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Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, April 25

Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, April 25

Heath Mac

Houston vs. Portland
Play: Over 215½

Even with Harden and Parsons shooting terribly in game 2, the Rockets still somehow managed to score 105 points. Neither of these teams play any sort of defense whatsoever and just wait for their turn to throw the ball back in from the baseline to see if they can score on the next possession too. The OVER has hit in 9 straight games between these two teams. Both teams can shoot the three well and like to push the tempo and score on the break. We cashed in on the OVER in game two and yet we are only having to give up an extra 1.5 points here? Yes thank you.

The total has gone OVER in 5 of Houston's last 6 games when playing on the road against Portland. The total has gone OVER in 5 of Houston's last 5 games when playing Portland. The total has gone OVER in 4 of Houston's last 5 games on the road. The total has gone OVER in 9 of Houston's last 11 games. The total has gone OVER in 6 of Portland's last 9 games at home. The total has gone OVER in 5 of Portland's last 5 games.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, April 25

Will Rogers

Pittsburgh vs. St. Louis
Pick: St. Louis

Both the Pirates and Cardinals limp into this series. Pittsburgh lost the final three games, at home, of a four-game series with Cincinnati. St. Louis comes in off back to back losses to the Mets. Fortunately though, the Cards are at home and I'll take them tonight.

Here are my keys to the game:

1. Where's The Offense? - The Pirates are really struggling at the plate right now.  They scored a total of four runs in the last three games vs. Cincinnati, losing 2-1 yesterday afternoon.  They only had 16 hits as well and when they did get on base, they obviously couldn't produce as they were 1 for 18 with runners in scoring position.  So far this season, Pirates hitters are batting just .229.

2.  Home Sweet Home - This will be only the third home series for the Cardinals so far this year.  They just played their last 10 on the road. So far, they have won both home series.  They are also 5-1 their last six games at Busch Stadium vs. Pittsburgh.

3.  X-Factor -  Pirates starter Gerrit Cole has a 6.00 ERA in two road starts.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, April 25

SPORTS WAGERS

N.Y. Rangers +100 over PHILADELPHIA

OT included. Aside from a couple of poor periods in Game 2, the Rangers have been the dominant team in this series. We also like the way the Rangers responded after losing Game 2 and the momentum that went with it. New York has done a masterful job of keeping Philadelphia’s occasionally explosive offense in check. Perhaps the Rangers got a little too complacent after Game 1 but that doesn’t figure to be an issue here. New York has had a huge puck possession advantage in this series and that’s something we’ll back almost every time.

During the regular season, Philadelphia was -18 in goal differential when it was five-on-five play. With referees prone to swallowing their whistles in the playoffs, even-strength play will take on even more importance than usual and we’ve seen that throughout these playoffs. The Rangers have continued to prevent the Flyers from getting good looks at their net and now the superior Rangers have a chance of putting this series away. There are two other factors to consider here and they are not in the Flyers favor. First, Flyers captain Claude Giroux raised some eyebrows with his guarantee that Philly would win Game 4. Giroux proclaimed his confidence in the club following the team’s 4-1 loss to the Rangers in Game 3. It was the first game of the series in which Giroux has registered a shot on goal. How dumb can one be? Giroux made the cardinal sin of motivating the opposition with a proclamation that can do no good. Lastly, we’re not sure the move by Philadelphia to start Steve Mason over Ray Emery is the right one. Yeah, Mason earned it with a very good regular season but to bring him in cold after being off for a couple of weeks is one that could certainly backfire. If Mason has an off-game, Philly has no shot. If Mason plays a strong game, we still don’t like the Flyers chances.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, April 25

