Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, August 15

Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, August 15

Chris Jordan

My free play is on the San Francisco Giants over the Philadelphia Phillies, as I love the home chalk.

Good spot here for the Giants, as the Phils arrive on a three-game losing streak, after droppping a season finale at home, to the Mets, then losing two in Anaheim to the Angels on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Overall, the Phils have lost five of six since Aug. 8, when their four-game set with the Mets began. They've been outscored by a combined 23-13 in the five losses.

San Fran is just 5-1/2 back of the frontrunning Los Angeles Dodgers, in the National League West, but more importantly to the Giants has to be the fact they're a half-game back in the wild-card race. Wins are of the urgency right now, and San Francisco will be looking for the sweep here.

1♦ SAN FRANCISCO

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, August 15

Brad Wilton

Free play for tonight is the Chargers in the underdog role at Seattle.

Look, I am not going to blow smoke up yer ass y'all, preseason football is a crapshoot from the word "go", but there is one thing I have learned in my years doing this, and that is that I do not feel comfortable laying this many points in what amounts to a practice game.

Seattle is the defending NFL champs, but they lost at Denver last Thursday night. That same night, the Chargers looked pretty sharp in their 27-7 home win and cover as the field goal favorite over the Cowboys.

I am sure Pete Carroll would like to win this one in front of the home crowd, but let's not kid ourselves. this game means more to the Bolts and second year coach Mike McCoy.

I will grab the generous points and look for San Diego to find the back door late in this late night game.

1♦ SAN DIEGO

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, August 15

Larry Ness

Cincinnati Reds at Colorado Rockies
Prediction: Cincinnati Reds

I played against the poor-traveling Reds last night and ON Jorge Del La Rosa, who has just a terrific record when pitching at Coors Fields. That combination provided a 7-3 win but tonight, I will play the Reds. Cincinnati has an “ace in the hole” tonight, despite having dropped 12 of their last 16 road games and 15 of their last 20 in Denver. Bottom line is, the Reds have been able to count on Johnny Cueto, who can take over the major league lead with his 15th victory Friday night. He’s 14-6 with a 2.05 ERA on the season. He leads the NL with a 0.91 WHIP, is second to Washington's Stephen Strasburg in the league with 181 strikeouts and has allowed opponents to bat just .182 against him. Cueto is 6-0 with a 2.23 ERA in his last seven starts, matching the longest single-season winning streak of his career from April 30-June 12, 2010.

The Rockies won’t have De La Rosa tonight but instead, will go with Franklin Morales (5-6, 4.97 ERA. He's 1-2 with a 3.31 ERA in six starts since re-joining the rotation July 3, which is a dramatic improvement from when he went 3-4 with a 6.13 ERA in 11 starts in the season's first two months before he was demoted to the bullpen. However, he’s NO match for Cueto. Take the Reds.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, August 15

Ross Benjamin

Chicago Cubs vs. New York Mets    
Play: New York Mets -138

The Mets starter Blake Wheeler has been in superb form over his last 8-starts as evidenced by a terrific 1.93 ERA in those outings. The Cubs starter Travis Wood has been terrible in 12-starts on the road in 2014 posting a very lofty 6.10 ERA and 1.78 WHIP. The Cubs are actually 3-games above the .500 mark when facing left-handed starters this season. However, they will be facing a right-hander tonight and they've gone a miserable 37-56 in the role in 2014.

Any money line favorite of -110 or more that's hitting .250 or less on the season, and they have an on-base-percentage of .300 or less over their last 15-games, versus a National League starting pitch with an ERA of 4.20 to 5.20, has gone 107-45 (70.4%) during the last 5-seasons.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, August 15

Jeff Alexander

Los Angeles Dodgers -169

The Brewers hit Greinke pretty good Saturday, but I expect him to have his revenge inside Chavez Ravine tonight.  Greinke has a 2.66 home ERA on the season, and the Dodgers are 20-5 in his last 25 home starts, 12-3 in his last 15 starts as a favorite of -151 to -200 and 7-1 in his last 8 home starts versus winning teams.  Kershaw outdueled Jimmy Nelson Sunday, and I like Greinke's chances of doing the same.  The Brewers have dropped 11 of 16 in the underdog role and 5 of 7 in the road dog role.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, August 15

