Free Picks: Service Plays for Tuesday, April 8

Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Tuesday, April 8

MLB Predictions

Brewers / Phillies Under 8.5

The Phillies home opener was pushed back to Tuesday due to rain in the forecast in Monday. This game will take place at 4:05PM EST, and will feature Kyle Lohse vs Kyle Kendrick on the mound. Lohse opened the season vs Atlanta taking a loss, although he pitched well going 7 innings giving up 5 hits and 3 earned runs. He struckout 8 in the game and walked just 2. Lohse owns a 2.98 ERA vs Philadelphia, and has a 3.26 ERA at Citizens Bank Park. Kyle Kendrick pitched well this spring with a 2.81 ERA, .220 OBA and 1.25 WHIP over 16 innings of work. That translated right into his first start where he went 7 innings allowing 5 hits and 1 earned run with 4 strikeouts and a walk vs the Rangers in Texas (facing a DH which he won't be Tuesday). The Brewers have opened the season with 5 of their first 6 games going UNDER the posted total. The Phillies have gone UNDER the total in 4 of their 6 games, and 4 of their last 5 overall. Note that the UNDER is 12-4 in Lohse's last 16 starts as an underdog and 15-5-1 in the Brewers last 21 road games dating back to last season. The UNDER is 6-1-1 in Kendrick's last 8 starts dating back to last season, and 4-1 in his last 5 starts vs the Brewers. I like how both pitchers looked in their first starts of the season and I like the higher total we're getting here Tuesday afternoon. Take the UNDER.


Toronto Blue Jays -1.5 +111

I didn't really like the idea of betting another Astros game, but whatever I think will make us money. We may be some of the only people that have watched so many Houston games in this young season. When I saw Mark Buehrle was starting against the 'Stros it caught my attention, though. I think Buehrle will end up emerging as the Blue Jays top pitcher, and one one of the more reliable option in the majors. He looked great in spring training, yielding a 2.93 ERA and then turned it into a fantastic opening start in his first start of the regular season. Buehrle didn't allow any runs against the Tampa Bay Rays while striking out 11 batters. In addition, his WHIP stayed incredibly low at 0.53. The Rays have a capable offense, so that start is nothing to shrug off. The Astros will be flying all the way from Texas to Toronto after dropping 3 out of 4 from the Angels. At 3-4 the Astros have been playing above expectations, but I think it will be sooner rather than later their offense begins to look dreadful. Brett Oberholtzer is a fine pitcher, don't get me wrong, but I can see him struggling against some of the more offensive heavy lineups in MLB. I'll surely be on plenty of UNDER bets with him against struggling offenses, but the Blue Jays may be a tough out tonight. He could have been better in his first start against the Yankees, posting a 4.76 ERA in 5.2 innings pitched. The Jays have been hitting lefties better than right-handers thus far this season and should get enough to beat the Astros by more than a run. I like Buehrle to put forth another dominating performance at home, getting the Blue Jays back on track after losing to the Yankees on Sunday. I don't love this bet, but I like it. There isn't really anything that screamed at me on the card tonight, but I believe I am on the right side with this bet tonight, so I'll play it for 2 units.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Tuesday, April 8

Sammy P

Philadelphia at Florida
Play: Under 5.5

As we come upon the last 6 days of the NHL regular season, most of the "must win" teams are priced heavily with juice.  I don't mind laying juice now and then as long as I feel I'm getting value.  As most of my clients and followers know, I play the majority of my NHL totals Under and last night all three games easily cashed with a combined five goals scored in those games!  Hockey is a difficult sport for the books since the totals can really only be one of three choices 5, 5.5, or 6.  The amount of juice they attach to the total is where they try and make up for their deficiencies, but even then we find lots of value in say taking the Under 5.5 -145 instead of Under 5 +110.  Five is such a key number that getting that hook when you have the Under is sometimes worth .50 to .60 cents in my opinion.  Most professional handicappers would scoff at laying that kind of juice on a total, but in the NHL it is how I've grinded out profits for years.

