Free Picks: Service Plays for Monday, September 23

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

Larry Ness

Pittsburgh vs. Chicago
Pick: Pittsburgh

The Pittsburgh Pirates long ago secured the team's first winning season since 1992 but still on the agenda is nailing down a postseason berth. The Pirates are “looking good” in that department, despite falling two games back of the Cards in the NL Central and into a tie with the Reds. However, there are two wild cards in the NL and the Pirates and Reds each lead the Nats by five games, with just SIX remaining. The Pirates and Reds will all but assuredly make the postseason and while both are unlikely to catch the Cards, only a MONUMENTAL collapse and an improbable perfect finish by the Nats, would prevent them from at least playing in the one-game wild card playoff.

The key there being, both teams would love to HOST that game. The Pirates finish the regular season with three games in Cincinnati this weekend, so while the Reds are hosting the Mets (Mon-Wed), the Pirates had better win at least TWO of three at Chicago vs the Cubs. Chicago comes in having lost NINE of 12 and will hand the ball to Jeff Samardzija (8-12, 4.42 ERA). He’s among the top-10 in MLB with 203 strikeouts but enters with an 8.35 ERA in his previous three starts. He hasn't had much success at home, going 2-4 with a 5.76 ERA in his last 11 starts in Wrigley, and has allowed nine ERs on 17 hits over 12 innings (6.75 ERA) while dropping both home starts against the Pirates this season.

Pittsburgh’s Charlie Morton (7-4, 3.35 ERA) matched a career-high with nine strikeouts against the Padres on Wednesday, allowing just one run over eight innings. However, Pittsburgh’s bullpen blew the save in the 9th (I had the Pirates!). He's gone 4-1 with a 2.73 ERA in his last nine starts and I expect that he'll continue the strong work of Pittsburgh starters against Chicago this season, as that group has posted a 2.21 ERA to help the Pirates take 10 of 16 meetings.

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

Jeff Alexander

Detroit Tigers -1½ -116

I'll lay runs with the Tigers as Verlander gets the ball against a struggling Minnesota clubs he's owned. The Twins have dropped 10 of 12 with nine of these losses coming by at least two runs. Verlander is 9-0 with a 2.22 ERA in his last 11 starts versus Minnesota. The Tigers are 10-1 during this stretch, including 5-0 on the road. Nine of these wins have come by two runs or more.

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

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

Jeff Benton

Monday freebie is the Pirates as the road favorite over the Cubs.

Pittsburgh just dropped 2 of 3 over the weekend to Cincinnati as the teams are now in a dead heat for the Wild Card home field advantage, and 2 games behind St. Louis for the division lead.

I like the Pirates to take advantage of the Cubs tonight at Wrigley, as Pittsburgh has won 10 of the last 16 versus the last place Cubbies.

Charlie Morton has gone 4-1 with a 2.73 ERA the last 9 times he has taken the hill. Look for him to be tough on Chicago tonight.

Jeff Samardzija will go for Chicago, and is on a 2-4 run his last 11 starts at the friendly confines with an alarming 5.76 ERA in those efforts.

Going to side with the Bucs to get themselves righted with the road win tonight.

2♦ PITTSBURGH

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

Brad Wilton

Monday free play winner will be the Royals as they continue their quest to grab a wild card spot for October.

Time is definitely not on the side of the Royals, but they do head to King County winners of 4 of their last 6 games, and Kansas City has also beaten Seattle in 3 of 4 September meetings.

Rookie Yordana Ventura will make his second big league start, and he is coming into this start off 5-plus innings of one run ball in his last start against Cleveland. The rookie left with the lead, but the bullpen fell apart in a 5-3 loss in that one.

Seattle will go with Brandon Maurer who has lost his last pair of starts, allowing 7 runs and 12 hits in his 8 combined innings of work.

Maurer's 6.95 season ERA would seem to indicate that the Royals will get some offense started against the young righty.

Go with KC to keep their playoff hopes alive with the win tonight.

3♦ KANSAS CITY

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

Brett Atkins

My free play for Monday night is on the Texas Rangers on the Run Line over the Houston Astros, and while I know we're having to lay money in this game by playing the run line, I still will do it in this Texas Tussle.

The Rangers have dominated this series, having won eight straight over the worst team in baseball. During the eight-game win streak, Texas has outscored the Astros, 52-24, an average final of 6.5-3.

Houston arrives in Arlington after losing four straight in Cleveland, as this will be their fifth consecutive road game in as many days and their 11th game overall in as many days.

Texas, meanwhile, returns home after a seven-game junket that took them to Tampa Bay and Kansas City. This series here couldn't come at a better time, as the Rangers are struggling terribly this month and are flirting with danger of missing the playoffs. It was just last month the Rangers had a 78-56 record, led the AL West and had only two fewer victories than American Leading-leading Boston.

Now it's time to make one last surge, and it begins against a team the Rangers have dominated.

5♦ TEXAS -1.5

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

Chris Jordan

My free play for tonight is on the Miami Marlins getting it done over the Philadelphia Phillies, who have sunken back into slump-mode and look horrible during this four-game losing streak.

These two teams just met last week, and the Marlins closed the series out by snapping a seven-game win streak in the series, with a 4-3 upset win. Tonight the Phils hand the ball to right-hander Roy Halladay, who has suffered through a miserable campaign that has been marred by injuries and inconsistency.

He comes in having pitched just 61-2/3 innings this season, his lowest total since his rookie season, back in 1998. And while I know he beat the Marlins last Tuesday, allowing one run on four hits in six innings, the Phillies aren't exactly playing the best baseball right now.

The Phils have lost 20 of their last 27 on the road. I'm taking a shot here with Miami.

5♦ MIAMI

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

Scott Delaney

My free play for tonight is on the Chicago White Sox, laying money to the Toronto Blue Jays, as these two last-place teams meet in in a makeup game of a June 12 contest that was postponed due to rain. The sad thing for the Jays is that postponement came during the early part of Toronto's franchise record-tying 11-game winning streak.

Toronto has gone 33-48 since, comes to Chicago after a 5-2 loss at Boston yesterday and now must play in what is a stop-over game before heading to Baltimore and finishing up at home against the Rays.

These make-up games out of nowhere are generally brutal on the road teams, and so it's well worth it to invest on the South Siders here.

Don't worry about listing pitchers in this game, although if the Sox go through with using Jose Quintana, we're in good shape, as southpaw Jose Quintana is 2-2 with a 2.76 ERA over his last seven starts and is 2-1 with a 2.10 ERA in four career starts versus the Blue Jays.

Play Chicago in this one.

5♦ CHICAGO

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

Harry Bondi

Oakland / Denver Under 49

Tonight we'll go against the public and call for a low scoring game between Denver and Oakland. The Raiders have shown they can run the ball effectively in their first two games of the season and that's exactly what they will look to do tonight. The more time Peyton Manning spends on the sidelines, the better it is for Oakland so look for them to slow this game down, take the air out of the ball and try to hang close until the fourth quarter. Both games went under the total last season and in the last four meetings the total has not been higher than 46.5. We're getting some line value here because of the big points Denver put up in the first two weeks, so let's take advantage and go under.

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

Ray Monohan

Kansas City Royals -140

The Royals are technically still in the race and have the easiest schedule to close the season of any of the contenders - though they have the furthest to go. It is all on the road beginning with Seattle on Monday and who are they turning to ? A rookie named Yordano Ventura who has just one Major League start to his credit. I am not promising big things but he kind has the look of Pedro Martinez and I think that for one start in September he can channel that, the minor league numbers show that it is possible and he will be seeing a relatively weak Mariners lineup. The M’s have been awful lately too.

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