Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, May 17

Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, May 17

Will Rogers

Toronto vs. Texas
Pick: Toronto

I don't think people realize just how bad the Rangers have been this season. Being two games under .500 is disappointing in its own right, but the fact they have been outscored by 35 runs is pretty shocking.

Here are my keys to the game:

1.  Mark Buehrle - This veteran lefty has been great for Toronto this season.  He's won seven of his eight starts so far and in doing so has a 2.04 ERA. He's allowed three runs or less in every start but the one loss. On the road, he's gone a perfect 4 for 4 and has a 0.92 ERA.   In May, he's allowed just four runs and 16 hits in three starts, winning all of them.

2. Offense - Toronto is 4th in total runs this season.  Texas wasted a fine outing from Yu Darvish yesterday as they had only three hits and got shutout for the third time this season, the second time in their last three games.  They are 0-2 off the previous two shutout losses

3. X-Factor - The Blue Jays have won five straight here in Arlington, outscoring the Rangers 26-4!

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, May 17

Andrew Lange 

Cincinnati at Philadelphia
Play: Under 7.5

Cincinnati's Homer Bailey looks to be rounding into form after a shaky start to the season. Over his last five outings he owns a 3.24 ERA and 27-11 K-to-BB ratio in 33.1 innings. His last outing was particularly sharp as he held Colorado to four hits and one run in 7.1 innings. The Rockies had a whopping 15 swinging strikes which points to Bailey's stuff being extremely sharp. He’ll face a Phillies lineup that hasn't scored in two games and for the month is averaging a paltry 2.8 runs per game. Philadelphia's Cole Hamels is coming off of his best outing of the year as well: 7 IP, 1 ER, 10 Ks vs. the Mets. He's been hit around some since coming back from injury but was a bit unlucky (.408 BABIP) and his strikeout numbers (9.14 Ks per 9) are actually right in line with some of his stellar past seasons. And like Bailey, he is pitted up against a soft offense as the Reds' slugging percentage in down .10 and OPS down .23 since the start of the month. Also note that on-base guru Joey Votto is out with a quad injury. Weather and wind not expected to be a factor as we step in with a play on the under.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, May 17

Bryan Power

Miami vs. San Francisco
Pick: San Francisco

Turns out that the pitching change from Tim Hudson to Yusmerio Petit did matter for the Giants last night as they fell to the Marlins 7-5 w/ Miami scoring the go-ahead runs in the top of the ninth.  But it was Petit that put his team in a bad spot by allowing the first five runs, all but one of them earned.  I won with the Giants on Thursday night and still think this will be a winning series for them, so go ahead and back the home team yet again tonight.

Given Miami's woeful numbers on the road this season, it just makes no sense to me that they've been able to go 12-4 their last 16 games at AT&T Park.  They still own the worst record in baseball at 5-16 and perhaps most importantly have failed to produce B2B wins away from home all season.  Offense has been a major problem on the road this season w/ the team batting a collective .229 and averaging just 3.5 rpg.

Looking at the pitching matchup, we have Tom Koehler opposing Tim Lincecum.  Lincecum has actually been pretty fortunate to see the Giants win six of his eight starts this year.  But he is off his best start of 2014, one that saw him allow only one run and two hits in 7+ innings as the team beat Atlanta.  Lincecum also finished w/ 11 strikeouts.  The Giants are 10-5 off a loss this year.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, May 17

Jeff Alexander

LA Dodgers -155


With yesterday's loss, the Snakes fell to 4-16 at home.  They also fell to 4-15 in their last 19 versus the Dodgers, including 1-8 this season.  While I don't love this price, the Dodgers are 6-0 in their last 6 games as a road favorite of -151 to -200, and the Diamondbacks are 1-12 in their last 13 games as a home underdog and 0-6 in their last 6 home games versus a left-handed starter.  Kershaw is one of the best in the baseball and has a 0.66 ERA on the road this season.  He has a 2.17 ERA in 18 starts versus the D-backs and has allowed just 1 earned run in each of his last 3 starts against them.  Collmenter has a 4.50 ERA at home and a 6.00 career ERA versus the Dodgers.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, May 17

Steve Janus

Chicago White Sox +110

This is a great spot to back the White Sox as a road underdog against the Astros. Chicago's Hector Noesi is 0-2 with a 4.91 ERA and 1.500 WHIP, but he should have no problem shutting down a Houston offense that is one of the worst in the league. As for Astros' starter Jarred Cosart, I believe the White Sox are a bad matchup. Cosart doesn't rack up many strikeouts and that's the one weakness of Chicago's offense, which leads the league with 393 K's. I look for the White Sox to put up more than enough runs to give Noesi his first win of the season.

