Free Picks: Service Plays for Monday, May 19

Free Picks: Service Plays for Monday, May 19

DUNKEL INDEX

NBA

Oklahoma City at San Antonio
The Spurs open up their Western Conference finals series at home tonight against a Thunder team that is 10-1-1 ATS in its last 12 games against San Antonio. Oklahoma City is the pick (+5 1/2) according to Dunkel, which has the Spurs favored by only 2 1/2. Dunkel Pick: Oklahoma City (+5 1/2).

Game 503-504: Oklahoma City at San Antonio (9:00 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Oklahoma City 123.499; San Antonio 125.755
Dunkel Line & Total: San Antonio by 2 1/2; 203
Vegas Line & Total: San Antonio by 5 1/2; 209
Dunkel Pick: Oklahoma City (+5 1/2); Under

NHL

NY Rangers at Montreal
The Canadiens look to bounce back from their 7-2 thrashing in Game 1 and come into tonight's contest with a 9-2 record in their last 11 games after scoring 2 goals or less in their previous game. Montreal is the pick (-130) according to Dunkel, which has the Canadiens favored by 1 1/2. Dunkel Pick: Montreal (-130)

Game 5-6: NY Rangers at Montreal (8:00 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: NY Rangers 12.480; Montreal 13.807
Dunkel Line & Total: Montreal by 1 1/2; 4
Vegas Line & Total: Montreal (-130); 5
Dunkel Pick: Montreal (-130); Under

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DUNKEL INDEX

MLB

Milwaukee at Atlanta
Brewers head to Atlanta tonight to open their series against a Braves team that is 0-6 in Mike Minor's last 6 starts as a favorite of -110 to -150. Milwaukee is the pick (+110) according to Dunkel, which has the Brewers favored by 1. Dunkel Pick: Milwaukee (+110).

Game 951-952: Cincinnati at Washington (7:05 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Cincinnati (Leake) 14.217; Washington (Strasburg) 15.762
Dunkel Line: Washington by 1 1/2; 8
Vegas Line: Washington (-175); 6 1/2
Dunkel Pick: Washington (-175); Over

Game 953-954: Milwaukee at Atlanta (7:10 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Milwaukee (Peralta) 15.659; Atlanta (Minor) 14.794
Dunkel Line: Milwaukee by 1; 6
Vegas Line: Atlanta (-130); 7
Dunkel Pick: Milwaukee (+110); Under

Game 955-956: Detroit at Cleveland (7:05 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Detroit (Smyly) 16.483; Cleveland (Kluber) 13.933
Dunkel Line: Detroit by 2 1/2; 6
Vegas Line: Detroit (-120); 7 1/2
Dunkel Pick: Detroit (-120); Under

Game 957-958: Chicago White Sox at Kansas City (8:10 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: White Sox (Carroll) 15.594; Kansas City (Vargas) 14.662
Dunkel Line: Chicago White Sox by 1; 10
Vegas Line: Kansas City (-170); 8 1/2
Dunkel Pick: Chicago White Sox (+150); Over

Game 959-960: Houston at LA Angels (10:05 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Houston (Keuchel) 15.061; LA Angels (Richards) 14.144
Dunkel Line: Houston by 1; 9
Vegas Line: LA Angels (-210); 7 1/2
Dunkel Pick: Houston (+185); Over

