Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday, April 17

Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday, April 17

Dave Price

Milwaukee Brewers -101

Milwaukee is showing value at this price on the road with Gallardo gripping the pill.  The Brewers are 6-0 on the highway this season and have won 10 of 11 road games dating back to last season.  Gallardo is in awesome form.  The Brew Crew has won each of his first three starts while he's posted an ERA of 0.96.  Gallardo is 11-3 with an ERA of 2.45 in 20 starts against the Pirates with the Beermakers going 16-4 in these games.  The Brewers are 6-0 in his last six road starts dating back to last season.  Take Milwaukee.

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Steve Janus

Seattle Mariners +109

The Mariners let one get away last night, losing in the bottom of the 9th. Seattle must now win today to avoid getting swept by a division opponent and I expect them to do just that.

Both teams will send out a starter who has struggled. Seattle's Erasmo Ramirez is 1-2 with a 5.62 ERA over 3 starts, while the Rangers' Tanner Scheppers is 0-1 with a 7.87 ERA in 3 starts. I give Ramirez the edge in this one. He's coming off a solid start against Oakland, where he allowed just 3 runs over 5 innings. Ramirez also pitched extremely well in his lone start against Texas last year, limiting the Rangers to just 1 earned run on 4 hits over 7 innings of a 4-3 Mariners victory.

Road teams with a money line of -125 to +125 whose bullpen has an ERA of 3.33 on the season are 217-147 (60%) against the money line since 1997 after a game where they blew a save. Adding to this is the fact that Texas is just 14-22 in their last 36 games after scoring and allowing 3 runs or less.

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Heath Mac

Los Angeles Dodgers vs. San Francisco Giants    
Play: San Francisco Giants -110

The Dodgers have now lost four of their first five games this season against the Giants and are having a hard time hitting the Giants pitching. The Dodgers have just scored three combined runs in their first two games in this series, and Carl Crawford is 0-8 at the plate. Hyun-Jin Ryu will need another solid outing with the lineup struggling, as he’s 2-1 on the season with a 2.57 ERA and has 22 strikeouts in 21 innings pitched. Ryu has started six games against the Giants in his career, and he’s 2-3 with an ERA of 3.89.

The Giants have won four of their last five games and have taken an early lead for first place in the NL West. Brandon belt continues to tear the cover off the ball with a .300 batting average, and he has four hits in this series.

However, the Giants pitching that has allowed two or less runs in three of their last four games has been the real story. Madison Bumgarner has contributed to those numbers, as the Giants starter is 2-0 with a 3.31 ERA and has 20 strikeouts in 16.1 innings. Bumgarner has also dominated the Dodgers in his career, as he’s 9-3 with a 2.60 ERA in 12 starts against LA.

The Dodgers are 7-1 in Ryu's last 8 starts as an underdog and 15-7 in Ryu's last 22 starts. The Giants are 5-0 in Bumgarner's last 5 starts as a favorite and 27-12 in Bumgarner's last 39 starts as a home favorite. The Giants are 5-1 in Bumgarner's last 6 starts vs. Dodgers.

Why would you pick against the Giants at that price. San Fran has had the Dodgers number all season and now has one of its better pitchers on the mound, a pitcher who has won five of his last six starts against the Dodgers. The Dodgers for whatever reason can't hit the ball with a loaded lineup, and it doesn't help with the Giants pitching staff on point.

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Sam Martin

St Louis Cardinals at Washington Nationals
Prediction: St Louis Cardinals

We almost gave out St. Louis as a premium selection but we downgraded this play to a 5* Free Pick because we felt the line was a bit too high and missed out cut off for risk-reward line value. However, we do still think St. Louis wins this game tonight and we love the pitching edge the Cardinals have behind Wainwright.

Not only does Wainwright come in with a 1.29 ERA over two road starts - allowing just two earned runs over 14 innings - the real edge in this pitching matchup is WHIP, where Wainwright comes in allowing one baserunner per inning (1.000). Taylor Jordan has been far worse having a 1.765 WHIP - this after allowing five runs on ten hits and two walks in just five innings or work against Atlanta. St. Louis offense heating up averaging more than 10 hits per game over their last five, and they take advantage of this pitching mismatch with an easy win!

