Free Picks: Service Plays for Monday, April 28

Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Monday, April 28

SPORTS WAGERS

COLUMBUS +115 over Pittsburgh

OT included. Do we really have to go over this again? Do the Penguins really deserve to be favored in Columbus just because they finished much higher in the standings? The regular season proves nothing. Just ask St. Louis, who would have much rather finished eighth and played Anaheim instead of Chicago. We could write an entire book on why the NHL regular season and playoff format is a complete farce but that’s an argument for another time. The issue at hand here is this series and while Pittsburgh has deserved every win, so, too, have the Jackets and it would be unreasonable to think the Jackets can’t win this game.

In that respect, we have to play the value. Columbus has played better at home than they have at the Igloo. They have at least a 50% chance of taking this back to Pittsburgh and a valid argument could be made that the Jackets have a better than 50% chance of winning. However, Pittsburgh is favored because the oddsmakers have all the data on which teams are taking all or the majority of the money. Pittsburgh remains a hugely popular public team and so the oddsmakers are forced to set the price accordingly. If this same Columbus team were wearing Red Wings, Bruins, Maple Leafs or Canadiens jerseys, Pittsburgh would not be favored. That once again brings us to value. Pittsburgh can no doubt win this game, only a fool would think otherwise. However, all the value remains on the home team because like we mentioned earlier, the Jackets chances of winning may be better than the favorite's chances. That’s the way we’ve played this series throughout and we’re not about to change now. 


MINNESOTA -½ +125 over Colorado

Regulation only. We have the Wild in the series for a rather significant wager but that’s not going to deter us from coming right back on them here. You see, for almost every shift, period and game, the Wild have been the better team by a wide margin but the Avalanche have gotten every bounce in this series and it’s actually mind-boggling to see them up 3-2 in the series. In the two games in Minnesota, Colorado looked like a minor-league team compared to the Wild. Truth is, this series should be over. When you look at puck possession, time in the offensive end, defense, shots on net and scoring chances, Minnesota should have swept this series. The good news is that they are not demoralized. Adversity makes teams stronger and Minnesota has looked better with each passing game. Had it not been for two tying goals with the net empty in Games 1 and 5, this series would be over. Furthermore, it’s not a case of weak goaltending hurting Minnesota either. Darcy Kuemper is rock solid in net but again, every bounce has gone the Avs way, as Kuemper has not allowed a soft goal and nothing suggests that he will.

You can’t keep getting outplayed by such a wide margin and expect positive results. In the two games in Minnesota, the Wild outshot the Avalanche 46-22 and 32-12 respectively. Nothing is going to change here except the margin of victory for Minnesota is likely going to be by two, three or four goals. Even the outstanding goaltending of Semyon Varlamov is not going to bail the Avs out in Minnesota because the Wild are so much better and they’re hungry like wolves. Bet with confidence here because Minnesota will not be denied a chance to win this series in Colorado in Game 7. 


LOS ANGELES -½ +153 over San Jose

Regulation only. Some teams can’t escape their ghosts. The Blue Notes were once again knocked out early in the playoffs after being the favorite to win the Cup for most of the year. Now it’s the Sharks’ turn. San Jose has been regular season giants for years but has always failed to get by a round or two in the playoffs, especially when the going got tougher. With a 3-0 series lead over the Kings and seemingly being ready to alleviate that choke label, San Jose lost Game 4 in Los Angeles to give the Kings a little life. No big deal, as it was unreasonable to expect a sweep before the series began and they would surely finish them off back at the Shark Tank in Game 5. Didn’t happen. The Kings dominated play, made the Sharks uncomfortable and instilled some doubt in both the players and Antti Niemi’s fragile mind while proving to themselves that they can defeat this team again. Now the series shifts back to L.A. and we frankly have no idea how the Sharks are going to pull this one out. San Jose is wounded, they are scared, they are getting beaten physically and they are getting worn down. Poor offensive penetration, no drive and no killer instinct whatsoever has us confidently fading them in Los Angeles. Despite being up 3-2 in the series, the Sharks are on the ropes.