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Art Aronson

Cincinnati Reds vs. Washington Nationals    
Play: Washington Nationals -170

The Reds are missing two of their best hitters and I believe will struggle to score runs vs. the home side’s ace. The visitors send Mike Leake (2-3, 3.09 ERA) to start this series; the right-hander was left with a no-decision despite holding the Padres to one run over eight innings in his team’s eventual loss Tuesday. Note that Leake has pitched well in three straight starts but has been the victim of poor run support. And note that Leake has struggled against the Nationals of late, going 1-3 with an ERA of over 7.00. The Nationals counter with Stephen Strasburg (3-3, 3.48 ERA) who has not been as sharp as we would usually expect from him, but who has pitched much better lately. Strasburg is 2-1 with a 1.89 ERA in his last five outings. While the pitching looks to be a bit of a wash here numbers wise, the Nationals are the favorite here for a reason. Cincinnati has totaled just eight runs while batting .164 in its last four, and went 1 for 16 with runners in scoring position on Sunday. Also note, Cincinnati has dropped seven of eight games on the road and is 3-8 at Nationals Park since the start of 2011. As mentioned off the top, throw in the fact that Cincinnati will also be without the services of sluggers Joey Votto and Jay Bruce, I believe that Strasburg and the Nats are definitely worth the price of admission tonight. Consider a play on Washington.


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Nick Parsons

Chicago White Sox vs. Kansas City Royals    
Play: Kansas City Royals -164

I believe the home side has a couple of distinct advantages working in its favor today and think it’s worth a second look in this particular match-up.

These teams are currently trending in oppositing directions.

The White Sox come to town having lost six of their last eight and it wouldn’t appear to get any easier for them tonight after placing rookie slugger Jose Abreu on the 15-day DL with an ankle issue. If you didn’t know, Abreu is among MLB’s leaders with 15 home runs and 42 RBI’s thus far.

Chicago looked brutal without Abreu in getting spanked 8-2 in Sunday’s series finale in Houston.

The Royals are coming off an 8-6 win over Baltimore yesterday and would also take two of three from the White Sox at Kauffman Stadium back on April 4th-6th.

KC looks to take advantage of White Sox starter Scott Carroll (1-3, 5.24 ERA); Carroll has lost three straight, his last two outings have been of the “horrific” variety as he’s given up 12 total runs off 22 hits spanning just nine innings of work.

The home side counters with Jason Vargas (4-1, 3.00 ERA), who has been lights out of late, posting a tiny 1.32 ERA in winning his last two starts.

Note that Vargas dominated the White Sox in his lone outing against them last year, going seven shutout frames in the victory.

All signs point to a comfortable Royals victory.

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Rob Vinciletti

Rangers vs. Canadiens
Play: Under 5

This series resumes here tonight with the NY. Rangers holding a 1-0 lead courtesy of their 7-1 game one win on Saturday afternoon. In that game the Rangers put away a Montreal team that appeared disorganized on defense with several breakdowns. The Rangers score in bunches and had the game put away early ion the 3rd period. The Rangers outburst was a surprise to many as they scored just 1 goal in 3 games this season vs Montreal. Now they head into game 2 which should be much tougher. In fact as seen below. All road teams in game 2 of this round are 18-32 good for 36% off a game 1 road win. The Rangers are on an 0-5 run in game 2 of a 7 game series off a win and are a dismal 0-12 when leading in a playoff series. However, the Rangers take the fewest amount of penalties in the league and have the #3 power play kill unit. They have played excellent defense and have Lundquist in goal. New York has won 4 straight games and have allowed 2 or less goals in each of those wins. This should be a closely contested game and 7 of the last 8 between these two teams have had 5 or less goals scored. Look for this one to be close late with goals at a premium in what should be a solid game. We will lean with the under 5 goals.