Key Trends - Chicago is 4-0 in their last 4 games as an underdog of +110 to +150 and 5-0 in his last 5 after allowing 2 runs or less in their last game. Houston is just 8-24 in their last 32 home games vs a team with a losing record and 12-39 in their last 51 games following a loss.

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Michael Alexander

Toronto Blue Jays vs. Texas Rangers
Play: Toronto Blue Jays -106

After being shut out for the second time in their last three games, the Texas Rangers look to jump-start their offense today against the visiting Toronto Blue Jays. Leadoff hitter Shin-Soo Choo is 5-for-36 over the last nine games for the Rangers, who have lost eight of their last 10 at home. Texas managed just three hits in Friday’s series opener against Drew Hutchison, who recorded his first career complete game in the Blue Jays’ 2-0 victory. Toronto pitcher Mark Buehrle turned in another quality start on Monday against the Los Angeles Angels, earning his seventh win after allowing two runs in six-plus innings

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, May 17

Jack Jones

Cleveland Indians +128

We're getting great value here on the Cleveland Indians as a +128 home underdog to the Oakland A's tonight.  They will be motivated to bounce back from their 1-11 blowout loss at the hands of the A's last night in Game 1 of this series.

Cleveland gives the ball to Josh Tomlin, who has been solid in two starts this season.  He has gone 2-0 with a 2.13 ERA and 0.868 WHIP while allowing just three earned runs and 11 base runners in 12 2/3 innings.

In his lone career start against Oakland, Tomlin allowed just two earned runs over 7 2/3 innings back in 2011.  He'll be opposed by Scott Kazmir, who is 2-3 with a 5.17 ERA and 1.724 WHIP in nine career starts against Cleveland.

The Indians are 20-6 in their last 26 home games vs. a left-handed starter.  Cleveland is 10-2 in Tomlin's last 12 home starts vs. a team with a winning record.  The A's are 1-4 in their last five meetings in Cleveland.  Bet the Indians Saturday.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, May 17

Joe Gavazzi

LA Angels -1 ½ +155

The Rays bounce back for a 3-0 victory last night against LAA.  Nonetheless, TBay is just 4-7 of late while LAA is on a 6-2 surge.  Ramos is a fill in starter who got ripped in his last outing.  In a 12-5 loss to Seattle, Ramos allowed 9 runs on 11 hits.  In 5 relief appearances against LAA, Ramos has a 10.13 ERA.  Don’t expect much help from a bullpen which has a 4.44 ERA.  Far prefer Wilson whose solid 3.69 ERA in 8 starts is complimented by a 54/19 KBB.  Run line players take note:  17 of 22 LAA victories have come by 2 or more runs including all 4 wins by Wilson.  For Tampa Bay, 11/12 road losses have come by 2 or more runs.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, May 17

SPORTS WAGERS

Series Bet - MONTREAL -110 over N.Y. Rangers

After facing the Bruins, the Canadiens take a step down in class here. After facing the Penguins weak defense and shaky goaltending, the Rangers take a huge step up in class in those two categories when facing the Habs. Let’s also not forget that the Penguins had the Rangers down 3-1 and in true Penguins form, Pitt could not finish the deal. Additionally, the Rangers have had far too many average games in both rounds against Philadelphia and Pittsburgh while the Canadiens have not had a bad or sup-par effort yet. The media will make this out as a great original six battle between Henrik Lundqvist and Carey Price and while some folks may buy that, we do not. Lundqvist allows soft goals from time to time and he’s far more susceptible to an average outing. Carey Price RARELY allows a soft goal and can steal games on his own. From a consistency standpoint, Price is outstanding just about every minute of every game and no goaltender in the game is playing better right now.