Dave Price

Cleveland Indians -152

Cleveland has been a terrific investment in this price range, going 25-7 in its last 32 games as a favorite of -151 to -200.  It has also fared well at home versus left-handed starters, going 21-5 in the last 26.  I like its chances of getting to Baltimore's Chen, who hasn't been as sharp on the road (4.23 ERA).  Kluber has emerged into one of the top pitchers in baseball.  He has a 2.46 ERA on the season and has allowed just one earned run over his last four starts.  The Indians are 17-4 in his last 21 home starts, 21-6 in his last 27 starts as a favorite, 5-0 in his last five starts versus winning clubs and 6-0 in his last six starts versus AL East foes.  The Orioles are 15-35 in their last 50 meetings in Cleveland.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, August 15

Harry Bondi

SEATTLE (-6) over San Diego

Seahawks did not look good last week in losing to Denver 21-16. Head coach Pete Carroll is one of pre-season's best bets having gone 10-2 ATS during his tenure in Seattle. As a favorite, Pistol Pete's even better going a perfect 7-0 ATS. This is as high a line as you will see this pre-season and it's because the oddsmaker knows how much Carroll loves to win this pre-season games especially at home and especially in their first home game as Super Bowl champs, even if it's just the pre-season. Seattle is expected to give both candidates for the backup quarterback job Tavaris Jackson and Terrelle Pryor plenty of playing time so we should not see a Seahawk let down in the fourth quarter. Let's take the more motivated team at home to get us another pre-season winnner!

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, August 15

BONES BEST BETS

ANGELS RL (-1.5) -120

The Rangers are getting pounded night in and night out and tonight does not look good for them. Texas just lost their home series to the Rays three games to one, being outscored 25-7 along the way. The last met the Angels for a 4 game series in July where they lost all four games by a total score of 33-15! Now you have a no contest on the hill with Richards against Martinez to top it all off – this is a big bet here guys and we’ll be stunned if we do not cash this one.

PHILLIES ML +149

This line is crazy. Yes the Phillies are not a great we know but the Giants haven’t been any better of the last month plus. In fact, the Giants have lost 14 of their last 20 games. The Phillies have lost just 11 of their last 20. Now for the pitching matchup – Hamels vs Bumgarner. Hamels has been rock solid all year (2.27 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 1.55 road ERA, 1.07 road WHIP) while Bumgarner can’t pitch at home to save his life. He has not had a quality home start since June 10th and currently owns a 5.60 home ERA paired with a 1.56 home WHIP.

NATIONALS -1 +100

We have a lot of trends we like here. The Nationals are great at home with a 34-24 record. The Pirates are terrible on the road with a 25-34 record. The Nationals have have 3 straight and 6 of 8. The Pirates have lost 2 straight. Roark has been lights out giving up 1 earned run in 5 of 6 starts and 7 of 10 overall. The Nationals have also won 5 of his last 6 and 7 of his last 10 starts. Morton has struggled giving up at least 4 earned runs in 4 of 6. The Pirates have lost his last 4 starts and 7 of his last 10.

BREWERS @ DODGERS – UNDER 7 -105

The Brewers have went under in 8 of 11 games and the Dodgers have went under in 7 of 11 games. The Brewers have went under in 4 of Nelson’s 5 starts this year. The Dodgers have went under in 6 of Greinke’s last 7 starts. He also has a WHIP under 1.00 at home this year.

ROYALS ML -140

The Royals look to continue their red hot run, after taking 3 of 4 against the best team in baseball. Duffy has been great this season with a 1.09 WHIP and a 2.57 ERA. Meanwhile Nolasco for the Twins has been atrocious with a 1.62 WHIP and a 5.90 ERA. The Twins are just 25-30 at home this season while the Royals are a solid 33-26 on the road.

RAYS ML -127

Alex Cobb has fantastic stuff and the Rays are re hot with wins in 6 of 8. The Yankees meanwhile have dropped 4 in a row losing by 2+ every game. Tampa has won the past 4 meetings between these teams as well.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, August 15

Teddy Covers

Seattle Mariners +120

We’re not going to find James Paxton at an underdog price for much longer; let’s take advantage while we can. Paxton ranks among the most promising pitching prospects in baseball, only in his second start back off a three month stint on the DL with a ‘lat strain’. He was dominant in his first start back, needing only 77 pitches to get into the seventh inning while allowing just a single run. That’s picking up right where he left off before his injury; now 5-0 with a 1.93 ERA in eight starts over the last two seasons. Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon: “I’m so excited about Paxton. I think he’s going to be special for us down the stretch.”