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Jim Feist

Brewers at Braves
Pick: Under 7

Battle of division leaders here on Monday as the Brewers travel to Georgia to face the Braves. What surprises me most about Atlanta is the fact that they are in first place while scoring the least runs in the National league (134). In fact, they rank 30th overall in baseball in runs scored, 28th in batting average (.231) and 29th in on base percentage (.289). Not numbers you would normally expect out of a first place club. It's been the pitching staff that is the real reason for their success, allowing a league best 3.15 runs per game. The staff also is 1st in the NL in team ERA (2.84), 1st in WHIP (1.167) and 2nd best in home runs allowed (27). Mike Minor made his season debut recently and has been decent in his three starts with a 1-2 record and 4.24 ERA. But it's his last start that has me impressed as he held the Giants to just three hits and no runs over 6 2/3 innings. Moreover, Minor has a very good KO to walk ratio as he's struck out 16 versus just four walks. The Brewers have lost two straight games, but still have a four game cushion in the NL Central with a 27-17 record. Wily Peralta has been a shining star for the staff this season with a 4-2 mark, 2.05 ERA and 1.10 WHIP. Peralta has allowed just three earned runs over his last 21 innings of work though the club could only go 1-2 in those excellent outings. The last six meetings between these teams have gone UNDER and four of the last five meetings in Atlanta have gone UNDER. I don't look for that to change here on Monday with two very good pitchers and a Braves team that is struggling at the plate.

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Chase Diamond

Detroit Tigers vs. Cleveland Indians    
Play: Cleveland Indians +100 

This game has the 27-12 Tigers at the 19-25 Indians. Detroit is the better team here but not every team gets up for every game and this is one of those spots. Tigers have won 6 straight including a big emotional sweep against rival Boston in Boston. They should not be up for this game on the other side the Indians have lost 4 straight and really need the win tonight.Drew Smyly is pitching over his head and is due for a bad start Corey Kluber has been solid this year a 4-3 with a 3.38 ERA look for him to give the Indians the needed boost and win over the Tigers here today.


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Bryan Power

Milwaukee vs. Atlanta
Pick: Atlanta

The Braves avoided what would have been a three-game sweep in St. Louis w/ a 2-run rally in the ninth inning Sunday. For a team that has been struggling at the plate, scoring six runs yday was a step in the right direction.  Monday they'll welcome in another club w/ a slumping lineup, that being Milwaukee, who has scored only 19 runs in its last eight road games. The Brew Crew lost two of three over the weekend in Chicago and I expect them to continue to regress back to the pack in the short and long term.

Looking at tonight's pitching matchup, you might be initially inclined to give the edge to Wily Peralta of the Brewers.  But be aware that Atlanta's Mike Minor's numbers are skewed by one bad outing.  Last time out, he threw 6+ scoreless innings of three-hit ball, beating San Francisco 5-0.  Minor has a 1.35 ERA his L3 starts vs. Milwaukee.  Peralta also hasn't been getting much run support; the team has scored just five runs total in his last four starts.

If you take away a 6-0 road trip early in the year against Boston and Philadelphia, then the Brewers' numbers get a lot less impressive.  They are just 2-6 their last 8 on the road.  They have failed to score in 24 of their last 25 innings overall.

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SPORTS WAGERS

Detroit -104 over CLEVELAND

Let’s see if we have this straight. The Tigers have won six in a row and seven of their last eight and they just swept the Red Sox at Fenway. The Indians drew about 12,000 fans to a Sunday afternoon game yesterday and lost 13-3 for their fourth straight loss. Over their last three games, the Tribe has been outscored, 30-5. Cleveland’s staff has allowed four runs or more in eight straight and five runs or more in six of those. Now we get a chance to back the Tigers at a pick’em? Pencil us in. Indeed Cory Kluber is outstanding and that’s why the Indians are favored but that’s not going to deter us in the least. Kluber is pitching for a bumbling baseball team that can’t do anything right. The Indians bullpen is awful, their defense is brutal, (they lead the league in errors) and the offense can’t score runs. That puts added pressure on the starter, as he feels he needs to be near perfect to get a win.

Cleveland’s offense has scored three runs or fewer 24 times in 44 games. Against southpaws, that number gets even worse, as the Indians are 4-11 against lefties and have just 99 hits in 468 plate appearances (.212) for the worst BA against southpaws in the majors. That’s more bad news here, as Cleveland will face lefty Drew Smyly. Smyly is a hard-throwing lefty who is looking to break out as a starter. His K rate/9 has slipped only slightly from last season (8.1 this year, 9.6 last year) but that was expected as he transitioned full time into the Tigers rotation. Smyly is also maintaining a solid WHIP (1.11) on par with last year's 1.04 WHIP. Smyly now owns a 2.70 ERA to go along with his 1.11 WHIP and 30 K's in 33.1 innings spread across five starts this season. Smyly is getting better and stronger with each passing start and has an opportunity to breeze through this weak lineup. If Kluber has an outstanding outing and Cleveland manages to score a couple and win the game, so be it. However, in terms of value at this very moment, we’ll play the Tigers against Cleveland at a pick-em every single time and make no exception here. 