You really have to give the Canadiens credit for what they’ve accomplished thus far. First Montreal took out Tampa Bay in four games and did so in dominating fashion. They subsequently knocked off the President’s Trophy winner and they did so by outplaying the Bruins over a seven game series. The Habs win over Boston was not a fluke and it was not solely because of Price either. Montreal had a lead in that series on the scoreboard far more often than the Bruins did. They also had to overcome the outstanding goaltending of Tuukka Rask and when Montreal took a lead of any kind they rarely gave it up. Montreal took out two outstanding defensive teams in Tampa and Boston (we acknowledge the absence of Ben Bishop but it’s hard to imagine Tampa winning that series had Bishop played) while New York took out two weak defensive teams in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Also note that Steve Mason missed two (maybe three) games in round one and Philly was forced to go with Ray Emery. Montreal has home ice advantage and has been as close to unbeatable at home as possible. In the end the Martin St. Louis story is a nice one but it’s done with now and for our money, Montreal is a cheap price with all the advantages they hold that includes goaltending, defense, offense, power-play, home ice, momentum, current form and strength of playoff opponents. Oh, and one last thing, Guy LaFleur and Larry Robinson are way better than Jean Ratelle and Brad Park.


MONTREAL -½ +138 over N.Y. Rangers

Regulation only. We’re also going to play the Habs in Game 1 because of the above mentioned reasons. We certainly like the perfect amount of rest the Habs have had after defeating the Bruins while Montreal has been off for an uncomfortable amount of time after defeating Pittsburgh. See our Series analysis for more info on this choice.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, May 17

SPORTS WAGERS

Pittsburgh +121 over N.Y. YANKEES

The Pirates aren’t exactly tearing the cover off the ball but this is an extremely winnable game against a pitcher that shows nothing and has nothing. David Phelps has made 11 appearances this season but only two of those occurred as a starter. Phelps failed to go past 5.1 innings in both starts and the Yanks lost them both. Incidentally, Phelps’ two starts were on the road and things don’t easier at home at Yankee Stadium. As a starter Phelps has a 4.62 ERA and 1.41 WHIP between last year and this year. Even out of bullpen, Phelps’ upside is really limited by the lack of dominant pitch. His fastball barely hits 90 mph and his awfully low swinging strike rate of 4% means he needs a lot of luck to succeed. With eroding control, a 6.90 xERA over his  two starts, a declining groundball rate (39%) and not being able to miss bats, Phelps cannot be favored by this much over anyone because his profile is a recipe for failure.

Edinson Volquez shouldn’t be favored over anyone either but in this case he is not. As a pup against Phelps, Volquez and the Pirates are worthy of backing. The one thing Volquez does possess and has his entire career is an elite groundball rate. This year is no different with a rate of 52%. Over his last two starts, Volquez’s line-drive rate was also elite at 8%. Volquez does have nasty stuff, he always has but his inability to throw strikes consistently makes him one of the highest risk/reward pitchers in the game. Volquez is just as likely to have a disastrous start as he is to perform well but at least he possesses the possibility of throwing a gem. The same cannot be said for David Phelps. When Phelps is favored, the fade is on.     


Baltimore +110 over KANSAS CITY

Baltimore took the first two games of this series while holding the Royals to a mere one run over those two games. This pitching matchup favors the O’s more than the previous two. After appearing in six games in relief this year, Danny Duffy makes just his third start of the year. Duffy went 2-0 with a 1.85 ERA in just 24 frames for the Royals last season. He returned in late May from TJS, only to return to the DL in September (forearm). Poor control continues to undermine Duffy’s elite strikeout potential and good raw stuff while his xERA shows that walks and a high fly-ball rate won't lead him to much success. In 18 innings, Duffy has walked 10 batters, he’s dotted three others, he has a groundball/fly-ball split of 34%/39% and his xERA of 4.45 shows more risk than reward.