The Tigers have lost six of their last nine to fall out of first place in the AL Central. One of those losses came with Rick Porcello in an ultra-rare relief appearance when he was forced into action in the Tigers 19 inning marathon against the Blue Jays last Sunday, a game where he took the loss. That takes Porcello completely out of his normal rhythm between starts. His quote: “I’ve come out of the bullpen before, (but) not really on a day where I’m sitting there watching the game not prepared to pitch at all.”

And, of course, there’s no comparison between these bullpens if this game is tight late. The Mariners bullpen ranks #1 in the AL in ERA, a dominant unit all year. The Tigers bullpen has been a consistent problem area, ranked #13 in the AL in ERA; a unit that just lost their trade deadline upgrade when Joakim Soria went on the DL.

Very quietly, the Mariners have been inching up in the standings, now just a half game behind Detroit and the LA Angels in the Wild Card race. They’ve won four straight and eight of their last nine; an emerging, surging team here in August. They’re worthy of support at this attractive underdog price.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, August 15

MLB Predictions

Angels -1.5 -115

Not only do the Rangers have some gas cans in their rotation, but it doesn't help either playing in this ballpark. It typically yields plenty of runs and their starting pitching has been doing that on a consistent basis. There are injuries galore for the Rangers, which has also been a problem for their offense. To demonstrate how difficult it can be sometimes to pitch in Texas, take for instance Nicholas Martinez. Martinez has a shoddy ERA of 5.22 overall, but I think a pitching machine may pose more of a challenge at home than Martinez does. He is averaging more than 2 runners on base per inning, as his 2.09 WHIP indicates. Also, his OBP is sky high with a .426. This all adds up to one poor ERA of 7.86 at home. It goes without saying that Martinez hasn't won a game at home, where he is 0-4. On occasion you' see numbers from a guy like this that has only pitched a few innings, but that isn't the case here, Martinez has 26.1 under his belt in Texas. Conversely, Garrett Richards is a polar opposite on the road of what Martinez is at home. Richards boasts an ERA of 1.91 on the road to go along with a 0.91 WHIP and .243 OBP. He`s been hot recently as well, entering with a 2.01 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, and .207 OBP his last three outings. In his last two he`s only given up a run and 8 hits. The Angels at 70-49 are looking at making some noise in October, meanwhile the 47-74 Rangers are booking vacations. Expect an easy Angels win here, so I`ll be on the -1.5 for 5 units Friday night.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, August 15

Andre Gomes

Los Angeles Angels -1.5 -130

We've faded the Rangers last night, and w/ tonight's pitching matchup Richards vs. Martinez I have no other choice than fading them once again.

We are dealing w/ a rested team that will face a struggling pitcher. After some rough performances, Nicholas Martinez is finally coming from a decent outing in which he allowed 2 ER's in 5IP's of work. Still, there are some red flags about that performance as his pitch count = ridiculous high 20.4 P/IP number! No wonder he couldn't pass the 5th inning even though he threw 102 pitches! He has already faced LAA lineup, so the "surprise factor" won't help him in here.

On the other end, Garrett Richards is coming from another decent performance. He has faced some potent offenses lately like DET, BAL or LAD and has been able to give his team a chance to win. With this pitching mismatch favoring LAA, I expect them to roll past the Rangers tonight.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, August 15

Against the Number

Chargers / Seahawks Under 38.5

It's not generally advisable to show your hand to your opponent before it REALLY matters. These two teams face off early in the regular season so I don't anticipate much in the way of opening up the play books here. Even in a preseason game, Seattle is a tough place to play and I expect the Seahawks defense to be playing pumped up tonight after the L in Denver last week. The Seahawks offense struggled against Denver but again, I don't think they come out of the gates firing on all cylinders and will let the defense do the work for them. This is a pretty low number but it may even go down a bit more before kickoff. I smell a 17-13 kind of game here and even though it's Seahawks -7, if they cover that I don't think it will be in a high scoring affair.

Oakland -2.5

To say that the Lions were sloppy last week would be an understatement. There's just something about that team that can't quite get it together. Also sloppy? The Raiders. Between those two games there was a SERIOUS amount of bad football being played. I do think however that Oakland was playing the far superior defensive squad, on the road, and thus I'm willing to give them a bit more of a pass. Raider fans are just begging for something to be positive about, and like Jags fans were treated to last night, I think they'll get to see their new franchise rookie QB step out some more tonight. Carr should get plenty of work tonight and I think he'll have some success against this questionable Lions team. Moore and Orlovsky were serviceable in moving the ball until it mattered last week, and that was in the friendly confines of Ford Field. Tonight will be a different atmosphere and I think the Lions struggle to get points again. Oakland takes this one 23-16 .