At the end of the day, San Jose just does not have the playoff mentality to knock off a giant on the road (isn’t that the reason the Bruins got rid of Joe Thornton). Jonathan Quick has his confidence back while Niemi has been pulled in consecutive games. Darryl Sutter, to his credit, has stuck with Quick when other coaches would have panicked and switched. Todd McLellan is in panic mode. Yeah, the Sharks can still win this series but momentum has taken a huge shift and if San Jose does win this series, it’s not going to happen at the Staples Center. Prepare for Game 7.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Monday, April 28

SPORTS WAGERS

CHARLOTTE +8 over Miami

As a 4½-point choice in Charlotte in Game 4, the Heat easily covered that number and the books got buried in the process. It’s no secret that the Miami is Charlotte’s daddy. Miami has defeated Charlotte in 19 straight games and they have done so without breaking much of a sweat. Indeed Miami wants to win this game and save all the energy they can for the next series but this number is an absolute overreaction to Miami’s 13-point win in Game 3. Hell, back in Miami, the Heat were only a 10 and 9½ point favorite respectively in Games 1 and 2 and now they’re less than a bucket than that on the road? Either the oddsmakers made a huge mistake in setting the line in Games 1, 2 and 3 or they have inflated it here to try and attract equal action on both sides. We’re suggesting an inflated number here and that prompts us to step in. Lastly, and it may not mean anything at all but it is something to consider. Miami can’t lose this series and it sure wouldn’t hurt the teams’ bottom line to get another home game sellout and the millions of dollars in revenue that goes with it. A little incentive from owner to coach to players to make that happen is not out of the question. Everything is about money so don’t be surprised to see the ‘Cats win this one outright.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Monday, April 28

SPORTS WAGERS

ST. LOUIS -1½ +149 over Milwaukee

The Brewers are good but their 90% winning mark on the road is unsustainable and the injury bug has hit them with two key members (Ryan Braun & Jean Segura) being sidelined. The Crew was shutout by Jason Hammel yesterday and they lost two of three at Miller Park earlier this year by scores of 4-1 and 6-1. In that series, Milwaukee avoided Michael Wacha but they don’t get that luxury this time around. Wacha went 4-1 with a 2.78 ERA in 65 innings for the Cardinals last season. This 2012 1st-rounder made it to majors in less than 12 months with a big splash. His 2nd half strikeout rate was backed by a big swinging strike rate, which has continued into his first five starts this year. Wacha has 35 K’s in 30 innings with an elite swinging strike rate of 14%. His 2.10 ERA is fully supported by his 2.67 XERA. Wacha is the real deal and with the only negative being a small sample size but everything points to this guy being the real deal.

Then there’s Yovani Gallardo. Gallardo owns a 1.42 ERA and 1.07 WHIP after 32 innings but those stats are a mirage. Gallardo’s 88% strand rate and 3% hr/f are the key drivers to his eye opening stats. A start versus the Cardinals is exactly what could bring him back to earth because in 17 career starts versus the Cardinals, he is 1-11 with a 6.46 ERA and 1.41 WHIP. Gallardo’s xERA is closer to 4 than it is to 2. He’s an average pitcher that has been the beneficiary of throwing against some clubs that got off to a slow start at the plate. Gallardo has seen the Pirates twice and the Padres once over his last three starts. He’s simply not that good anymore and will be exposed as such much sooner than later. Risky bet spotting 1½ runs at home in a pitcher’s park but this price and pitching matchup warrants it.


