Free Picks: Service Plays for Tuesday, August 12

Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Tuesday, August 12

Kevin Rogers

Twins at Astros
Play: Twins

The Twins go for their third straight win tonight after knocking off the Astros on Monday, 4-2 with two runs in the ninth inning. The Astros are just 1-7 in Collin McHugh's last eight starts, as the only win came at Minnesota as a short underdog back in June. Yohan Pino lost his last outing against Jon Lester and the A's, but the righty has shown signs of promise as a steady part of the Minnesota rotation heading into the final six weeks. I'll back the Twins to beat the Astros.

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Tom Barton

St. Louis vs Miami
Pick: St. Louis -145

Adam Wainwright against Jared Cosart sounds like a mismatch and it is but let's see how much so. Wainwright has had a few bumps in his season but they have oddly all come at home. Wainwright though has baseballs best road ERA this year. He is 9-3 in 13 starts with a 1.32 ERA on the road. In his 12 road starts he has 7 shutouts and only one team has scored more than 2 runs. Now on the other side we have Jared Cosart. Cosart is coming off of missing a start because of back issues but that isn't his only problem. Cosart is 1-3 in his last 5 starts with an ERA just shy of 8. While the Marlins may get a couple runs off Wainwright at home I fully expect a well pitched game and Cosart off a back injury and pitching terribly should allow the Cardinals to touch him up for enough to get a win here

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Teddy Covers

Baltimore -130

My clients and I cashed a couple of easy ‘right side’ winners with Baltimore last weekend as the Orioles continued their red hot post- All Star Break run.  And there’s absolutely no reason to think that the Orioles won’t continue their offensive barrage against Shane Greene and the struggling Yankees bullpen behind him this evening.

Baltimore is red hot right now; winners of each of their last six series.  The Orioles starting pitching and bullpen have been nothing short of outstanding in recent weeks.  And the Orioles lineup is clicking on all cylinders right now, pounding out ten runs or more three times in their last four games while leading the major leagues in home runs.  Yankees manager Joe Girardi following last night’s blowout loss: “It's tough. We know they swing the bats extremely well. They've got a lot of power in their lineup.”

That Orioles lineup will get a short turnaround second look at Greene tonight after he threw 7.1 innings of shutout ball against them last month.  Behind Greene, the Yankees pen got lit up again last night; bad news against Baltimore’s potent lineup.

The Yankees lineup isn’t capable of trading runs with strong offensive ballclubs, and they’re slumping right now, held to four runs combined in their last three ballgames, all losses.  And the Orioles have been winning for the underrated Wei-Yin Chen all year; 14-7 in his last 21 starts.  Ride the hot, fade the cold and be patient for potential delays on a rainy night in Baltimore.  Take the Orioles.

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SPORTS WAGERS

Winnipeg +3½ over TORONTO

The Argonauts are attracting some money in this one and we can certainly understand why. First, Toronto has had 11 days to prepare for this one while the Blue Bombers played at home on Thursday against the Roughriders. It’s highly irregular for any CFL team to play so early in the week after playing the previous week and it’s something the players are not accustomed to. Furthermore, the Bombers played an extremely sloppy game against Saskatchewan this past Thursday, turning the ball over five times with QB Drew Willy making one bad decision after another. There’s also the payback angle in play here, as Winnipeg hosted the Argos to open the year and blew them away, 45-21. Finally, the Bombers have always been the CFL’s least popular team. They have been basement dwellers for what seems like forever and they’re usually undervalued. Once again that applies here. Perhaps the situation is stacked against the Bombers but the good news is that they can erase last week’s sloppiness with a crisp and strong performance in this one. The Blue Bombers are 5-2 overall, they’re 3-0 on the road and they reside in the much tougher West. In fact, one can argue that they’ve been so much better on the road than they have at home with victories at B.C., Hamilton and Montreal. Drew Willy had a bad game last week but let’s not forget that he has just seven career starts in this league. Last week was a good lesson for him that he had to learn eventually. Despite losing the turnover battle 5-0 last week to the Riders, Winnipeg lost by just six points. You might watch another 100 games of football in any league before you see another team that has a chance to win it with less than five minutes remaining after being down 5-0 in turnovers.