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MLB Predictions

Royals / Astros Under 7.5

The first two games of this series have seen 6 and 10 runs scored, with the Royals winning each of those. The Astros will send their ace, Scott Feldman, to the mound as they look to avoid the sweep. The Astros are 2-1 when Feldman starts, with their only loss with him on the mound being a 1-0 loss vs Yu Darvish and the Rangers. Feldman is 2-0 with a 0.44 ERA, .106 and 0.73 WHIP. In 20.2 innings of work he has yet to give up a homerun and leads the league in opponents batting average. In 2013 Feldman was 12-12 with a 3.86 ERA, .234 OBA and 1.18 WHIP. He has 15 appearances and 8 starts vs Kanas City in his career with 66.1 innings pitched in total vs the Royals, and his numbers versus them are very solid. He is 4-2 with a 3.12 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, and has held them to a .233 batting average. Tonight's match up will be an Ace vs Ace match up, as James Shields is on the rubber for the Royals. Shields is 0-2 on the season but he has a 2.37 ERA, .219 OBA and 1.05 WHIP. In his last start he gave up 7 runs (but only 1 earned) in one rough inning, but pitched well other than that. Shields has 3 career starts vs the Astros and he has been lights out against them going 1-1 with a 1.96 ERA, .232 OBA and 1.00 WHIP. Not only do we have two very solid starting pitchers on the mound, but we've also got two teams struggling at the plate this year. The Royals rank 18th in team batting average hitting .243, while the Astros are last in the MLB at .189. The Royals are also 28th in MLB in team OPS at .639, while the Astros are 30th at .613. Take note that the UNDER is 5-2 in Shields' last 7 starts vs a team with a losing record. The UNDER is 6-0 in the Astros last 6 vs a starter with a WHIP of 1.15 or lower, and 7-3 in their last 10 home games dating back to last season with a total set low between 7-8.5. I like the pitchers to have a night here in Houston, and I'll take the UNDER for 5 units.

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NHL Predictions

Wild Series +120

This is an interesting play, as the Avalanche finished 1st in the Central division with 112 points while the Wild were a Wild Card team finishing the season with 98 points. The Avs also beat Minnesota in 4 of their 5 regular season meetings. While the Avs did win 4 of those 5 games they were out shot in every single meeting. The Avalanche were one of the worst puck control teams in the NHL this season, and relied heavily on goalie Semyon Varlamov. Varlamov has some playoff experience, but he hasn't been overly outstanding in postseason play. Over 19 NHL playoff games he has a .915 SV% and 2.49 GAA. The same can be said with Minnesota's starter, Ilya Bryzgalov, who holds a .908 SV% and 2.81 GAA in 38 career playoff games. So why do I like the Wild as underdogs here in Round 1? Minnesota is a more experienced team, and in my opinion has more depth then the Avalanche, who will be missing their top offensive weapon. Matt Duchene is out with an injury, and he lead the team with 70 points over 71 games played. The Avs will have to lean on the likes of Landeskog, O'Reilly, and Mackinnon for their offense - with the oldest of the three being 23 years old. The Avalanche last snuck into the playoffs in the 2009-2010 season (finishing 8th that year and losing in first round), and are coming off a year where the finished last in the Western Conference. Although Minnesota was bounced in 5 games to the eventual Stanley Cup Champions last year, they did gain some playoff experience from it that they can build on this year. The Wild have some older and experienced players like Parise, Koivu, Moulson and Pominville up front, and one of the best D-men in the game in Ryan Suter that will make things tough on the Avalanche. Duchene is the type of player that can help win a series, and the Avalanche will miss him vs Minnesota. This Colorado team will be dangerous in the West soon enough, and they proved that in the regular season, but I'll go with the experience of Minnesota to upset the Avs in 6.