Cleveland +112 over L.A. ANGELS

Not the best of spots for the Halos. L.A. returns home from a long, nine-game trip that ended with a Sunday night prime timer in the Bronx. The Angels went a respectable 4-5 on said trip against Detroit, Washington and the Yankees but did lose three of their last four games. Tyler Skaggs (LHP) is unbeaten on the young season, as he is 2-0 through four starts, with both of his wins being of the pure quality variety. He has been great at keeping the ball on the ground (58% groundball rate), but there are warning signs in his profile that insist on some rough outings ahead. Skaggs has just a 7/7 K/BB in his last two starts over 13 innings. His 6% swinging strike rate reveals he’s not missing a lot of bats. Skaggs has escaped plenty of jams in his four starts but that Houdini can last only so long. Skaggs went 2-3 last season with a 5.12 ERA in 39 innings for the D-Backs. He made no less than five round trips from Arizona to exotic minor league destinations. Showed flashes of brilliance, but dominant start/disaster start split highlight current feast-or-famine ways. Skaggs is still just 22, he still has a bright future, and he’s still very much a work in progress.

At the beginning of March the Indians avoided arbitration with Justin Masterson, signing him to a one-year, $9.76 million deal. Masterson posted a nice K rate gain last year but his control was still a bit high (particularly in the second half). However, he continues to keep the ball on the ground at elite levels and this year his groundball rate is soaring at 60%. Masterson finally solved his career-long struggles against LH hitting last season by posting a .248/.340/.357 line. Masterson’s dominant start/disaster start split of 79%/10% reveals just how dominant he was in 2013 and he does not look worse this season. Masterson has made five starts on the season and has yet to earn a decision. He has 30 K’s in 28 frames and an outstanding 60%/20%/20% groundball/line-drive/fly-ball profile. A hefty 36% hit rate and 19% hr/f have assisted in his 4.50 ERA, which is more than a run higher than his 3.27 xERA. Starters this good rarely go long stretches without a win while pitchers as average as Skaggs rarely go long stretches without a loss. This has nothing to do with the “due for a win or due for a loss” angle. Instead it has everything to do with taking back a price on the significantly superior starter.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Monday, April 28

Tony George

Dallas +4

A stunner in the making for the Mavs against the odds on favorite to win the West, the Spurs.  Vince Carter provided some throwback magic in the last game,  The one thing about San Antonio is the lack of defense, which in years past they were known for and is what won them past NBA Titles. The big issue is San Antonio's players that surround Duncan and Parker and Ginobili simply are not producing.  Dallas has Delembert picking up solid glass play and not allowing the Spurs to dominate the glass, and Nowitski is getting lots of support from Ellis in point production and while the universe thinks the Spurs will dominate at home in bounce back mode, Dallas is at the top of their game and I will say this is another buzzer beater and take the 4 points.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Monday, April 28

Jeff Alexander

Cleveland Indians +115

This is bad spot for the Angels, who had to make the long trip home from New York late last night.  The Indians were already on the West Coast and played Sunday afternoon so they were able to hit the sheets much earlier than the Angels.  LA will be feeling some fatigue this evening.  Even if it was in a better spot, it would have a tough time beating Masterson, who is 4-0 (7-2 on the moneyline) with an ERA of 1.87 in 9 starts versus the Angels.  The Indians are 27-8 in their last 35 versus AL West opponents while the Angels are 1-7 in their last 8 versus AL Central foes.  The Indians have won their last 4 against the Angels.  Bet Cleveland.

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Dave Price

Cincinnati Reds -125

The Cubs have lost eight of 11 on the road, which comes as no surprise considering they are batting just .209 away from Wrigley.  Samardzija has pitched well (1.53 ERA), but the Cubs have lost four of his five starts this season and are 1-8 in his last nine starts.  They just haven't done a very good job of supporting the big right-hander.  Samardzija has struggled against the Reds.  He's 1-4 with an ERA of 4.20 in eight starts against them.  Chicago is 1-6 in his last seven starts against the Reds and 19-49 in its last 68 overall versus Cincy.  The Reds have won three of Simon's four starts while he's posted a 1.30 ERA.  One of these wins came against the Cubs in a game where he allowed no earned on four hits in six innings.  The Cubs are a pathetic 13-42 in their last 55 games versus a right-handed starter.  Take the Reds.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Monday, April 28

