.8 runs on average. Texas' Derek Holland has struggled of late, but he still has a 3.39 ERA on the season, and the Rangers have won four of his five career starts versus the Astros. Take Texas on the run line.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Monday, September 23

Bruce Marshall

Kansas City vs. Seattle
Pick: Kansas City -1.5

We have seen some crazy things in the final week of MLB seasons over the past couple of years so we don't want to dismiss the possibility that Kansas City can still collar Cleveland or Tampa Bay for an AL wild card berth despite their 3 1/2 game deficit entering Monday But the schedule does set up well for the Royals this week, beginning with this 3-game set at Seattle and four games vs. the lowly White Sox to close the season.  Kansas City starters have posted a 2.62 ERA during the team's current 9-5 stretch and rookie phenom Yordana Ventura looks to pick up where we last saw him when limiting the Indians to a run and five hits over 5 2-3 innings Tuesday, exiting with a lead before the bullpen fell apart in a 5-3 loss.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Monday, September 23

Will Rogers

Oakland vs. LA Angels
Pick: LA Angels

With the A's clinching the division Sunday, this is a bit of a letdown for them against an Angels team that has played much better the last couple weeks.  Originally, Oakland was going to go with AJ Griffin, but now its Tom Milone, which is why it took so long to get a line up for this one.

Here are my keys to the game:

1.  Letdown - It's only natural to have a letdown after clinching the division and that's what I expect from the A's today.  They made a pitching change based on the fact they now have the AL West wrapped up as Tommy Milone is certainly not as strong as AJ Griffin would have been.  Milone has made only one start over the last month and has a 4.61 ERA on the road.  He has a 4.26 ERA in three starts vs. the Angels this year.

2. Garrett Richards - It was a hard luck loss in his last start, which came against Oakland on the road.  He allowed only one run in seven innings, but the team lost 2-1. At home, Richards is 4-0 in seven starts (6-1 TSR) with a 3.25 ERA and 1.105 WHIP.  This will be the first time he gets to faced Oakland at home this year after facing them three times on the road.  His last 12 innings against them, he's allowed just one run.  He has a 2.10 ERA in his last four starts overall.

3. X-Factor - The Angels lost for only the third time in 12 games Sunday, but they definitely had their chances against Seattle. They went 0 for 11 with runners in scoring position in the 3-2 loss.   Look for them to take advantage of the A's being in a letdown here.

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