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Ian Cameron

Minnesota at Colorado
Play: Over 5

Minnesota and Colorado played each other five times during the regular season and three of those games had five goals or more. We saw all three playoff games last night fly over the total and I think this game has high scoring potential as well. I'll give credit to goalie Ilya Bryzgalov for playing unexpectedly well late in the season but his career has been marred by awful playoff performances and I'm not ready to trust him to shut down a very potent Colorado Avalanche squad that ranked 4th in the NHL in goals scored this season. On the flip side, Minnesota is no offensive juggernaut (24th in the NHL at 2.43 goals per game) but they did show an uptick in offensive production late in the season scoring 3+ goals in six of their last eight games. As mentioned we saw a loose type of hockey in all three Game 1's last night and I think this game sets up for a similar outcome as we jump in on over 5 goals at the small plus price.

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Tony Stoffo

Red Sox at White Sox
Play: Red Sox

With Jon Lester matching up against Chris Sale makes for a sold release on Lester and the Red Sox tonight. Red Sox are 9-1 in their last 10 road games vs. a left-handed starter. Red Sox are 7-3 in Lesters last 10 starts vs. American League Central. White Sox are 2-8 in their last 10 games vs. a left-handed starter. White Sox are 1-4 in their last 5 home games vs. a left-handed starter. Boston the play here

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The Prez

Rockies at Padres
Play: Under 7.5

The San Diego Padres exploded offensively on Wednesday night scoring a 4-2 victory over the Colorado Rockies. Yes, the first sentence said that the Pads bats exploded, and considering that San Diego is last in the National League with 44 runs scored and home runs per at bat 1:61. The Padres went 3-for-7 with runners in scoring position, the lineup's best season performance to date, and an occurrence that will likely be the norm for a current San Diego offense that doesn't figure to scare opposing pitchers, and even when the injured Carlos Quinton, Chase Headley and Cameron Maybin return this offense isn't going to put up many crooked numbers in any three-out frame

The likes of Everth Cabrera, Will Venable, Seth Smith, Xavier Nady, Yonder Alonso, Chris Denorfia, Tommy Medica and others are definitive unknowns if you ask the average sports fan what they have done in their career or even who they are for that matter.

Today's Pads starter, Ian Kennedy, is more likely to dilate the pupils of that same container of average fans when asked if asked the "who is" question about the San Diego roster. The former Yankee and Diamondback depends far too much on his changeup and while his primary pitch found success in his last start, it too came against a cold offense, the Detroit Tigers., a game that Kennedy and his teammates lost 6-2 in which the right-hander gave up four runs on eight hits over six innings of work. However, Kennedy is 3-3 with a 2.80 ERA in 15 starts against Colorado in his career, and 2-1 with a 2.00 ERA away from Coors Field.

The Padres batting stats against left-handed pitching is dismal, more so than their overall April digits, and they face southpaw Franklin Morales (0-1, 6.39 ERA) today at the "Pet".

Morales has slid into the rotation due to Brett Anderson's most recent ailment, a broken left index finger suffered during an at-bat Saturday, Morales last pitched Sunday throwing an inning of scoreless relief while walking one and striking out a pair at San Francisco.

The Under is 9-0 in Padres last 9 home games when the opposition starts a left-handed; 10-1 in Padres last 11 games as a home favorite when the oddsmakers open the money line between -110 to -150; 13-3 in Padres last 16 games as a home favorite; 21-5 in Padres last 26 home games and overall San Diego has cashed the Under at a 17-4 clip in their last 21 games versus left-handed starter.

The Under 31-15-5 in the Rockies last 51 road games against teams with an overall losing record and the Under is 6-1 in the last 7 meetings between the two NL West foes.

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Joe Gavazzi

San Diego Padres -130

We are right back on the Padres today, following our Top Play of the Day winner on them yesterday. That victory pushed the Padres mini-streak to 5-2 over which time starters have a 2.89 ERA. In fact, San Diego starters have allowed 3 or less runs in 7/8 recent games. Kennedy looks to join that group after working 6 innings, allowing 4 runs on 8 hits, in a 6-2 loss to Detroit. Chances are that will happen, as in 8 starts against Colorado, Kennedy has a 2.25 ERA. Always eager to fade the poor traveling Rockies. Again this season, Colorado stands 4-2 at home but just 3-7 on the road. Morales is not the answer. In 12 2/3 IP, Morales has allowed 23 BR, resulting in a 6.39 ERA. In 14 IP against San Diego, mostly in relief, Morales has a 6.28 ERA. Ride the San Diego hot streak, with the better pitching against the poor traveling Rockies.