Milwaukee +114 over ATLANTA

Wily Peralta has been quietly cruising along, as he ranks 4th in the NL with a 2.05 ERA through eight starts. Peralta is not overpowering (6.7 K’s/9) but he maintains a strong ground ball tilt (52%) with fabulous control. Over his last five starts, Peralta has walked five and struck out 26 over 34 frames. What even more impressive about Peralta is that six of his eight starts have been at hitter friendly Miller Park. There’s a very good chance of him thriving in Atlanta to face a Braves team that has been surprisingly lackluster on offense, tied for last in the majors with 93 runs against RHP.

Mike Minor missed all of April and has started three games since—the last two of which were drastically different results. He struggled against the Cardinals at home, serving up six earned runs on 11 hits and followed that up with a masterful win on the road versus the Giants, giving up only three hits and striking out six. Minor is known to give up a long ball or two and faces a Brewers squad that is fifth in the NL with 30 home runs. Furthermore, Minor’s groundball/line-drive/fly-ball profile of 35%/35%/30% suggests a pitcher that is a step or two behind the rest of the league. Wagering against the combination of Mike Minor and the Braves offense has to be considered one of the best value plays on today’s short menu.


KANSAS CITY -1½ +115 over Chicago

The White Sox are a team in deep trouble. They’re coming off a series loss to the Astros and now have two wins over their past eight games. What little offense they did possess (Jose Abreu) is now on the 15-day DL. The South Side has struck out more times (409) than any team in baseball and they’ve continued that trend by striking out more times (92) than any team in baseball over their last 10 games. One has to wonder how the White Sox are going to generate any offense in this one. Jason Vargas has been very solid through nine starts this year - a 3.00 ERA, 1.12 WHIP and only 11 walks in his 60 innings pitched. Outside of back-to-back beatings by the Tigers and Blue Jays (12 ER, 21 H in 11.1 IP), Vargas has been near flawless with just 35 hits allowed and eight earned runs in 58.2 innings.

Slowly but surely the Royals bats are waking up. They hung up an eight yesterday and prior to the series against the Orioles they scored 25 runs in six games and five or more in three of those. K.C. figures to score a bunch more today against one of the worst starters in the game. Scott Carroll is holding on to his rotation spot by a string after serving up six earned runs in each of his last two starts. Carroll has struck out only seven batters in 22 innings which is remarkably lower than the already low strikeout rate he had at Triple-A Charlotte in April. After this start, you will not be able to fade Carroll again because he’s headed back to the minors as soon as Chris Sale is activated off the DL later this week. Carroll has a WHIP of 1.75. Over his last two starts his WHIP was 2.40, meaning he’s been pitching with the bases loaded almost every inning he’s in there. To make matters worse, the Royals have struck out the least amount of times in the majors (234) meaning they are going to get their cuts and make contact here. If Carroll gets extremely lucky, he’ll allow four runs or more. If his luck isn’t so good, he won’t make it out of the third inning and the South Side are not in a position to play catch-up.

Pass NHL

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Tony George

Milwaukee +115

Short and Sweet here.  The Braves have issues hitting right handers and Wily Peralta is solid on the hill for the Brew Crew.  52 innings pitched with a 2.05 ERA and in his last 3 games a 1.29 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP, both very solid numbers.  Neither team lighting it up on offense.