Steve Janus

Cleveland Indians +115

This is a great price to back the Indians, as they send out their ace Justin Masterson. While Masterson has yet to record a decision in 5 starts and comes in with a 4.50 ERA and 1.571 WHIP, he's coming off back-to-back strong starts. He's allowed just 4 earned runs with 15 strikeouts over his last 12 and 2/3 innings. Masterson also has a strong history against the Angels. He's a perfect 4-0 with a 1.87 ERA in 9 career starts (7-2 team record) vs Los Angeles.

The Angels will send out Tyler Skaggs, who is 2-0 with a respectable 3.21 ERA and 1.107 WHIP in four starts. However, Skaggs has really struggled to pitch well at home. In his two starts this season at Angel Stadium, he's got a 5.54 ERA and 1.462 WHIP.

Cleveland is 9-2 in Masterson's last 11 starts vs a team with a losing record and 6-1 in his last 7 start against the AL West. Los Angeles on the other hand is just 1-7 in their last 8 games against the AL Central and 1-4 in their last 5 home games vs a team that has won fewer than 40% of their road games.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Monday, April 28

Tom Grassi

Heat vs. Bobcats    
Play: Under 188

The Heat can close out the Bobcats tonight in Charlotte. After opening up as 6.5-point favorites the money has steamed Miami all the way up to 8.5 point favorites. The total opened at 187 points and it’s risen slightly to 188 points.

After allowing the Bobcats to score 97 points in Game 2, the Heat decided to play some defense in Game 3. Miami allowed Charlotte to score only 85 points on 43% shooting. This game went under the total for the first time in the series.

We look for another low scoring game tonight. The Heat are a very good under play after a road win by 10 or more points posting a 10-2 Under record. Charlotte has been a very strong under play at home on the season posting a 26-14 under record and we look for that trend to continue tonight.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Monday, April 28

Jeff Fenster

Oakland vs. Texas
Play: Under 7½

The A's and Rangers square off in game 1 of another series.  Sonny Gray is taking on Yu Darvish in a battle of aces.  Neither pitcher has let up more than 3 ER in any start this season.  Gray has 41 k's in 26 IP and his only loss was against these Rangers in which he had a great Line (7 IP 5 H, 3 ER, 8 K's).  In Yu Darvish's 4 starts, his worst start was against the A's (6 IP, 8 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 6 K's) which isn't too much of a surprise as one of his worst career matchups is against these A's (.260 BAA, .830 OPS).  As you can see, both of these aces keep the score low and this game should stay there as well.  The only risk of hitting the over is if the A's can get Darvish out of the game early enough and get to the Rangers 25th ranked bullpen.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Monday, April 28

Rob Veno

Colorado at Arizona
Play: Arizona 1st 5

Going to trust what I see with my eyes where Arizona’s Wade Miley is concerned and pencil him in for a solid start here. Miley’s stuff has not been a problem through the opening month of the season but at times his location has as evidenced by his 16 walks allowed in 36 innings. On his side is the fact that Miley is a pitcher who generally stays down in the zone and on April 6th held the Rockies to just 10 total bases in eight innings which is the best performance by any opposing starter in Coors Field this year. Overall, Miley has had the Rockies number throughout his career going 7-0 against them. As is seemingly always the case, Colorado’s offense has been dramatically different on the road thus far posting a .246 BA as opposed to .347 at home, and OBP of .298 compared to .398 and an OPS difference of .664 away/.987 home. Expect Miley to control them here and rely on his offense to give him some help. Despite not having their top run producer Mark Trumbo in the lineup due to injury and being shout out yesterday, the Diamondbacks have scored 22 runs in their L5G. However, Arizona has been poor overall offensively hitting just .230 versus lefties and posting a weak .298 OBP at home. Rockies starter Franklin Morales has been on top of his game recently (13 IP, 9H, 2ER last two outings) so it doesn’t figure to be easy here either. Still, Miley looks to be the much better option and with Morales’ career struggles in this park, it’s worth a shot to play Arizona -1.25 on the 5 inning line. D’Back starters have held opponents to 2 runs or less over the first 5 innings in their last 4 games and Miley’s capable of doing the same. Look for Arizona to jump out quickly tonight and cash a five inning play.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Monday, April 28