SPORTS WAGERS

Chicago/WASHINGTON Under 183

This total seems awfully low when you consider that both games in Chicago went over the number and that the Wizards have scored 100 points or more in five straight games. However, as we pointed out yesterday, intensity increases the deeper a series goes and adjustments are made. Bulls Coach, Tom Thibodeau is widely considered as one of the best in the game. Nobody makes better adjustments than Thibodeau and with the threat of falling behind 0-3 in this series, making the right adjustments here is crucial. The Bulls cannot get into a shooting match with the Wizards because they’ll lose that most of the time. In both games in Washington, Chicago could not make a bucket in the final 6-8 minutes because they ran out of gas. The Bulls had nothing left in the tank and that’s the first adjustment that Thibodeau will address. Chicago has to slow the pace down to a crawl. They are going to use almost all of the shot clock on every possession and use their rebounding advantage for second and third looks. When the Wizards miss, Chicago is not going to push it up quickly. Instead, they will walk it up court and methodically work for the best possible shot before taking it. Playing fast is not the Bulls strength. Defensive rebounding and working hard is the Bulls strengths and they have yet to utilize that yet. That all changes here.

We’ve seen it time and time again that when a team has not played a home playoff game for such a long time, the fans and players get a little too jacked up and the result is a little too much oomph on their shots. Washington has not been in the playoffs since 2008. They are up 2-0 in this series and they’ll be as jacked up as they can possibly be. The good news is that they are likely going to miss a high percentage of their shots while playing outstanding defense. The total in the first game of this series was 178½. It easily went over. The total in Game 2 was 180½ and that, too went over, even before the game went into OT. Now the number goes up again, this time by 2½ points and we’ll attempt once again to take advantage of an overreaction.


BROOKLYN -4½ over Toronto

Forget X’s and O’s. Forget age, experience and personnel. On an even playing field the Toronto Raptors would have a great chance of defeating the Brooklyn Nets in a seven game series. Thing is, this isn’t an even playing field because the NBA, ESPN, TNT or ABC does not want the Raptors to even have a remote chance of advancing. Ratings in the US for the Raptors game in the playoffs have been lower than any series ratings since the last time Toronto made the playoffs and EVERYTHING is about money (see our Blog titled “THE NFL, NBA, Money and Referees”).

If the Nets are comfortably leading throughout this game, the refs will allow it to continue without any influence. However, if the Raps are leading at the half or beyond, things will begin to change and the referee influence will have an immediate impact. In Game 1 of this series, Brooklyn did not have a single foul called against them in the fourth quarter. How can that be? No fouls in an entire fourth quarter? The Nets are as physical as any team in the Association and the Raptors are constantly driving to the basket. It’s beyond ludicrous that no fouls were called. We wagered on the Raps before this series started but also warned you about the possibility of referee influence. We had hoped we would be wrong about that but we weren’t. There’s nothing more to discuss.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, April 25

SPORTS WAGERS

Boston +109 over TORONTO

Jake Peavy’s swinging strike rate is stable, but dropping skills and a rising fly-ball percentage warn that ERA could continue to rise. Injuries over the years have hijacked his former stud status but he still gets an "A" for consistency. We also like Peavy’s track record at this venue, where he has a 2.57 ERA and .210 BAA over the past three seasons here, albeit in a small 14 inning sample size. Peavy is not the great interest here. Fading the Blue Jays with Mark Buehrle on the hill is the target of this wager.   

The Blue Jays haven’t had a pitching staff this bad since their early days in the late 70’s. From their five starters to their overworked bullpen, Toronto is a team in trouble. Six times over their last nine games the Blue Jays starters have failed to make it past the fifth inning. The Jays picked up Mark Buerhle a couple of years ago to round out their rotation as the #5 starter. Toronto’s ace this year is Buehrle. Buehrle has been lights-out over the season's first 3+ weeks (4-0, 0.86 ERA, 0.90 WHIP). His base skills have been pretty solid too. That said, his strikeout rate growth isn't supported by an underlying spike in swinging strike rate. Buehrle has been the beneficiary of a friendly 89% strand rate and unsustainable 0% hr/f. With only a slight groundball tilt, Buehrle's ERA will soon spike as his fly-balls turn into jacks. Buehrle is not a 4-0 pitcher. He’s average as can be and current Red Sox know him well with over 300 career AB’s against him. Against Buehrle, A.J. Pierzynski is 8-20 (.400), Dustin Pedroia is 12-33 (.364), David Ortiz is 24-73 (.329), Will Middlebrooks is 6-15 (.400), Jonny Gómes is 9-28 (.321) and Will Middlebrooks is 6-15 (.400) and is scheduled to come off the DL for the start of this series. Boston holds all the value here.