Both teams on free falls, but losing 2 out of 3 against the Cubs over the weekend for Milwaukee will have them focused and Atlanta off 2 brutal road series against San Fran and St. Louis.  Contrarian Play but I like the Brewers here in a low scoring game.  A Sniff UNDER 7 here would not hurt you either.

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Bruce Marshall

Houston Astros at Los Angeles Angels
Pick: Houston Astros

The Astros strangely dominated the Halos in Anaheim last season, winning 6 of the last 7 games played at the Big A. The task will be tough on Monday against hot Angels starter Garrett Richards, but Houston has been swinging the bats effectively, winning 5 of its last 7 games while batting .298 and averaging 4.8 runs in the last eight. Lefty starter Dallas Keuchel gives the Astros a chance if he can pitch as well as he has the past two games, when he allowed a combined two runs, 13 hits and no walks over 16 2/3 innings in winning vs. the potent Rangers and Tigers. Houston is also 4-1 in Keuchel's last five starts.

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Ben Burns

NY Rangers vs. Montreal Canadiens    
Play: Montreal Canadiens -114 

The Canadiens were embarrassed in Game 1. They know they can ill afford to drop both home games out of the gate and they should bounce back with a much better effort in Game 2.

The Rangers have been terrible when leading in a playoff series, over the years. On the other hand, the only time that the Habs were trailing in the playoffs this year, they responded with a 4-0 victory.

The Canadiens are 16-11 (+3.5) after allowing four or more goals in their previous game and they're 21-11 (+9.8) when attempting to avenge an earlier loss.

While there's a lot of talk about Montreal's #1 goalie Carey Price being injured, I tend to agree with NY coach Alain Vigneault who was quoted: "I'm sure Price is going to be there, so we're getting ready for him."

That said, I feel that getting the Habs at home at roughly a "pick'em" price, is offering solid value. Consider Montreal.

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Jimmy Boyd

Atlanta Braves -123

Atlanta was able to put their 3-game losing streak to rest with a 6-5 win on Sunday. Atlanta ended up going just 2-4 on their 6-game road trip and I believe that poor stretch has them showing some great value at home, where they have won 4 of their last 5 and are a solid 13-8 on the season.

Atlanta's will send out Mike Minor, who comes in with a less than impressive 1-2 record with a 4.24 ERA and 1.471 WHIP. The thing you have to keep in mind is that Minor has made just 3 starts so far this season. He's actually had two great starts and one poor outing against the Cardinals. In his most recent start he allowed just 3 hits over 6 2/3 shutout innings. Adding to this is the fact that Minor has a 2.96 ERA and 1.069 WHIP over 4 career starts against the Brewers.

Favorites with a money line of -110 or higher with a bullpen that averages less than 2.75 innings per game against opponent with a starting pitcher whose ERA is 3.00 or better on the season (NL) are 294-153 since 1997. That's a 66% system in favor of the Braves. Take Atlanta!

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Steve Janus

Cleveland Indians -103

The fact that Cleveland is favored in this game really says a lot about how strong the oddsmakers feel about their chances of winning this game. With the Indians having lost 4 straight and the Tigers having won 6 in a row, the public is going to be all over Detroit in this matchup. This is a difficult spot for the Tigers. They just played last night in Boston in a big game on Sunday Night Baseball. They had to quickly fly to Cleveland, where they will face a very motivated Indians team that desperately needs to get something going.

Hard to not like Cleveland at home with Corey Kluber on the mound. Kluber is 2-1 with a strong 2.43 ERA and 1.011 WHIP at home and comes in with a 2.08 ERA and 0.877 WHIP over his last three starts. In his last 3 starts against the Tigers, all at home, Kluber has allowed just 5 earned runs on 19 hits over 20 innings.

Key Trends/System - Kluber is 13-2 in his last 15 starts against a team that draws 3 or less walks/game. Adding to this is home teams who are a below average hitting team (AVG <=.265) against a very good starting pitcher (ERA <=3.50) -AL, with a hot starting pitcher- WHIP <= 1.000 over his last 3 starts are 92-54 (63%) over the last 5 seasons.