Jeff Scott Sports

3 UNIT PLAY

Atlanta/ Indiana Under 186.5: The Pacers defense has stepped it up after allowing 101 points to the Hawks in game 1 of this series, by allowing just 90.3 ppg in the last 3. In the last game here they allowed just 85 points and have allowed just 88.3 ppg at home for the year. Indiana on offense is not very strong at all as they have averaged just 92.5 ppg in the 4 games of this series and the Hawks have allowed just 93.1 ppg in their last 9 games overall. Pacer home games have averaged 186.8 ppg on the year, but this one is a huge game and those game tend to be lower scoring than other, so I will call for this one to land around 180 at best.

2 UNIT PLAY

Miami/ Charlotte Under 188: The Bobcats have scored just 90 ppg on Miami in this series and with an ailing Al Jefferson I don't see that point total improving at all. That means they will have to look to their defense a bit more here and that have played great defense at home, holding teams to just 94.4 ppg on the year here. Miami has not been all that explosive on offense of late, averaging 95.6 ppg in their last 5 games and they won't need to put up a ton here as the Bobcats just can't score right now. Bobcats only hope of extending the series is by slowing the pace and Miami is OK playing that way. I look for a game in the lower 180's at best.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Monday, April 28

Harry Bondi

SAN ANTONIO (-4) over Dallas

What a series this has been! Last year, the Spurs paid for a European vacation for my family as they were money in the postseason. This year, I have fortunatly stayed off the Spurs on the Steam Team Phone Service, which is coming off a 7-1 weekend, as they have been absolutly stunned by the Dallas Mavericks. Mav's can take a commanding 3-1 series lead with a victory tonight but how can the Spurs let that happen? Saturdays win by Dallas was their first win at home against San Antonio in over two years and San Antonio has gone 8-2 ATS at Dallas their last 10 meetings. All the trends and motivation is with the Spurs tonight and we expect them to get it done tonight.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Monday, April 28

Dave Essler

Oakland +120

I actually like Oakland to score plenty off of Darvish and win this game handily. I don't know if Choo is in or not yet (and as I type I see he is not), but what's done is done. The Rangers bullpen has simply been deplorable, with an ERA over 8.00 in the last week, and of course they flew back from Seattle last night after gagging yet another lead. The only Mariners they DID beat was Felix. Oakland didn't hit yesterday in Houston, but that's going to happen sooner or later and the tone for that one was set early in the first inning when they loaded the bases and couldn't score. Almost as if they were looking ahead to THIS series already. And of course they're travel from Houston to Arlington was minimal. The Rangers regulars have 5 hits in 26 at-bats against Gray, and Beltre hasn't faced him. None of the hitters have more than one hit. Point is, they shouldn't batter him, and typically the Rangers are a better bet against LHP anyways. There's motivation on Oakland's side since Texas swept them in Oakland not long ago, and the A's are 9-4 away from home. They've seen PLENTY of Darvish already, and rather than go into his stats against them, which are obviously less than they are against many teams, let me just say last week he threw 116 pitches in six innings against them, and that aside from the A's, he's faced Seattle and Houston at home, and the Rays on the road. Point his, he's about to faced the best team he's seen, again, and he's a flyball pitcher when he's not striking people out, and the A's lineup tonight is simply STACKED with LHH's or switch hitters, and last year lefties fared FAR better than righties against him. Oakland wins this game 7-3 or so, IMO.

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