Detroit -½ +112 over MINNESOTA (1st 5 innings)

The Tigers bullpen is a complete crap shoot so we’ll eliminate it and play Rick Porcello this in the first five innings. The power of the pitch mix comes into play here. Substituting a dominant curveball for a blah slider turned Porcello’s skills from average to elite. Strikeouts, groundballs, control and swinging strike rate growth are all aligning together for Porcello, making him a prime target on our watch list. As a groundball artist, Porcello’s fate will be tied closely to infield defense but there won’t be many more chances to buy him cheap. We’re not going to miss this opportunity to buy him and the Tigers at a reduced rate against Kevin Correia.

Kevin Correia has 12 K’s in 25 innings. He has a swinging strike rate of 5% through his first four starts. That’s the lowest swinging strike rate of any pitcher in the game that has started at least three times. Correia comes into this start with a skills supported 5.47 ERA and 1.42 WHIP. Correia was hot in April of last year with a 2.23 ERA but quickly the numbers caught up to his skills and they haven’t let up since. Skills don't get more consistent than Correia’s, as there's little variance in yearly xERA or anything else. Unfortunately, in his case, that's not a good thing. Pitch-to-contact approach minimizes value and 2010 shows how thin margin for error is. Correia’s dominant start/disaster start split is right around the 50% mark, meaning that half the time he’s on the mound he’ll get lucky and hold the opposition to three runs. When he’s not getting lucky, the opposition will score five times or more. Correia was signed to a two-year contract last winter, so he’ll be in Minnesota all season. Don’t be like the Twins and give him any of your money. Dude is bad, real bad.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, April 25

Bruce Marshall

Tampa Bay Rays at Chicago White Sox
Pick: Chicago White Sox

The injury-riddled Tampa Bay starting rotation has been getting hit hard and has already put an undue burden upon the Rays bullpen, which has already thrown 70 2/3 innings this season, among the most in the American League. Chris Archer is one of the few healthy arms in the Tampa Bay rotation, but will have to deal with an improved Chisox offense. Pale Hose righty Erik Johnson has improved with every start, and allowed only one hit in 5 IP to earn the victory Sunday against Texas.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, April 25

Steve Janus

Kansas City Royals -101

Baltimore has yet to win a single start (0-4) when Ubaldo Jimenez takes the mound in 2014 and I don't see that changing tonight. Jimenez has an awful 6.75 ERA and 1.875 WHIP over his first 4 starts and has yet to pitch past the 6th inning. I'll more than gladly take my chances that the Royals offense can put up enough runs to secure a win behind talented youngster Yordano Ventura. In his three starts to open up the season, Ventura has posted a dominant 2.65 ERA and 1.118 WHIP. Hard to not like his chances of shutting down a Orioles offense that is averaging just 2.7 runs and hitting a mere .229 as a team at home this season.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, April 25

Dennis Macklin

Cleveland Indians vs. San Francisco Giants    
Play: San Francisco Giants -150

The Giants have lost five of their last seven but if there was ever a spot to get healthy, this is it. The Tribe have won four of five but those we at the Jake. Tonight, Cleveland throws Carlos Carasco who has been brutal (0-2, 7.31) in three starts this year. The G-Men counter with veteran Tim Hudson who has been rock solid (2-1, 2.40) in his four starts and figures to have some success against a visiting outfit that is hitting just .252 and plating just 3.4 runs over their last seven games. San Fran is 2-0 after an off day and 3-0 as a home fave at this price and look to be worth a ducat here.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, April 25

Wunderdog

Boston vs. Toronto
Pick: Toronto -115

The Boston red Sox lost another series to the Yankees, and aare now 2-5 against them this season, and currently reside in the basement of the AL East. last night the Sox pitching issued 12 walks, and their team committed 5 errors. They go against not only the hottest pitcher in baseball tonight in Mark Buerhle, but the top pitcher as a home favorite in baseball over the last 10 years. Buehrle owns a 96-43 record as a home favorite, tops in the last decade, and the return playing on his team is a gaudy 15.2%. Boston is lost at the plate, on the mound, and in the field right now, and the odds are small with a hot pitcher with a decade long track record of delivering in this spot.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, April 25