Bud Norris is a sneaky play that can pay dividends today. Norris' matchup against the Tigers earlier in the week resulted in seven strikeouts in 7.2 innings, giving up only five hits. Norris' 6.7 K’s per nine is far below previous seasons but the 9.2 K’s per nine in 75 innings over the second half of last season is a sign of an impending uptick in the strikeout department. The Royals are last in the AL with only 13 HR against RHP this season providing Norris with an opportunistic matchup to take advantage of.

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King Creole

Orioles / Royals Over 7

Home Plate Umpire: CHRIS SEGAL 5-0 O/U this season (15.2 runs-per-game)
3-0 O/U in American League games (15.7 rpg).
Opinion: OVER THE TOTAL


Oakland Athletics @ Cleveland Indians / 7:05pm ET - 4:05pm PT
Home Plate Umpire: JERRY LAYNE 5-1 O/U this season (10.2 runs-per-game)
3-0 O/U in American League Parks (12.7 rpg)
Opinion: OVER THE TOTAL

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, May 17

Chip Chirimbes

Blue Jays at Rangers
Play: Blue Jays -106

The Texas Rangers have now lost eight of their last 10 games at home and have been shutout in two of the last three. For the most part Texas is having trouble competing at their expected level as they have 13 players on the disabled list and it's taken its toll. Mark Buehrle (7-1, 2.04 ERA) is off to the best start of his career and is 13-5 with a 3.14 ERA in 22 career starts against the Rangers. Texas will start Robbie Ross (1-4, 5.04) because their pitching staff is so decimated with injuries. The Blue Jays are 7-1 in their last eight games as favorites.


Chip Chirimbes's Featured Package

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, May 17

Harry Bondi

HOUSTON (-115) over Chicago White Sox

You won’t find us on Houston much this season, particularly as a favorite, but we will back the Astros today in a play that is as much against White Sox starter Hector Noesi as it is on Houston. Noesi should not be in the major leagues. He has already been released by two teams this year and sports a 0-3 record with a 7.25 ERA for Chicago. Noesi did have a good outing in his last start but it was the first quality start he has had in the big leagues since June 24 of 2012! This afternoon’s Astros starter Jarred Cosart has pitched well this season with the exception of one disastrous outing at Oakland. Take Houston.

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Tony Karpinski

Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Arizona Diamondbacks    
Play: Los Angeles Dodgers -163 

LA Dodgers have some potent bats as well, with hard sluggers Adrian Gonzalez and Yasiel Puig, as they are exceptionally efficient squad getting a lot of bases. Arizona has a strong tendency for errors, sitting at the top end of the league, and this is not a team you can justify errors against. Collmenter is not a K master, he is a contact pitcher, playing ground out balls, and this game will not be in his favor. The problem, bottom line, is that the players in Arizona aren't as good as they are in LA. The D-backs lucked out a couple of times this season, but this won't be it, Kershaw will dominate them and the Dodgers win easily tonight.

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Dennis Macklin

Mets vs. Nationals
Play: Over 7

While neither of these teams respective offenses will be confused for the '27 Yankees, it's hard to see how oddsmakers came up with a total of seven for this one. Both of today's starters have been getting hit hard and there is not much reason to think that won't continue today. In fact, Bartolo Colon rocks an 8.30 ERA over his last three starts allowing 16 earned on 28 hits in his last 17 1/3 innings of work. Gio Gonzalez rocks a 5.60 ERA in his last three starts and was hammered by the A's in his last outing. Several techs point to the high here including the Mets infamous 6-0 over run on Saturdays. The Nats are 13-5 over vs division opponents. Barring a major turn in form by the starters, this one looks like it could go flying over the total.

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Bruce Marshall

Chicago White Sox at Houston Astros
Pick: Chicago White Sox

It is much easier for Chicago to score runs than it is for Houston, partly because the Pale Hose's 47 home runs rank among the most in the majors, and the three it's recorded while winning two in a row has helped the club regroup from a four-game losing streak. While Astros starter Jarred Cosart has pitched rather effectively in recent outings, the Houston offense cannot be counted upon for support, responsible in large part for the team's lowly 14-28 record. As long as the Astros continue to win at a .333 pace, their recommendation is too risky.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, May 17

Scott Delaney

My free play for tonight is on the Atlanta Braves against the St. Louis Cardinals, and I wan you to list both Aaron Harang and Shelby Miller, as the two rematch from an earlier season meeting on May 5.