Meanwhile, the Argos are coming off a 31-5 victory over the Alouettes. That game was 5-3 for the Als for a long time before Toronto scored a late TD just before the half and carried that momentum into the second half. When the game ended, Montreal had gone something like 48 straight possessions without scoring a TD. The CFL average over the past three years is a TD once every 4.6 possessions. Toronto has no running game and that’s the one area the Bombers defense has been vulnerable against. Winnipeg has done an excellent job defending the pass, ranking third in the CFL behind B.C. and Edmonton and the Argos are thin in the receiving corps. Take away the 21 points the Argos scored in the second half against a Montreal defense that has been on the field far too often and the Argos output by half over their last four games (seven halves not including the 4th Q against Montreal last week) is 9, 6, 7, 10, 6, 3 and 10. Andre Durie, Anthony Coombs and Chad Owens remain sidelined. Without that trio, the Argos have the least amount of offensive talent to catch and/or run with the ball than any team in the league. The Rogers Center has no football atmosphere. It’s half empty in weekend games (expect less tonight) with the fans spread throughout, meaning this is a great venue for the Bombers to bounce back in and that’s precisely how we’ll play it. If you’re on board, we would wait until later in the day to make this wager because the money is pouring in on the Double Blue, meaning we may get a better number.

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SPORTS WAGERS

Chicago -115 over SAN FRANCISCO

In a different venue we would play the White Sox spotting 1½-runs but the total in this game is 6, prompting us to lay the cheap price on Chicago. San Fran has lost four in a row and five of its past six. Over their past 20 games, the Giants are hitting .232. Ryan Vogelsong has a 3.28 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in 12 home starts. He’s coming off back-to-back gems against the Mets and Brewers in which he surrendered just two runs combined (one ER in each start) over 15 innings. None of it makes sense. Vogelsong is just one of those guys, like Jared Weaver and others that have been outpitching their skills for years. Vogelsong significantly outpitched his skills during his 2011-12 resurgence but this season his skills are actually worse. Over his last 30 innings, Vogelsong’s swing and miss rate is 5%. He has an overall 38%/38% groundball/fly-ball split but that, too, has dropped slightly to 36%/39% since the All-Star break. Vogelsong has been greatly aided by an 82% strand rate, a 0.7 hr/f and pitching half his games at AT&T Park. Those numbers are unsustainable and it should be noted that Vogelsong has a 4.37 road ERA to go along with a .286 BAA. Vogelsong is not a relevant pitcher. Wagering on him is a dart throw and he’ll now face a White Sox team that you may be surprised to learn, is leading the majors with a BA of .288 over the past 20 games.

The South Side has lost 63 games this year. Chris Sale has lost two games. That’s how dominant he’s been but he’s not priced as such. Sale has a BB/K split of 22/138 in 122 innings. He’s allowed one run or less in 10 of his past 15 starts and two runs or less in three more. The White Sox have won 12 of his 18 starts and he’s left tied or with the lead in 16 of his 18 starts. Over his last 27 innings, Sale has whiffed 36 batters. Shall we go on? No need to. Chris Sale has been to the AL what Clayton Kershaw is to the NL and now we get to play this ace at a cheap price with his team hitting well.     


Boston +116 over CINCINNATI

Mat Latos has been as steady as any starter over the past few seasons with a sub-3.50 ERA every year from 2010-13. He's continued that trend in 2014 (3.12 ERA in 66 IP) despite missing the first two months with knee and elbow injuries. All is well, right? While all may seem well on the surface, there are several troubling signs.  The huge drop in Latos’ strikeout rate (42 K’s in 66 IP) is of primary concern, and it's supported by falls in both swinging-strike rate and average fastball velocity. There's also been a considerable change in batted balls hit off Latos. He's allowing more fly-balls (35%/42% GB/FB split) but a lucky hr/f indicates it hasn't hurt his bottom line .... yet. A fortunate hit rate has also helped keep Latos' ERA down. His xERA sits more than a full run above his ERA, which is never a good sign. It appears that perhaps Latos' elbow issues aren't quite behind him given the falling velocity and strikeout rates. While this may seem like just another great year for Latos, the underlying skills have raised several warning flags that prompt us to step in against him.

The Red Sox just took two of three against the Halos in Anaheim. They played the Cardinals tough in St. Louis in the series prior. Remarkably, it’s been 18 games since the Red Sox have won two in a row but they can snap that anomalous streak here. Joe Kelly makes just his second start for the Red Sox after coming over from St. Louis earlier this month. Ironically, he faced the Cardinals in his first start and threw a seven-inning, 3-hit, one run gem. Kelly has thrown just 42 innings this year because in St. Louis, he was he odd man out on a loaded staff. What makes Kelly so interesting is his elite groundball rate of 58%. It’s a small sample size this year but it’s in line with his career GB rate of 53%. In his last 24 innings over the past 31 days, Kelly has an outstanding groundball/line-drive/fly-ball split of 58%/16%/26%. He throws in the mid-90s without getting many punchouts, which is a skill in itself but trading strikeouts for groundouts is a strategy that has a lot of upside to it. At Great American Park, we’ll lean to a heavy groundball pitcher taking back a tag against a struggling fly-ball pitcher with alarming under the hood numbers.