With all that being said, we find lots of value in tonight's Flyers and Panthers Under.  -125 is not a lot of juice when it comes to totals and I can see this juice rising to -135 by game time.  I would play it up to -140.  Florida has had a difficult time this season finding traction with their makeshift lineup.  I give them a ton of credit since they fight hard and always give their top effort, but they just don't have the horses to compete in the NHL.  Their roster is made up of a lot of guys who were playing in the AHL earlier this season.  The good news for a team like the Panthers is they are a solid team to back Under the total late in the season when the youngsters are giving it their all and playing for a spot on the club next season.  They have scored just 1.5 goals per game in their last ten (3-6-1 O/U). Philadelphia is in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race as it jostles for position and a better seed.  They came up big with a 5-2 win Sunday night against the Buffalo Sabres, but before that game the offense of the Flyers had been sputtering along with just five goals in four straight loses.  The play here tonight is definitely on the Under 5.5 at -125.  But if you are worried about the juice or simply want a bit more action, I think you are safe in playing a parlay with the Flyers -175 and the Under 5.5 -125 (+180).  I have this game playing as a 2-1 or 3-1 Philadelphia win.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Tuesday, April 8

Wunderdog

San Antonio vs Minnesota
Pick: San Antonio -7

The San Antonio Spurs always seem to be counted out, but then they swing back and continue to win. Right now they have emerged as the best team in the NBA, which means the 2014 NBA title will likely go through San Antonio. This team plays hard all the time, and seldom mails in a game. They will square off tonight vs. a Minnesota team that has once again disappointed, as the T-Wolves were expected to be a playoffs team this year, but never seemed to get over the top. Minnesota had an ugly resume over many years, leaving them as the NBA's worst home dog. San Antonio takes care of business on the road again, so play on the Spurs.

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Jeff Scott Sports

3 UNIT PLAY

SAN FRANCISCO -144 over Arizona: The Arizona Diamondbacks are not off to the kind of start they wanted and neither is Trevor Cahill, who has gone 0-2 with a 6.30 ERA in 2 starts this year and that after he posted a 6.95 ERA in spring training. Cahill is also just 1-2 with a 4.97 ERA in his last 5 starts vs the Giants. Now on the other side we have Tim Hudson, who allowed 0 ERs on 3 hits in 7.2 innings of work in his first start of the year, which was vs these same Diamondbacks. Tim is now 8-1 with a 1.99 ERA in 12 career starts vs Arizona. let's also note that Tim is 70-29 with a 3.20 ERA in 136 career day starts. The Giants have averaged 5.71 rpg thus far, while the D-Backs have allowed 6.33 rpg in the early going, plus this is the Giants home opener. Just too many Giant advantages for the D-Backs to overcome here.

2 UNIT PLAYS

BOSTON -131 over Texas:  I had the Sox yesterday and will come right back with them here. The Sox were an awesome home team last year, but have started out 1-3 at Fenway thus far and you can bet that this team is not happy about that. Their offense broke out a bit last night, while the Rangers offense continues to struggle, especially Fielder, who is hitting just .143 out the gate. Doubront has struggled with the Rangers in his career, but this is a weaker offense than he has faced in the past. I look for Boston to take game two here behind a solid outing from Doubront and another good showing from their offense.

Philadelphia/ Milwaukee Under 8.5 (-120): (Added) The Phils have had some problems scoring since they scored 14 runs in their opener vs Texas, as they have scored just 17 total run in their last 5 games since the outburst and today they will be without Utley, who has been their best hitter so far. Making matter worse for the Phils offense is the fact that Kyle Lohse has a 1.72 ERA in his last 5 starts vs the Phillies. Kyle Kendrick started off well as he allowed just 1 ER in 7 innings in his first start of the year and that was after having a solid spring. He also has a 3.72 ERA in 5 career starts vs the Brewers, allowing more than 3 ER's just once in those games. The Brewers had a good showing offensively in Boston, but they have been sitting in Philly for two days now and may come out a bit flat here. I see 6 runs at most here.

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Sam Martin

Houston Rockets at Los Angeles Lakers
Prediction: Houston Rockets

We strongly considered giving out Houston as one of our premium selections tonight, and the only reason we didn't was because the Rockets have a quick return matchup against Denver on Thursday after just playing them on Sunday night. But that's not to say that we don't like Houston here against the Lakers - we certainly do and think they can win big against a disinterested LA squad.

Lakers have lost four games in a row - three of which came by double-digits - and the most recent defeat coming here in the Staples Center at the hands of the Clippers by a whopping 23-point margin. With just a few game remaining in the season there's really nothing for LA to play for here. Rockets have scored 111 and 130 point in their last two games - anything close to that type of offensive output should be more than enough to cover this number.