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, August 15

Vegas Butcher

Seattle Mariners +121

The key to this game is Seattle’s starter, James Paxton. In his 4 starts this season he has a 26% K-rate, 4.4 K/BB ratio, and 2.4 ERA. His FIP is at 3.6 due to him allowing 3 HR’s in his 22.2 innings this year but that’s an anomaly as a his GB-rate of 61% is one of the best in the league and I guarantee (it’s a LOCK J ) that his 33% HR/FB ratio will go down as the sample size increases. If Paxton had enough innings to qualify he’d rank as my 7th overall starter. That’s impressive. But what is even more impressive is that he’s gotten these numbers against CHW, BAL, and LAA twice, all top offensive squads. Paxton has a 4-pitch repertoire and I expect him to hold this struggling Detroit lineup off-balance. In the last 30-days Detroit ranks 18th offensively and has a wRC+ of 89. In the same time-span, Mariners have a wRC+ of 90.

Remember that Porcello was needed on 08/10, 3 days after his start on 08/07, to come in and pitch 2 innings of relief in a marathon game against Toronto. He threw 36 pitches in that one. He did have 4-days off prior to today’s start but pitchers tend to prefer a set routine and sometimes a shift from that could have an effect. Porcello will face a lefty-heavy Seattle lineup today. He has a 2.0 K/BB rate with a 4.1 xFIP against lefties, compared to a 5.2 K/BB with 3.3 against right-handers. In addition, he’ll have to face Austin Jackson, who is facing his old ‘mates for the very first time since he was traded. You know he’ll want to play well in this one and who knows, maybe he’ll have some ‘inside info’ to share with the Mariners as well.

Mariners have a huge advantage in the bullpen where they rank 1st overall while Detroit is 26th. Detroit also had Chamberlain pitch in 2 straight days and 4 times in the last 6, Coke pitched yesterday making it his 4th appearance in the last 5, and Detroit’s big move to upgrade the BP (Joakim Soria) is already on the DL. Joe Nathan will be available but his 5.11 ERA and 24 BB’s in 44 inn is a welcome sight. Mariners are 10-3 this year with a day-off, 9-3 in August, and 31-23 on the road. By comparison, Detroit is only 32-27 at home for -8.2 Units and I have them once again overvalued tonight.

Oakland Athletics +118

Hammel gets to face a National League team and I can hear him screaming for joy. He had a 2.98 ERA in the NL and a 5.9 ERA once he joined the AL. Well today he’s going up against an Atlanta team that ranks 26th offensively against righties. Hammel has allowed 1 ER in his last 12 innings and had 7 K’s in that span. The 6 BB’s he’s issued in these 2 games is a concern but he didn’t have an issue dominating Atlanta earlier this year (7 inn / 2 ER / 5 K to 1 BB) so I expect a solid outing from him tonight as well.

As far as Wood is concerned, he’s been sensational lately (3 ER’s in 20 innings), but he won’t be facing an ARZ, or a HOU, or a NYM, or a SEA, or a SD lineup today. He’ll be going up against the 6th best offensive team in the league that will have mostly right-handers in their lineup. Wood is coming off an extremely strong, but also strenuous outing on Sunday night, where he allowed only 1 ER while striking out 12 in 7.1 innings of work. In the process he threw 124 pitches, by far the most he’s thrown in his short MLB career. I wonder how he’s going to respond against the best team in all of baseball. Wood relies on his ‘curveball’ to be effective but the A’s rank top-10 offensively against the pitch. If he can’t properly utilize this ‘curve’, I don’t see his 90 mph fastball being very effective in this one. Wood has a 1.1 HR/9 rate against right-handers (compared to 0.5 for lefties) and there’s only 5 teams in the majors that have hit more homers than the A’s.

Oakland is 23-13 against lefties and 10-2 in inter-league play this year while Atlanta is only 4-10. Braves are also only 3-9 in August and have had a tough time beating ‘better’ teams lately. I like the A’s to get the job done tonight especially since they’re 30-18 after a loss this season.