Los Angeles +112 over ATLANTA

We’re not too high on Dan Haren, as he’s capable of blowing up in any start but he still has excellent control and is coming off a gem against the Angels. Haren now faces an Atlanta team that is sinking faster than the value of a Bitcoin. Atlanta has two wins over their past 12 games. They’ve been held to two runs or less in seven of those. They were recently swept in San Diego in a three-game set while being outscored 17-6. In what looked like a pitching mismatch in Atlanta’s favor last night (Teheran v Correia) ended with a 6-2 Dodger victory. Now the pitching matchup does not favor the Braves.

Enter Mike Minor. The Braves are hoping that skipping his turn last time through the rotation will give him a chance to regroup but there is nothing in his profile that suggests a turnaround. Since the All-Star break, Minor has made three starts, two against the Padres and one against the Marlins. Over that span, he was tagged for 27 hits and 14 runs in 14.2 innings all at pitcher friendly parks. In those two starts against San Diego, Minor surrendered four jacks in 11.2 frames. Minor has been absolutely whacked in six of his past seven starts and none of them came against potent offenses. Over that span he was torched by Houston, the Mets, the Cubbies, San Diego twice and Miami. Minor’s oppBA is .312 but over his last eight starts it is .352. Dude has surrendered 18 bombs in just 98 innings this year. Minor had seemingly established himself as a solid pitcher after putting up four straight years of xERAs ranging from 3.68 to 4.18. Minor has taken a clear step back with a 5.41 ERA and a 5.15 xERA. He’s an extreme fly-ball pitcher that is battling both his physical ability and confidence. Pitching for a team that is losing frequently and struggling to score runs, Mike Minor is instant fade material as the chalk.

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Jeff Alexander

Kansas City Royals +135

I'll ride the red-hot Royals, winners of 8 straight, in the home dog role as they go up against an Oakland club that has dropped 7 of its last 9 road games versus winning teams.  Guthrie just shut down the A's Aug. 1 and hasn't given up a single run in his last 2 starts against them.  He's allowed 1 earned run or none in 4 of his last 5 starts against them.  The Royals are 24-10 in Guthrie's last 34 home starts.  Lester has been outstanding and has a good track record against Kansas City.  However, he's not worth the price on the road against a club that has won its last four against southpaw starters and is batting .265 against them on the season.  The A's are batting just .248 versus right-handed starters.

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Dave Price

Cincinnati Reds -124

Boston won Sunday, but it is still 5-13 in its last 18 games and 0-5 in its last five following a win.  The Reds have won their last four interleague home games, and I expect this run to be extended behind Latos, who has quietly been good.  The right-hander has given up three earned runs or less in seven of his last eight starts.  The Reds are 27-8 in his last 35 home starts.  Kelly helped the Red Sox defeat his former club in St. Louis last time out, but that was more or less a home start for the ex-Cardinal.  By and large, the road has been unkind to Kelly, who has a 5.28 ERA on the season in visiting parks.

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Jack Jones

Seattle Mariners -110

The Seattle Mariners (63-55) are one of the most underrated teams in baseball this season.  That's because they lead the league in staff ERA with a sub-3.00 mark, and tonight's starting pitcher has had a lot to do with that.

Chris Young has been able to revive his career with the Mariners.  The veteran right-hander has gone 10-6 with a 3.27 ERA and 1.143 WHIP in 22 starts this season.  He has been at his best at home, going 7-3 with a 2.42 ERA and 0.996 WHIP in 12 starts.

J.A. Happ has had a solid season for Toronto as well, going 8-6 with a 4.09 ERA and 1.394 WHIP in 17 starts and four relief appearances.  However, Happ has posted a 5.02 ERA and 1.489 WHIP in eight road starts this year.  He gave up six earned runs and 10 base runners over four innings in his lone career start against Seattle in 2013.

Toronto is 9-28 (-16.0 Units) against the money line in road games in August games over the last three seasons.  The Blue Jays are 3-11 in their last 14 road games vs. a team with a winning record.  Toronto is 1-6 in Happ's last seven starts vs. AL West opponents.  The Mariners are 6-1 in their last seven home games vs. a left-handed starter.