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Jeff Alexander

Kansas City Royals +106

Royals are a value play in the underdog role at home where they have won 7 straight against the Rays. The Rays are 1-4 in Archer's last 5 starts as a road favorite while the Royals are 4-1 in their last 5 games as a home underdog.

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Timothy Black

Pittsburgh vs. Chicago
Play: Under 7

The Under is 17-5-1 in the last 23 meetings between Pittsburgh and Chicago. Also, today's starters both show strong trends toward the Under with the Cubs posting a 4-0-1 record in Jackson's last 5 starts vs. the Pirates and the Under cashing with a 5-2-1 record in Morton's last 8 starts against the Cubs.

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Dave Price

Washington Nationals -1.5 +128

The Nationals are showing value on the run line at this price because of the edge they have on the mound with Gio Gonzalez. He has an ERA of 1.76 and a WHIP of 0.902 is 6 career starts against the Marlins. He went 3-0 against Miami last season, allowing only 2 runs in 19 innings. Henderson Alvarez has an ERA of 4.42 and a WHIP of 1.573 in 4 career starts versus Washington, and his teams are 0-4 in these starts. The Marlins are 1-5 in the last 6 meetings overall and 5-16 in the last 21 meetings in Washington. Take the Nats on the run line.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Tuesday, April 8

Steve Janus

San Antonio Spurs -5.5

The Spurs will be playing without Tony Parker tonight, but I don't believe that will stop them from covering this spread. San Antonio has won both meetings against the Timberwolves this season, including a 18-point victory in the most recent matchup. While the Spurs will be without Parker, Minnesota is also dealing with several injuries. Starters Kevin Martin and Nikola Pekovic are both listed as doubtful. While both Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio are expected to play, both are dealing with nagging injuries.

With a win and an Oklahoma City loss, San Antonio will clinch the No. 1 seed in the West. While it's unlikely the Thunder will lose, it will put the Spurs that much closer to securing the top spot. Something they definitely want to do as soon as possible, so they can rest their aging stars before the playoffs.

Couple of key systems favoring San Antonio. Road favorites of 3.5 to 9.5 points who are connecting on 36% or better of their 3-point attempts are 46-19 (69%) ATS in the month of April over the last 5 seasons. We also see that road favorites of 3.5 to 9.5 points who average fewer than 11 offensive rebounds are 46-19 (71%) in the month of April over the last 5 seasons.

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Brandon Shively

Brooklyn Nets vs. Miami Heat    
Play: Miami Heat-7

This is a bigger game for the Miami Heat than for Brooklyn. The Nets are 3-0 this year vs. the Heat and I can assure you that Lebron and Co. know this. So they will be looking to avoid the season sweep tonight and to make a statement at the same time. The Heat are atop the Eastern Conference standings and will want to stay there.

The Nets played at Miami on 3/12 and were a 9 point road dog and won the game straight up 96-95. LeBron had a bad game making 5 turnovers and only scoring 19 points. I look for Bron Bron to flex his muscles tonight and for the home crowd to ignite the Heat to a double digit win. With Ray Allen back in the lineup, I look for Allen and Battier to come off the bench and to rain an abundance of three point shots. Wade is also well-rested and this is a big game for the Heat tonight and they will not be denied.

I will refer to Brooklyn's 43.5% shooting on the road this season as well and will say this will not be good enough tonight. The Heat shoot 51.7% from the floor at home and they will matchup good with the Nets. Brooklyn has been relying on Paul Pierce to carry the load and he is getting tired.

The Heat are HEATING up now going 6-1 ATS in their last 7 games and they are 5-1 ATS in their last 6 games playing on one day's rest. While Brooklyn has been on fire when playing at home, it should be noted that they are 0-4 ATS in their last 4 road games. The home team is now 6-2 ATS the last 8 meetings when these two tea ms collide and I love the value we are getting with the Miami Heat tonight. The Nets have a game vs. Orlando tomorrow. Once they start to get blown out tonight, HC Jason Kidd will pull his starters and let them get some rest for tomorrow's game. Miami play's @ Memphis tomorrow as well but I have seen time and time again when the Heat are playing with revenge, that they do not let off the gas. They not only play to win, but they play to COVER the SPREAD.