Don Best Consensus

Chicago Cubs at Milwaukee Brewers
Pick: Milwaukee Brewers

MLB's hottest team the (16-6) Milwaukee Brewers host their rival Chicago Cubs Friday after a day off. The Brew Crew feel good about maintaining MLB's best record over this series as the Cubs are 5-22 in the last 27 meetings in Milwaukee. The Cubs starter Villanueva is 0-2, 16.43 in his last two starts and may be headed for the pen.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, April 25

Larry Ness

Cincinnati Reds at Atlanta Braves
Pick: Atlanta Braves

Atlanta lost Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen for the season due to elbow surgery, while Mike Minor began the season on the DL with tendinitis in his left shoulder. That trio combined for 30 wins last year, with Medlen leading the way with 15 while his 3.11 ERA was the lowest for any regular member of the rotation. One of the moves Atlanta made in an effort to soften the blow of the injuries to the above-mentioned starters, was to sign Ervin Santana to a one-year, $14.1 million contract and forfeited a first-round draft pick -- 26th overall -- as compensation. He went 9-10 with a 3.24 ERA with Kansas City last year, after spending eight seasonswith the Los Angeles Angels.

Santana has has been worth every penny since signing with the Braves, exceeding all expectations over his first three starts. He’s held opponents to a .178 average while striking out 24 and walking just four in 21 innings. He’s 2-0 with an 0.86 ERA with the Braves winning all three of his starts. He’s off to his best start since opening 6-0 for the Angels in 2008. "He's a professional who goes about his business," manager Fredi Gonzalez told MLB's official website. "He makes great pitches with his breaking pitches and secondary pitches. He commands those pitches, and he doesn't give in."

Cincinnati's Homer Bailey will get the start opposite Santana. He signed a six-year, $105 million extension in February, which boggles the mind (how can MLB teams keep doing stuff like this?). Bailey had gone winless while compiling an 8.16 ERA over his first three outings, before finally beating the Cubs on Sunday. The right-hander struck out eight over six scoreless innings in the 8-2 win. However, let’s NOT ignore that Bailey has allowed 30 hits and 13 ERs over 20.1 innings for a 5.75 ERA, overall (team is 1-3 in his starts). Despite Sunday's performance (it was against the Cubs, you know!), Bailey knows he still has work to do. He's issuing 3.54 walks per nine innings, well above his 2.28 mark from the previous three seasons and opponents are batting .341 against him.

Let’s also NOT forget that the Braves won more games (56-25) than any MLB team at home last year and their moneyline mark of plus-$1,576 at Turner Field was MLB’s second-best mark. The Braves are a more modest 6-3 at home to open 2014 but I sure want NO part of Bailey and the Reds here, up against a seemingly rejuvenated and highly-motivated Santana.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, April 25

Dave Price

Toronto Blue Jays -115

This is a good price to ride the hot hand of Mark Buehrle.  The veteran southpaw is 4-0 with a 0.64 ERA.  He's won his last two starts against Boston while giving up just two earned runs in 13 innings.  The Blue Jays have been upset at home by Baltimore the last two nights, but they are 15-2 at home since 1997 following two straight upset losses at home in division play.  Buehrle's clubs are 77-39 all-time in his home starts when he gets the ball following a team loss.  His clubs are also 70-28 all-time in his home starts against teams with a losing record.  The Blue Jays are 10-3 in Buehrle's last 13 home starts and 8-1 in his last nine home starts as a favorite.  Boston's Jake Peavy was rocked his last time out, and his clubs have dropped his last two starts versus the Jays.  Take Toronto.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, April 25

Sam Martin

Dallas Stars at Anaheim Ducks
Prediction: Dallas Stars

We backed the Stars in their 4-2 win against Anaheim on Wednesday night, and although the home team is now a perfect 4-0 in this series, we are going to grab the line value and back Dallas to pull the upset on the road tonight at a pretty good payout.