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Mark Franco

Phillies / Angels Over 8

Josh Hamilton has good reason to believe he’ll break out of his 1-for-24 slump Tuesday when the Los Angeles Angels begin a two-game set against the visiting Philadelphia Phillies. The Angels outfielder is 6-for-11 with three home runs in his career against Jerome Williams, who is making his Phillies debut after being claimed off waivers from Texas on Sunday. The Phillies have lost three of their last four, but first baseman Ryan Howard is showing signs of life by going 8-for-30 with two homers and nine RBIs over his last seven games. Williams has appeared in 28 games – including two starts – for the Astros and Rangers this season. The 32-year-old has posted a 10.29 ERA in three relief appearances covering seven innings this season against the Angels. Wilson's struggles continued Thursday against the Dodgers when he issued four walks and allowed four runs over 5 2/3 innings. The 33-year-old owns an 11.03 ERA in his last six starts. All signs point to over the total here at the Big A.

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Sam Martin

Oakland Athletics at Kansas City Royals
Prediction: Oakland Athletics

Not only has Kansas City reeled off eight wins in a row, but they have finally overtaken the Detroit Tigers for the AL Central lead. That sets up a huge letdown spot for the Royals tonight, and we'll fade them in an unfavorable pitching matchup against Oakland tonight.

Royals edged the A's 3-2 yesterday, but now they face newly-acquired Oakland starter Jon Lester, who is coming off nine shutout innings (three hits allowed) against Minnesota his last time out. Lester has been nails all season long with a 2.44 earned run average, which stacks up favorably against KC starter Jeremy Guthrie, who sits with a 4.29 season ERA and losing records both at home (4-5) and overall (8-9). Lester is 8-3 with a solid 1.65 ERA in his career vs. the Royals, and he breaks the winning streak tonight!

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Tony George

Reds -125

The Red Sox managed a win last night despite deplorable hitting and scoring as of late and I like Latos at home tonight on the hill for the Reds, as they look to bounce back off a 1 run loss last night to the Red Sox.  He is a money pitcher in Interleague starts, going 9-3 and 3.95 ERA in his last 17 starts.  Not sold on Kelly for Boston and surely not sold on their offense, and bear in mind this is the third time in a row the Reds have lost to them, and in triple revenge mode here tonight I expect a win out of them on a short number to lay, it is well worth the stretch knowing that Boston in their last 5 games is batting a paltry .170 as a team against right handers.

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SPORTS ATARI

Tampa Bay Rays -122

Tampa is the team you want to back against the Rangers today. It might not be a 7-0 winner like yesterday but they’ll be in control of this one if they continue playing much better than they have earlier in the season especially compared to the pathetic Texas Rangers. Tampa has only given up 3 runs or less in their last 7 games while Texas has allowed 4 or more in 10 of 17 games while losing 24 straight when they give up more than 3 in a game. The Rangers rank 29th in ERA (4.81) compared to the Rays sitting at the #11 spot (3.58).

Hellickson is 1-1 with a 2.61 ERA and limited the A’s to only 1 run and 2 hits through 7 innings last Wednesday. This is our pitcher for tonight who’s only given up 1 run or less in 3 of 4 starts resulting in wins for his team and bettors backing the Rays with him on the mound,

Nick Tepesch is 4-7 with a 4.46 ERA. He’s given up 6 home runs in 5 starts and the Rangers are 1-4 in his last 5. The Rangers are losers of 13 out of 19 and 37 of 48. Take the Rays on the moneyline.

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Sammy P

Tampa Bay Rays at Texas Rangers
Play: Tampa Bay Rays -120

Monday night the Rays hammered Texas 7-0 and they look to have their way again tonight with the hapless Rangers.  Texas is a league worst 46-72 and is a team playing with zero urgency.  Players have all but mailed it in with the exception of Adrian Beltre who continues to have a career year.  Tampa starter Jeremy Hellickson should have little problem navigating the woeful Rangers lineup tonight.  Hellickson put together a stellar performance against the best offensive team in MLB his last time on the hill.  He gave up just 2 hits and 1 earned run over seven innings of work against the Oakland A's powerful lineup. "That looked like the Rookie of the Year Hellickson," manager Joe Maddon said. "My thought is now that he's done it once he can really take off." Hellickson gets a step down in class tonight and will have no problem translating that confidence from last start into a victory.  We are getting a very cheap price on the road tonight with a very undervalued starter taking the mound against the worst team in the league.