Pistons vs. Hawks
Play: Over 209

The Pistons come into this game tonight just wanting to get the season over with. They are a terrible defensive team and keep getting worse. The Pistons are giving up 112 ppg over their last 5 games. They don't defend the three point line and they also do not force turnovers. The Hawks come into this game playing with confidence after beating the Pacers on Sunday 107-88. The Hawks are a team that loves to shoot the three-point shot as everybody on the team can shoot it from downtown basically. The Hawks were on a 'Under' trend, but things have reversed for them as they are now on a 3-0 'OVER' Trend that I expect to continue after tonight's game. These two teams played back on 2/21 when the total was set at 211 and it went OVER by 11 points as Detroit won 115-107. The OVER is 4-1 the Last 5 meetings in Atlanta now when these two team play and the OVER is 7-2 in Detroit's last 9 games when playing on two days rest. The OVER is 20-9 in Detroit's last 29 games when their opponents scores 100 points or more in their previous game and is 43-19 in the Pistons last 62 games overall . For Atlanta, the OVER is 10-2 in their last 12 games following an ATS win and is 12-3 OVER in their last 15 home games vs. a team with a losing road record. I expect a final score in the 114 -109 range for another EASY OVER tonight.


Brandon Shively's Featured Package

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Tuesday, April 8

Jack Jones

Thunder/Kings Under 203

Teams can really struggle to get in sync offensively when they are missing their starting point guard. Both the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Sacramento Kings are expected to be without their starting PG's tonight, which is the biggest reason I'm backing the UNDER in this game.

Second-leading scorer and top assist man Isaiah Thomas (20.7 ppg, 6.4 apg) is doubtful with a quad injury for the Kings. Second-leading scorer and top assist man Russell Westbrook (21.6 ppg, 6.9 apg) is also doubtful as he is expected to get the night off to rest his knee.

One look at the recent head-to-head series and it's easy to see that the books have inflated this total as well. The UNDER is a perfect 5-0 in the last five meetings between the Kings and Thunder. They have combined for 201 or fewer points in each of those five contests, and I look for that trend to extend to six straight tonight.

Sacramento is 9-1 to the UNDER versus good teams that outscore their opponents by 3-plus points per game in the second half of the season this season. OKC is 13-3 to the UNDER in road games versus teams who average 53 or more rebounds per game over the last two seasons. The UNDER is 5-0 in Thunder's last five games vs. a team with a losing record. The UNDER is 5-0 in Kings last five games vs. a team with a winning record. Bet the UNDER in this game Tuesday.

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Michael Alexander

Houston Rockets vs. Los Angeles Lakers    
Play: Houston Rockets -9

Los Angeles seems to lose a different player each day to injury, and the team is willing to let everyone take as long as they need to get back in a lost season. Kent Bazemore is the latest to go down after suffering sprained foot in Sunday’s loss, and the team announced on Monday that forward Xavier Henry would undergo season-ending surgery on his left wrist and right knee on Friday. Pau Gasol has missed seven of the last eight games due to a bout with vertigo and is not expected to play

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Bruce Marshall

Flyers vs Panthers
Pick: Over

After being shut out in a recent pair of games, the Flyers offense has shown signs of life, a good sign with the playoffs on the horizon. Brayden Schenn had a pair of goals in Sunday's 5-2 win over Buffalo, matching his team's scoring output from the previous three games. Philadelphia has still been mostly an "over" performer lately, with just seven "unders" in its last 18 games. The Flyers have also solved Panther GK Roberto Luongo in the past.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Tuesday, April 8

SPORTS WAGERS

ST. LOUIS -1½ +134 over Washington

Suddenly the Blues are in danger of not finishing first overall after back-to-back losses to Colorado and Chicago. The Blues are just a point ahead of Anaheim with one game in hand and if they want home ice throughout the playoffs, they had better step it up. Being in a foul mood after consecutive losses and with first place in jeopardy, the Blue Notes could not have handpicked a better team to play against than the heartless Capitals. Washington has two wins in their past eight games. Both were underserved, as they defeated the Islanders 4-3 in a shootout after being badly outplayed and outshot. Its other win came against the Sharks in another game they were badly outplayed and outshot in. That’s been the case the entire second half for the Caps. They are a lazy team that spends a large portion of every game in their own end. No team, not the Predators, Islanders, Oilers, Flames or Panthers have been easier to beat in the second half than the Caps. Now playing without two regular d-men in Mike Green and Jack Hillen, the Caps are once again pure fade material.