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Sam Martin

Rangers at Canadiens
Prediction: Under

While the Rangers 7-2 blowout victory in Game One obviously went well over the posted total, we are going to come back with an "Under" play tonight, expecting this series to now settle down and play out more like the matchups of the regular season.

These teams met three times in the regular season with a combined four goals scored in all three of those games - less than half of the total scored in Game One! All three of those games saw the losing team get shut out, and both the Rangers and Canadiens did play very good defense down the stretch of their previous series. Defense becomes the main focus again tonight as this one stays well under the total.

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Jesse Schule

Rangers at Canadiens
Prediction: Under

The Canadiens were embarrassed on home ice in the series opener, and I'm expecting to see a completely different game here tonight. The news out of Montreal is that Carey Price is nursing a knee injury, but Rangers coach Alain Vigneault isn't buying it: "I'm sure Price is going to be there, so we're getting ready for him."

If Price can't go, the Habs will turn to Peter Budaj who was 10-8 with a 2.51 GAA during the regular season.

Prior to Game 1, these teams had failed to go over the total in nine straight meetings. The Rangers have just two wins in the last 11 meetings in Montreal, and low scoring games have been the trend in those games.

The Rangers saw the total go under at a rate of 5-2-1 in their previous eight games before this series started, and both teams trended toward low scoring games during the regular season.


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Jeff Scott Sports

TOP PLAY

3 UNIT PLAYS

San Antonio/ Oklahoma City Under 209.5: These teams played twice in San Antonio this year and both games were high scoring, but I see this one a bit different as the Spurs come in playing great defense and the Thunder are weakened offensively with the loss of Ibaka, plus the Thunder do have the ability to play solid defense as they have allowed just 100.6 ppg on the road this year. Yes the will miss the Presence of Ibaka on defense, but I still feel they can get the job done without him. The Spurs have allowed just 97.1 ppg on their home floor this year and just 95.4 ppg in their last 5 games overall. The Under is 6-2 the last 8 meetings and the Under is 14-5 when the Spurs face a team that put up 100+ points in their previous game. I say this one is played under 205 points.


Atlanta/ Milwaukee Under 7 (-125) The Atlanta offense has been very weak this year, ranking 29th in scoring averaging 3.21 rpg on the year and they have scored just 3.19 rpg at home so far. Now they come home off a road trip and will be facing Wily Peralta, who has a 1.29 ERA in his last 3 starts and he has an 0.69 ERA in 2 career starts vs the Braves (both last year). Can't see the Braves offense breaking out in this one. Mike Minor has had 1 bad start and 2 good starts, since coming off the DL and he has a 2.96 ERA in 4 career starts vs the Brewers and we also note that the Brewers hit just .241 off of lefties on the road. This has been a very low scoring series of late with the Under going 8-1 the last 9 meetings. Those 9 games have averaged just 4.3 rpg, with 7 of the games putting up no more than 5 runs. The Under is also 12-3-1 in Atlanta's last 16 home games and the Under is 7-1 in Peralta's 8 starts this year. This one should be a nice pitcher's duel with no more than 5 runs scored.


1 UNIT PLAY

LA Angels/ Houston Under 7.5: A lot of times when you have these big favorites something happens to the offenses as they really go into a shell and I see this one as no different. The Halo know the don't have to score a whole lot here to win this one as their staff has held the Astros to 2 runs or less in 5 of the last 6 meetings, and that includes holding them to just 1 run in 3 of the 4 meetings this year. Garrett Richards held them to 1 run in an earlier meeting this year and overall he has been pitching very well this year. posting a 2.42 ERA through 8 starts. Dallas Keuchel has also been pitching will this year as he comes in with a 3.06 ERA overall and a 2.18 ERA in his 3 road starts so far. He is getting better as he has a 2.38 ERA and an 0.88 in his last 3 starts. His worst outing of the year was vs these Halo's so I expect him to come back with a very focused effort here. Should see no more than 6 runs in this one.