The young rookie may have gotten the best of the Braves and Harang last week, Atlanta's 36-year-old veteran has seemingly found his groove and is now 4-3 with a 2.98 ERA after his six inning, two-run performance against the Cubs last Sunday.

Harang has fired a minimum of six innings and given up two or less runs in seven of his eight starts this season.

Atlanta has won nine of its last 12 against National League Central foes. List both pitchers in this one, and look for the Braves to earn this win.

2♦ ATLANTA

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, May 17

Craig Davis

Free play of the day on the Jays and Rangers to go over the posted total on a hot afternoon in Arlington, Texas.

These two teams usually give us a lot of offensive fireworks, but recently the totals have been around 7 1/2 runs and that's why we've seen four straight unders and six of seven under the number in this series.

So, curiously, why is today's total sitting at 9 and even 9 1/2 in some places? Because Vegas knows the deep history in this series and they know the two pitchers on the hill are more than capable of imploding in the early innings and giving up a lot of runs.

We've already seen Texas starter Robbie Ross do it on several occasions this year... and Toronto is an above average offensive team as they've gone over the posted number in 26 of 41 games played.

While Mark Buehrle's numbers are staggering through eight starts, don't let that fool you. Yes, he's been brilliant and probably one of the best pitchers in the American League... but he's also going to be pitching in the heat of Texas against a team that has beat him up in the past.

I like a lotta runs today boys... that's why I'm taking the over as your free play of the day.

2♦ TORONTO-TEXAS OVER

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, May 17

Jeff Benton

Your Saturday freebie is the Under in the lone interleague series on the board this weekend.

Last night's game was washed out, but my comp play still stands for today.

Pittsburgh visits the Yankees in the Bronx, and the Pirates are on an overall 3-1-1 Under run their last 5 games. The Bucs have also gone 6-1-2 Under the total in their last 9 road games.

The Yankees come home after a pair of low-scoring games with the Mets the past pair of nights, as their interleague Under mark is now 35-17 their last 52 games played against the National League.

The Under is 4-2-1 in Edinson Volquez' 7 season starts. He will work against David Phelps who has enjoyed success at Yankee Stadium, going 4-2 with a 3.66 ERA his 12 starts the previous two seasons.

Let's stay with the Under in the weekend opener in this Pittsburgh-New York series.

3♦ PITTSBURGH-N.Y. YANKEES UNDER

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, May 17

Gabriel Dupon

My free play for today is going to be the Washington Nationals over the visiting New York Mets.

Why the Nationals are the right play today - Washington looks to ride the arm of Gio Gonzalez, who has struggled this month after a strong showing in April. The southpaw has lost his last two decisions, including his last time out, when he allowed seven runs on nine hits in less than five innings. That's uncharacteristic of him, and I think he'll be on his best behavior tonight.

My the Mets will struggle in this game - After starting out like a poised veteran, Bartolo Colon's miscues are occurring one too many times, and have become a concern for the Mets. In three of his eight starts this season the right-hander has been rocked for seven or more runs. That includes his last time out, when he was punched for seven at Yankee Stadium.

In conclusion, why WASHINGTON is my SMART PLAY in this game - Washington will dominate offensively in this one, as the Mets have had too much trouble lately. When they scored twice in the fifth inning last night, it snapped a 22-inning scoreless streak, the Mets' second-longest drought of the month. The team also had a 23-inning scoreless streak last week, from May 5-9. They've been shut out two of the last three games.

Washington, meanwhile, has the 11th best ERA this month - 3.51 - and overall ranks 7th in the bigs with a 3.27 mark. And if Gonzalez isn't himself once again, the Nats have the third-best bullpen in the majors, as their relievers come in with a stifling 2.21 ERA. Take the Nationals

1♦ WASHINGTON

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