When St. Louis went into Washington way back on November 17, they lost 4-1 despite outshooting the Caps, 47-20. The Blues goaltender in that game was Jaroslav Halak. Their goaltender tonight is Ryan Miller while the Caps goaltender is Halak. Need we say more? Huge mismatch in talent, defense and desire has us spotting the 1½-pucks.


Colorado/EDMONTON Over 5½

Anytime we can get plus money with the standard total of 5½ when J.S. Giguere is in net, we’re going to bite almost every time. With all due respect to Tim Thomas, Martin Broduer, Anders Lindback and Cam Ward, Giguere may be the worst of them all. The last time Giguere appeared in a game was in Montreal, where he allowed five goals on 35 shots for a save % of .857. He’s had save percentages of .857, .889, .815, .789, .708, .893, .888 and .855 in eight of his past 11 games. For Patrick Roy, who announced last Thursday that Giguere will start this game, this isn’t an attempt at getting Giguere some work; it’s an opportunity to give Simeon Varlamov some rest. Once playoffs start, you will not hear or see Giguere’s name.

The Oilers routinely give up three four or five goals a game and they also give up more scoring chances than any team in the league besides Toronto and Washington. In four of its last five home games, Edmonton surrendered eight goals to Calgary, five to San Jose, three to the Ducks and five to the Rangers. The Oilers are also putting some pucks in the net recently with 13 goals scored over their past four games. These two have played twice this season with Edmonton winning 8-2 in the first game and Colorado winning 4-2 in the rematch. Expecting this one to stay under seems somewhat unreasonable and before Giguere is officially named as the starter, we’ll hop on this one early.

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SPORTS WAGERS

Milwaukee -109 over PHILADELPHIA

The Phillies are banking on a core of players in their mid-30s, which consists of 36-year-old outfielder Marlon Byrd, 36-year-old backup catcher Wil Nieves, 37-year-old starter A.J. Burnett, 34-year-old Ryan Howard, 35-year old Carlos Ruiz and 35-year olds Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins. We mention this because of the significance in the decline of MLB players once they hit age 35. In fact, only 4.2% of 35+year-old hitters made the Top 25 in ONE offensive category (hits, RBI’s, runs scored, HR’s, extra bases, on base percentage, and BA) in spite of being 7.9% of the MLB population. That’s all you really need to know about the 2014 Philadelphia Phillies when anyone not named Cliff Lee or Cole Hamels is pitching. Cited as a "breakout candidate" a couple of times in this space last year, Kyle Kendrick made us look good through June. But being blasted for 21 ER in the next 26 IP blew that away and shoulder woes shelved him later. He has nice control and a good groundball rate but with a chronically subpar strikeout rate he's very hittable. Loss of 2012-2013 swinging strike rate gain closes the door on that breakout and current Brewers have 22 hits in 67 AB’s (.328) against Kendrick.

The Brewers swept the Red Sox in Boston to run their record to 4-2. Milwaukee smacked around Clay Buchholz and defeated both John Lester and Jake Peavy. They also did a number on several Red Sox relievers. They come into this series still undervalued and still very playable at this price. We know Kyle Lohse isn't going to blow away hitters with his mid-80s fastball. But it's also obvious that he owns three straight seasons of 30-plus starts, an ERA below 3.50 and double-digit wins. Are we giving Lohse enough credit? Look beyond the strikeouts and Lohse's skills aren't bad at all. His strikeout rate slipped but he maintained a solid command rate because of pinpoint control. Stable hit % and history versus both lefties and righties says that he's still keeping hitters on both sides off balance. Skeptics keep waiting for Lohse's numbers to better reflect his raw skills. But the 35-year-old continues to outperform by making good use of five pitches and providing consistency from start to start—a fact that has helped deliver at least 20 quality starts each of the past two years. And he has been excellent at avoiding disasters the past two seasons. While he won't get strikeouts, it's too easy to simply dismiss Lohse's past three seasons as repeated flukes. With that we’ll spot the cheap price, especially when you consider that current Phillies have hit just .229 in 144 career AB’s versus Lohse.