Stars won their home games by scores of 3-0 and 4-2, but here in Anaheim they also played well, falling by just a single goal in both games. Stars have been the better team through four games despite the 2-2 record, and with the momentum from those two home wins this is their best chance to score a road victory if they are going to advance past this series.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, April 25

Bob Balfe ‏

Rangers / Mariners Over 7

This game will showcase two left handed pitchers who have ERA’s that are slightly better than their overall talent. Both teams actually hit left handed pitching better than right handers and you can’t overlook a shaky Texas Bullpen. I think this total will sail over with relative ease.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, April 25

MLB Predictions

LA Dodgers -1.5 +157

Josh Beckett has definitely surprised a few people this year, including myself. It seemed like his career was almost over, but he has found somewhat of a resurgence here with the Dodgers. If he can hold up like this the Dodgers will reap the benefits down the road. He has three starts on the year, coming into tonight against the Rockies with a 2.57 ERA. His last two starts are worth a mention, as he didn't allow one run in either game against the Giants and Diamondbacks. In addition, there was only 3 hits surrendered in total. 2 against the Giants and 1 in his last start. His WHIP has stayed low as well at 1.14 and a 1.00 at home. Jordan Lyles ERA isn't too shabby at all with a 3.04. However, he has gotten touched up on both occasions on the road against the Marlins and Padres. Two below average offenses. His ERA against both was 6.30 and his WHIP hit 1.40. In his fourth year in the majors after spending time in Houston, Lyles looks to improve on a +5.00 ERA career. In each of the three seasons Lyles ERA eclipsed 5.00. I expect that to happen again this season. I also expect the Dodgers to hurt his cause at improving it. The Dodgers got pushed around against the Phillies in their last series, but I like them to come back strong at home against the Rockies. I'll play the -1.5 for +157.


San Francisco Giants -1.5 +139

The Giants ended a tough 2-4 road trip with a big 12-10 extra innings win in Colorado. The offensive out burst and a day off Thursday should have them set for a home stand where the welcome the Cleveland Indians. The Giants are 12-10 on the year and 5-4 at home, while the Indians are 11-1 and 4-5 on the road. The Indians will send Carlos Carrasco to the mound tonight and he is 0-2 with a 7.31 ERA, .302 OBA and 1.69 WHIP. He has given up 4 earned runs or more in each of his three starts, with the longest lasting 5.2 innings. He qill face off against Tim Hudson who goes for the Giants tonight. Hudson is 2-1 over 4 starts with a 2.40 ERA, .213 OBA and 0.77 WHIP. He has lasted 7+ innings in each start and he has given up 2 earned runs or less in 3 of the 4. He has also struck out 20 batters without issuing a single walk to date. Take note that the Indians are 16-40 in their last 56 interleague road games, 4-12 in their last 16 road games vs a team with a winning home record, and 2-8 in their last 10 vs a starter with a WHIP less than 1.15. They are also just 3-13 in Carrasco's last 16 starts. The Giants are 5-1 in their last 6 games following an off day dating back to last season and 9-2 in their last 11 home games vs a right handed starter. San Fran is 3-1 in games that Hudson has started this season. Tonight we've got one starter who has been struggling, not only this year, but for the past two seasons and another starter who is off to a great start to the year. I like the run line price tonight on the Giants.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, April 25

Harry Bondi

HOUSTON (+3) over Portland

We have been on the Trailblazers for wins and covers in the first two games of this series but flip to the Rockets in a must win game. Houston guard James Harden has been horrendous in the first two games going a ridiculous 14 for 47 (22%!)from the field. Harden has not been playing his game which is to look to penetrate first then hit open jumpers as the defense backs off him afraid he is going to take it to the hole. With the season on the line we look to Harden to get back to his dominate self, another strong game from Dwight Howard and for Kevin McHale's boys to get their first win of the postseason. Rockets soar!