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Rob Veno 

Cincinnati at Washington
Play: Under 6.5

Strong starting pitching matchup in this contest between Mike Leake and Stephen Strasburg figures to go according to form. Cincinnati is obviously bogged down offensively with the absence of their top run production sources Joey Votto and Jay Bruce and not having those strong LH bats magnifies things tonight. Yesterday vs. Philadelphia’s Cliff Lee, the Reds righty dominated lineup banged out 10 hits which resulted in three runs but against the RH Strasburg those bats aren’t likely to make as much noise. Starsburg has been terrific at home thus far posting a 3-1 mark with a 2.30 ERA as opposed to his 5.09 on the road. The last four home starts by Strasburg have been dominant as indicated by his combined statistical line of 27 IP, 38-6 K:BB, and 1.67 ERA. Tonight’s situation is set up perfectly for him to record another stellar outing. Not to be outdone, Cincinnati’s Mike Leake has been every bit as good as Strasburg and in some areas even better. Leake’s record is far from indicative of his starts this season as run support has denied him more wins and his heavy ground ball tendencies (101 GB, 43 FB) match up well. Much like Strasburg, Leake is in tremendous current form allowing just 5 runs in his last three starts which total 23 innings. His 1.96 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 13.3 PPI, 0 HR & 21 TBA during this stretch all signal a tough night for the Washington lineup. The Reds bullpen is very well rested heading into this one and Washington’s is in solid shape as well so expect the back third of the game to be sealed pretty tightly. Oddmakers threw a 6.5 up for the total on this one which always makes bettors think twice about playing under but the groundwork is present here for a 3-2 final.

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DAVE COKIN

CINCINNATI REDS AT WASHINGTON NATIONALS
PLA: WASHINGTON NATIONALS -170 & -1.5 +130

I’m recommending a split play here, with half on the money lion and half on the runs line.

The Reds are in trouble right now. Jay Bruce was already down and now Joey Votto has joined him on the sidelines. Simply stated, the Reds are pretty punchless at this point and as a result, they’re going to have a good chance at getting overmatched by power pitchers such as the one they’ll have to face this evening.

The Reds did next to nothing with the sticks this weekend at Philadelphia. Devin Mesoraco hit a three-run bomb in the first inning on Friday night. The Reds crossed home plate only four times in 26 subsequent innings against the Phllies. Prospects of breaking the slump tonight sure seem limited with Stephen Strasburg on the mound for the Nationals.

As for Washington, they might not be in an explosive scenario here, either. They’re in pretty tough with gritty Mike Leake on the hill for the Reds. Leake doesn’t have top shelf stuff but this guy battles about as well as anyone and he’s in good form right now.

The total is right where it’s supposed to be, so I can’t see where choosing Over or Under is any more than a flip of the coin. To me, the right play here is to create a -1 line. I don’t really like spotting -1.5 with so many one-run games getting played. But laying a full unit at roughly -170 is well above my threshold. So the maneuver is to split the play between the money line and the runs line, thus manufacturing a -1 effectively.

So it’s Nationals -170 for half the play and -1.5 +130 for the other half as tonight’s free play.

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Jeff Alexander

Kansas City Royals -1½ +112

Here, we have a pair of teams heading in opposite directions.  I'll take the team on the upswing, especially since it has the better starter on the mound.  The White Sox have dropped 6 of 8 while the Royals have won 8 of 12.  Chicago sends Scott Carroll to the mound, and he's 0-3 in his last 3 starts with a 7.20 ERA.  Each of these defeats came by at least 2 runs with the last 2 coming by 7 and 11.  Kansas City's Jason Vargas is 4-1 with a 3.00 ERA.  The Royals have won his last 2 starts and are 4-1 in his home starts this season.  3 of the home victories came by 2 runs or more.  Take the Royals on the run line.

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