N.Y. Mets/ATLANTA over 7½

Aaron Harang came out in his first start as a Brave and made the Brewers look like a bunch of school children by throwing 6.2 innings of two-hit shutout ball. Harang comes up with a game like that from time to time but his chances of repeating it are about the same as Lindsay Lohan’s chances of handling her money well in Hollywood after a bender. Expectations for Harang entering 2013 were justifiably grim, as his skills and xERA suggested his sub-4 ERAs of the previous two seasons were a mirage. Harang’s ERA/xERA gap over the past three years is considerable, but the latter is still in line with his pedestrian results from previous years. Plus, career oppBA (.270), WHIP (1.35) and hit percentage of balls in play (46%) all suggest he's not fooling anyone. Harang also has a huge propensity for giving up home runs, especially with men on base. He gave up 26 last year in just 143 frames and most of those occurred at pitcher friendly Safeco. When Harang came over to the Mets he allowed five jacks in just 23 innings. Even if he has a decent game here, he’ll give up two or three runs and the Braves should take care of the rest to send this one over the number.

Last year was one of surprises for Bartolo Colon. First, he surprised everyone by coming off a 50-game PED-related suspension by delivering a career year at age 40. Then he surprised us in the offseason by landing a two-year contract with the Mets. Colon's numbers say he continues to get better with age but his skills disagree. A big part of Colon's recent success is his control. He simply doesn't allow walks. Colon has thrived, however, because of a high strand % and that’s a tough way to go about business. Lower hr/f and hr/9 rates in Oakland helped, too. However, Citi Field and other parks around the NL, including Turner Field isn't as forgiving. Colon's xERA provide a better picture of what his skills are more likely to deliver this year. Expect low strikeout totals, a lower strand percentage leading to a much higher ERA and nowhere near the 18 wins he put up for the A’s. Yes, Colon has defied the odds before but sooner or later the underlying skills will show up.


San Diego +128 over CLEVELAND

We targeted the Padres yesterday with Robbie Erlin going against Corey Kluber but that game was rained out. Today we get an even more favorable matchup. Kluber is battling everything right now. He had a horrible spring in which he posted an ERA of 5.60 after giving up 33 runs in 27 frames. He subsequently went out and got rocked in his first start in Oakland by allowing eight hits and five earned runs in 3.1 innings. To make matters worse, Kluber walked three batters and struck out just two. Those three walks he surrendered to Oakland is a tell-take sign of a pitcher that is not comfortable challenging hitters. He’s scared to come at them and that’s not the type of pitcher you want to back spotting a price. Additionally, the Indians bullpen has been a complete mess thus far.

Tyson Ross had a rough first outing against the Dodgers but we’re not going to put much emphasis on that because he had a huge breakout last year, which was masked only by a poor team and innings lost to a left (non-throwing) shoulder injury. Ross found command of his beastly slider and became one of the toughest starters to hit in the NL, with a 55% groundball lean to boot. A concurrent growth in strikeout rate and control is always a great sign and Ross’s command approached elite territory down the stretch. Ross transitioned to the starting rotation in late July and never looked back, putting up a 3.13 ERA and 1.08 WHIP. His 2H xERA of 2.42 in 2013 says it all—he was one of the game's best down the stretch. There are so many strong signs in Ross’s profile, making him one of the most undervalued pitchers in the game. Invest. 


SEATTLE -1 +124 over L.A. Angels

The Angels have a lot of big names and high expectations, which make them perhaps the most overvalued team in baseball. It’s early but the Angels three wins in seven games all came against the Astros. When they hosted these Mariners last week back in Anaheim, Seattle swept them and outscored them 26-8. Now we get a repeat pitching matchup and we’ll repeat exactly what we wrote back on April 2 when these two starters hooked up because nothing has changed except the venue.

From our April 2 write-up with some minor changes:

There were openings in the back-end of the Anaheim rotation and Hector Santiago snuck into one of them. Santiago, who came over from the White Sox via a trade, impressed early in spring training but he ended it with a rough start against the Diamondbacks' Triple-A squad in which he gave up six runs in five-plus innings. Despite the outwardly impressive numbers, there are reasons to beware: His ERA looks good, but he’s been helped by favorable strand percentages the past two years. Santiago’s xERA says this isn’t the skill set of a sub-4.00 pitcher and he walks too many batters (113 BB in 224 career innings). Santiago also gives up a lot of fly balls as evidenced by his 37%/44% groundball/fly-ball split over his career. Leaving US Cellular Field (RH HR +38%) will help but right now the Mariners have some pop in their bats. Santiago’s fastball velocity is also heading in the wrong direction, as it declined from 93.8 in 2011 to 91.8 in 2013. Lastly and another concern for Santiago is that he had a big IP boost from 2012 to 2013. This is a risky skill set that could hurt your bankroll.