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Analytics Trading

Seattle Mariners vs. Texas Rangers
Pick: Seattle Mariners 1st Half


This FREE PLAY we look at a late morning game between Seattle and Texas. This will be a battle between starting pitchers who are both struggling and will be looking to get back on track with strong outings today.

Erasmo Ramirez (1-2, 5.63 ERA) is on the mound for the Mariners coming off two straight losses against the Oakland A's. Ramiriz will be hoping history repeats itself as he only allowed 1 earned run in his only other appearance vs the Rangers last August.

For the home crowd Tanner Scheppers (0-1, 7.88 ERA) takes the mound looking to get his first win this year after rough starts in his 3 previous games.

Our data shows a very strong play on MARINERS (+105) FIRST 5 INNINGS

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Bruce Marshall

Flyers at Rangers
Pick: Over

The trendline was "over" in Wednesday's opening night Stanley Cup action, with all three games cruising "over" for the evening, as 23 total goals were scored in the three games. No surprise if we see some of the same tonight, especially considering how the Flyers enter the playoffs on a six-game "over" streak and with backup GK Ray Emery in the nets due to an injury to normal first-stringer Steve Mason. Emery was 9-12-2 with a 2.96 GAA in 28 games. But the Flyers have been scoring some goals lately as well, thanks to captain Claude Giroux, who tallied 86 points on the season.

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Jeff Alexander

St. Louis Cardinals -141

Bottom Line: I like the Cardinals on the road here with the experience of Wainwright and their success against Washington.  The Cards have won 7 straight against the Nationals and are 4-0 in their last 4 in Washington.  They are an impressive 36-16 in Wainwright's last 52 starts as a favorite, including 14-5 in his last 19 starts as a road favorite.  The Nationals are 1-5 in Jordan's last 6 starts as an underdog.  Also, the Cards have won Wainwright's last 3 starts against the Nats.

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Steve Rich

Los Angeles Dodgers vs. San Francisco Giants    
Play: San Francisco Giants -119

The Dodgers send Hyun-Jin Ryu to the mound to face Madison Bumgarner at San Francisco.  Ryu was roughed up by the Giants the last time out.  He then pitched very well against the Dbacks.  Who isn’t right now?  Ryu owns a career 3.89 ERA and is 2-3  vs the Giants.  Bumgarner owns the Dodgers.with a career ERA of 2.60 and a record of 9-3.  Throw in the San Fran bullpen ERA of 1.78.  I really looked for reasons to take LA here with them being the dog, but kept coming back to the Giants as a small fav at home.

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Jeff Fenster

Milwaukee Brewers vs. Pittsburgh Pirates    
Play: Milwaukee Brewers -101

The Brewers travel to take on the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Yovani Gallardo is on the hill for the Brewers and he has been on fire.  He is 2-0 with a 0.96 ERA over his first 3 starts and should have little trouble dominating the Pirates lineup.  The Pirates have lost 5 of 6 and are not an elite team. Edison Volquez is throwing for the Pirates and he has been one of the brighter spots for the Bucs this season.  Edison is 0-0 with a 1.29 ERA over 2 starts. This game is in Pittsburgh so there is even more value in the line.

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Hollywood Sports

Brewers at Pirates
Prediction: Under

While we may be a week or so away before having enough of a sample size for starting pitchers numbers this season to begin incorporating them into finding value, this pitching matchup is intriguing. Gallardo has been outstanding in his three starts by sporting a 0.96 ERA in 18 2/3 innings while producing a strong 13:3 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Milwaukee (11-4) has played 4 straight games Under the Total with Gallardo on the mound. Additionally, Pittsburgh (7-8) has seen the Under go 4-1-2 in their last 7 home games against right-handed starting pitchers. They counter with Volquez who has a 1.29 ERA in his two starts along with a nice 10:3 strikeout-to-walk ratio which makes his acquisition from the Padres looking fortuitous. Take the Under while listing both starting pitchers in this one.