Los Angeles Angels -1.5 -130

When a terrible pitcher like Martinez gets his first win in 3 months, you take notice and see if you can fade him in his next start. Since June, Martinez has an ERA of 7.2, with a 1.9 HR/9 rate, and a 1.0 K/BB ratio. He ranks 168th out of 168 pitchers in my database and his 6.0/5.7/5.7 FxS all rank 168th as well. Now he’ll take on an Angels team that had a day off yesterday, have their best starter on the mound (Richards is #17 overall), have a bullpen that ranks #1 in the last 30-days, and most importantly are featuring a #1 offensive unit in all of baseball. With Angels getting all of their 27 outs tonight they’ll have maximum chances to score runs in this one. And even if Martinez is ‘on’ once again, he typically does not last past the 5th inning so the Angels will be hitting against Rangers’ 24th ranked BP for almost half of this game. Checking on Richards’ current form, over the last 30-days he has had a 4.3 K/BB ratio, 0.3 HR/9, 53% GB-rate, and 2.5/3.1/3.2 FxS. Basically he’s in top-form today and should be able to dominate this 26th ranked Rangers lineup. There are multiple ways that this play can hit, as either Richards dominates this Rangers lineup or LA’s offense goes off (or BOTH of course) and I think this is a very strong RL play tonight.

Minnesota Twins +134

Nolasco is coming off the DL so he should be well rested for this one. He was sharp in his rehab work in the minors compiling 8K’s through 9 innings of work. Royals sometimes hit like a ‘minor league’ team so he could have a good game today. He got shelled @ KC this year (11 hits and 5 ER’s) but managed to hold the Royals to only 2 ER’s on 13 hits in 14 innings (2 starts) at home. Duffy has also pitched well ‘on the surface’ against MIN this year allowing 2 ER’s in 10.1 innings on 8 hits as a starter. He had 6 BB’s in his last outing against the Twins but managed to work around that. Somehow he allowed 4 hits and issued 6 BB’s in 5.2 innings but only allowed 1 ER. In his 15.2 total innings (some were in relief) against the Twins he allowed 8 hits and issued 9 BB’s but only 2 ER’s. In MLB, the average is 36% of base-runners scoring over the course of a season, so his total runs allowed to the Twins should have been over 6 based on 17 base-runners. Clearly he’s been “dodging some bullets”. Will 3rd time be the charm? Duffy didn’t see Mauer in that last outing and he’ll be available today. In addition, Duffy’s 5.0 xFIP for the 2nd half of the season is 3 runs higher than his 2.0 ERA – regression alert! Duffy’s season long ERA of 2.6 is already deflated (4.0/4.6/4.5 FxS with .227 BABIP and 80% strand-rate) but it’s even more deflated just in the 2nd half. So will today be the day when Duffy’s numbers start regressing a bit? Twins rank 9th offensively in the last 30-days and their 125 wRC+ over the last 2 weeks is 2nd in the league (only behind the Orioles’ 135). They are hitting the ball well right now averaging double-digits in hits over the last 6 games. Duffy also had a SIERA of 5.1 and 7.3 in his two starts against Minnesota this season, which is an indication that they’ve hit him hard, just a bit unlucky. At the current price, there’s a lot of value on the home team and I’m going bite. I expect a strong outing from Nolasco and for the Twinkies to plate some runs off Duffy tonight.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, August 15

OC Dooley

Yankees / Rays Over 7

The Rays pitching staff has just set an all-time American League record holding the opposition to “three or less” runs in an amazing 18 consecutive games on the road. However their most recent trip on the highway has just ended which makes this a “law of averages” wager now that Tampa is back in front of the HOME fans.  The oddsmakers had now choice but to low-ball tonight’s total due to an excellent pitching matchup that includes veteran Brandon McCarthy (TWO ERA since being acquired in a trade by the Yankees).  But the bottom line is that New York is in desperate need of OFFENSE and are coming off a much need off-day for this veteran contingent that in the offseason spent $283 million on free-agents Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran.  During their current 0-4 losing skid the Yankees offense has crossed the plate only seven times while batting a paltry .164 collectively.  As mentioned earlier that has deflated tonight’s spot for which I am taking advantage. Throwing out the ceremonial first pitch tonight is a local high school baseball coach who is retiring after 43 years.  Pop Cuesta previously mentored ex-Rays offensive talent such as Fred McGriff and Tino Martinez.  The current Rays offense may be struggling but they did get a pair of TWO-RUN HOMERS last night including one from veteran Evan Longoria

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