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, April 25

Jeff Alexander

Los Angeles Dodgers -139

The Dodgers have dropped 3 of 4 at home, but I like them to bounce back against a Colorado club that is 19-43 in its last 62 road games.  Jordan Lyles' teams are 4-25 in his starts against teams that have a winning record.  LA's sticks have been inconsistent thus far, but Lyles' teams are 0-15 in his road starts versus NL clubs with an on-base percentage of .315 or worse.  Josh Beckett hasn't allowed a run in his last 2 starts while only giving up 3 hits total.  His teams are 25-7 lifetime in his April home starts.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, April 25

Nelly

Tigers / Twins Over

Detroit has one of the best starting rotations in baseball but Rick Porcello is the clear weak link in the back of the rotation. He has had average results so far this season with two solid home starts but an ugly outing in his lone road start. Porcello has not been a reliable starter since his rookie season in 2009 and the Twins scored 13 runs in 21 innings against Porcello last season. Detroit leads the AL Central but the Tigers have been able to have success despite the worst bullpen ERA in all of baseball at 5.62. With Porcello on the mound against a patient Minnesota lineup there could be many outs for the bullpen in this games. Minnesota has been a surprise team in 2014 with a winning record as April winds down. The Twins have had terrible pitching this season even with a recent run of improvement from the bullpen. On the season Minnesota owns a 4.96 ERA as a team but the Twins have been one of the top scoring teams in baseball with some unlikely production from a mostly inexperienced lineup. The Twins have been focused on taking walks with over five walks per game on average and the top team on-base-percentage in all of baseball. Detroit's scoring looks light at this point but the Tigers have played the fewest games in baseball. The Tigers are the fifth best on-base-percentage team in MLB and team is hitting .266 with 4.5 runs scored per game for solid results. Kevin Correia has allowed at least three runs in all four starts this season and while he does not walk batters he also has just 12 strikeouts in 24 innings. Correia owns a 6.39 ERA at home this season and despite cold early season weather Target Field has featured nearly 10 runs per game this season. The 'over' is 17-4 in Minnesota games this season and this game could get out of hand for two marginal starting pitchers. Minnesota has averaged 11 hits per game over the last seven games while Detroit has averaged 10 hits per game over the last seven games.

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River City Sharps

Boston Red Sox +105

This is more of a “gut” play than anything else, and we have always found that when they occur, you roll with them. You have Mark Buehrle pitching out of his mind for the Blue Jays, sporting a 4-0 record with an 0.64 ERA, and he’s only a slight favorite at home pitching against Jake Peavy (0-0, 3.33 ERA) for the Red Sox. The Sox were very sloppy in their loss last night to the Yankees and had a nice plane ride to think about it. The change of venue and the desire to get Peavy his first win gets this done tonight for the visitors.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, April 25

Jeff Scott Sports

3 UNIT PLAYS

St Louis/ Pittsburgh Over 7 (-125): The St Louis offense struggled mightily on the road, but now they are back home, where they have scored 5.17 rpg on the year. this is also a better offense when the face a right-handed pitcher and now that they have seen Gerrit Cole they should have a better showing the first meeting. At home the cards have hit righties at a .304 clip and have scored 5.98 runs per 9 off of them at home for the year. The Pirate offense has not been all that good this year, but they have scored 3.89 rpg on the year and Shelby Miller has struggled with this team, posting a 5.93 ERA in 5 career starts vs them. Pirate road games have averaged 9 rpg, while St Louis home games have put up 9.5 rpg. This looks like a good spot for these offenses to wake up.

Oakland -1.5 (-130) over HOUSTON - Houston is a team that will step up and bit a team when you least expect it, but I don't see that happening here. Jesse Chavez has been outstanding for the A's so far this year, as he comes in with a 1-0 mark and a 1.38 ERA in his 4 starts so far. The A's have gone 4-0 in his starts and have outscored their opponents by 2 rpg in those games. Brad Peacock has made just 1 start on the year and that was at Oakland, in a game that he allowed juts 2 ERs in 5 innings of work. The Astros lost that game 4-1. Overall Brad has not looked good this year as he is 0-2 with a 6.14 ERA, while at home he has allowed 7 ERs in just 7 innings of work from the pen. Brad will probably not last all that long and once he is gone that will then put the ball in the hands of a pen that has a 5.45 ERA this year. Oakland has faced the Astros 4 times this year and have outscored them by a 29-8 count and the A's are now 24-5 in the last 29 meetings with Houston. This one should be ugly again.

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