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Will Rogers

Boston vs. Chicago
Pick: Chicago

Last season, Chris Sale was plagued by poor luck and a lack of run support. This season, he's off to a 3-0 start, pitching very well and the offense is scoring for him.  Thus, I feel Chicago is a tremendous value on the money line here, at home, against Boston Thursday night.

Here are my keys to the game:

1.  Sale - Might as well start here, no? He's given up just six runs in 20 1/3 and has a 19-4 strikeout to walk ratio.  He has not allowed any home runs. The kind of win like he got against Cleveland last Friday is something that would not have happened last season.  I expect him to look like the pitcher that threw eight scoreless innings against Kansas City in his previous start.

2.  Lack of Offense for Boston -  The Red Sox had just six hits in 14 innings yesterday.  They are batting just .172 the last seven games.  Against left-handed starters, they are averaging just 2.8 runs/game this season.  Yesterday's win marked the first time in seven games they scored more than four runs and remember that it was an extra-inning affair.

3.  X-Factor - It was a somewhat fortunate win for the Red Sox last night as the White Sox ran out of relievers and second baseman Leury Garcia had to come into pitch.  He wound up giving up the game deciding two-run double.  Sale will give the bullpen a much needed break today.

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Jeff Scott Sports

3 UNIT PLAYS

Pittsburgh/Milwaukee Under 7 (-125):  One team has a poor offense and one has a mediocre offense, while both teams have excellent starters on the mound and they will be pitching in pitcher-friendly PNC Park, in weather that is not good hitting weather. That's a recipe for a pitcher's duel. Yovani Gallardo has posted an 0.96 ERA in 3 starts this year and he has a 2.61 ERA in 21 appearances (20 starts) in his career vs the Pirates, including a 1.89 ERA in 9 appearances (8 starts) in this park. His last 3 starts in this park have averaged just 4.7 rpg. Edinson Volquez comes in allowing just 1 ER in each of his two starts this year and he should have success vs a Brewers team that has averaged just 2.8 rpg in their last 6 games. The weather will be in the 40s or maybe even lower and that is not good hitting weather at all, which should give two very good pitchers the advantage in a park that already doesn't yield too many runs.


Chicago/Boston Under 7 (-110): The White Sox have played some of the higher scoring games this year, as their hitting has been great, while their pitching has been very poor, but this game should not be one of those high scoring games. The Sox are really struggling to score, as they have averaged just 3 rpg in their last 6 games and it won't get any better here vs Chris Sale, who has a 2.66 ERA on the year and a career 2.92 ERA on the field. Let's also note that current Red Sox hitters have faced him just 25 times and they have a mere .120 BA vs him in those ABs. Facing Sale is tough if you seen him before, let alone being unfamiliar with him. The Sox have been good on offense this year and Lester has struggled vs them in his career, but the White Sox have struggled vs lefties this year, hitting just .248 vs them and I expect those struggles to continue vs Lester tonight, especially in what should be a game in the 40's.

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Richard Witt

Chicago White Sox -107

Sale could have sued the Sox for lack of (run) support last year.  Any fair-minded judge would have found for the Sox' ace lefty, but Pale Hose are hitting a ton this season, and expect hosts to get best of it tonight. Paul Konerko is likely to get his first start of the season this evening and why not? He's 10-for-25 lifetime against Jon Lester including four homers. Take Chicago.

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River City Sharps

Brewers -110

Milwaukee opens a 4 game stand in Pittsburgh trying to win their 7th in a row on the road. They send Gallardo to the hill and he has pitched superpbly, sporting a .96 ERA. Volquez takes the mound for the Pirates and he has pitched well sporting a 1.29 ERA. However, the pirates have struggled as they were 3-6 on their road trip. We like Gallardo in this spot with the Brewers going for their 7th straight on the road and the Pirates staggering home.

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