James Paxton went 3-0 with a 1.50 ERA in 24 innings for Seattle as a September call-up. Paxton features a mid-90s heater, a changeup he'll use anytime and a curve as his out pitch. Paxton has maintained a 55% groundball rate throughout his minor-league career and matched that in the aforementioned 24 innings last September.  Erosion of command on the way up the ladder is a concern but as 25-year-old ground-baller with three plus pitches, there's just too much upside in him to ignore against the Halos. Paxton certainly has value this early in the season and we’re on him again.

Psss NBA

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LT Profits

Detroit vs Atlanta
Pick: Pistons +7

The Atlanta Hawks seem to be safe to hold on to the eighth and final playoff spot in the East as they lead the Knicks by two games with New York having only four games left, but the Hawks remain eight games under .500 at 34-42 and probably should not be favored by this much over anyone, as this line is shaded a bit because they are fighting for that spot while the Detroit Pistons are only trying to be spoilers. The Pistons did beat the Hawks that last time these teams met with six Detroit players scoring in double figures and the Pistons should be able to score again vs. an Atlanta defense allowed 102.0 points per game while ranking an identical 22nd in the NBA in field goal percentage allowed and in three-point defense. The Hawks are 7-22-1 ATS in their last 30 games overall.

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Will Rogers

Brooklyn vs. Miami
Pick: Brooklyn

This now looks like simply too many points for the Heat to be giving up against a Nets team that they have failed to beat all season.

Here are my keys to the game:

1. 1 out of 30 - There is only one team Miami has failed to defeat this year.  That would be Brooklyn, who is a perfect 3-0 straight up and against the spread vs. the Heat this season, including an outright win here in Miami just last month as nine-point pups.

2.  Nothing But Net - Since January 1st, Brooklyn is 32-13 straight up.  No other Eastern Conference team can come close to matching that record.

3. X-Factor - Miami's big game is not this one, but a Friday date at home with Indiana that will likely decide who ends up with home court advantage in the East.  I would not be surprised at all to see Dwyane Wade sit this one out.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Tuesday, April 8

Sean Murphy

San Antonio vs. Minnesota
Pick: San Antonio

Unlike previous years, the Spurs haven't shifted into cruise control down the stretch. Sure, they're putting Tony Parker on the shelf for this two-game road trip, but they're by no means going to lay down as they try to wrap up the NBA's best overall record this week.

Meanwhile, the T'Wolves have all but packed it in. They're left to play for lottery balls at this point, and they're going forward with a severely undermanned squad. Kevin Love is expected to return to the lineup after missing Sunday's game in Orlando, but guys like Kevin Martin and Nik Pekovic remain sidelined, striking a major blow to the team's chances of upsetting one of the league's elite teams.

Minnesota has enjoyed plenty of success at home against San Antonio in recent years, but this is a different T'Wolves team, with a much different attitude at the end of a trying season. They might be able to stay close for a while, but it should only be a matter of time before the Spurs talent and depth edges win out, and they put this one away for good.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Tuesday, April 8

Brady Kannon

Seattle -112

I think James Paxton is one of the best pitchers in The American League that not a lot of people know about. He cruised over The Angels last week in his season debut and now he gets to show his stuff to the home crowd in Seattle. The Angels were dominated by Seattle in Los Angeles and then got to get healthy against the lowly Astros. It's back into the frying pan tonight against a Mariners team that is playing very well early - and I expect that to continue as they make a run to win the division.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Tuesday, April 8

Harry Bondi

BOSTON (-125) over Texas

Another FREE WINNER here last night on the Red Sox and tonight we'll ride the BoSox once again. The shaky Texas bullpen is taxed after using six relievers in the last two nights and that will prove costly here again tonight, just as it did on Monday night in the late innings. Meanwhile the Sox bullpen is rested. Closer Uehara threw just one inning last night and he, along with the team's key set-up men, are well-rested and available tonight. Sox starter Felix Doubront's ERA was a full run lower last year at home than on the road and over the last three seasons the Sox are 62-48 against southpaw starters. Lay the short price.

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