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King Creole

Dodgers / Braves Under 8

When the home plate Umpire assignments came out for Game Two of this Dodgers / Braves series... it certainly had Best Bet potential. UNTIL we looked at the starting pitchers. For the visiting Dodgers, we won't be getting studs like Kershaw or Greinke or Ryu. It will be Dan Haren instead. For the host Braves, we won't be getting Santana or Teheran or Wood. Instead, it will be lefty Mike Minor. So instead of a possible Best Bet, we're compelled to drop our play slightly to a normal Play. But when the best UNDER Umpire gets behind the dish, we will STILL be on him in some sort of way.

A sharp bettor or handicapper learns from every loss... OR every 'No Play'. Our service was all set to go UNDER in Sunday's Cleveland / Yankees game... when we saw that Brian O'Nora (5-17-1 O/U) would be behind the dish. But the less-than-stellar pitching matchup of Carlos Carrasco (reliever making a spot start) versus Hiroki Kuroda scared us off. We should of stuck to our guns (4-1 final score). Even though we passed on the game, we STILL learned something from it.

On Tuesday in the Atlanta / Los Angeles game... it will be the league's BEST 'Under' Umpire who will be behind the dish. That would be our friend KERWIN DANLEY... who we have used multiple times this season in an 'UNDER'. He comes in with a great record of 4-17-1 O/U on the year... and an average of only 5.8 combined runs per game. He's the ONLY Umpire in all of Baseball who has averaged less than 6.0 RPG for the entire season. So that YTD 'Under' percentage of 81% is DEFINITELY worthy of a play regardless of which pitchers will be toeing the rubber. In National League games, Danley has gone 2-8 O/U on the year, with an average of only 4.8 RPG. And since the beginning of the month of MAY (three frickin months ago), Danley has gone an 'unglaublich' 1-14 O/U in his last 15 games.

Dan Haren pitched against the Braves twice last season (none this year). In those two games, he allowed only 2 earned runs and had an ERA of only 1.28.

Mike Minor has made six starts against the Dodgers in his career. He allowed 3 or less earned runs in ALL SIX starts... with a low ERA of only 2.17.


Blue Jays / Mariners Under 7.5

We'll also be Going LOW out on the West Coast in one of the last games on the Tuesday schedule. And we'll be riding 'Low Rider' DALE SCOTT... who will be behind the dish in Game Two of the Toronto / Seattle series. Scott comes in with a year-to-date record of 7-15-1 O/U... which puts him in the Top Ten for best UNDER results this year. Average runs per game for Scott has been 6.8 on the year. While going a pedestrian 4-5-1 O/U in National League games, we note that Scott has gone 2-7 O/U in the American League (6.6 RPG). Also 9-22-1 O/U in the AL in the last 2.5 seasons. He's already worked two games in Safeco Field this season... and BOTH games went 'Under'. In terms of his current form, Scott comes in on a 4-game UNDER streak in his last four games (5.2 RPG)... and 2-7 O/U in his last nine games.

Lefty J.A. Happ of the Blue Jays come in off a great start vs the powerful Orioles... in which he allowed only 2 earned runs in 8 innings... and had a 12-1 K/BB ratio (final score was 2 to 1). In his last four starts, Happ's ERA is only 1.71.

On the flip side, veteran right-hander Chris Young of the Mariners has been  one of the best UNDER pitchers in all of MLB action for the entire season. Overall record: 6-15 O/U. But that's nothing compared to his HOME starts. At Safeco Field this year, Scott has gone an almost-PERFECT 1-10 O/U... with an ERA of only 2.42.

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LineCatchers

Oakland Athletics - 142

Kansas City is the hottest team in baseball right now and have reeled off eight wins in a row, a streak that has seen them leapfrog the Tigers for the AL Central lead. In my view, its a lot easier getting to the top than it is actually staying at the top. I see a very good situational spot for Oakland tonight as Jon Lester takes the mound for the A’s.

Lester is coming off a shutout performance against the Twins where he allowed just 3 hits and 2 walks in 9 IP. Lester has been solid throughout 2014 and is 12-7 in 23 starts with an ERA of 2.44 and 1.10 WHIP. Lester has allowed 2 ER or fewer in 9 of his last 10 trips to the mound and his teams are 7-2 this season against AL Central teams. In 12 career starts against the Royals, Lester is 8-3 with a stingy 1.65 WHIP and 1.04 WHIP.

Jeremy Guthrie gets the nod for the home team who is 8-9 in 2014 with a 4.29 ERA and 1.31 WHIP in 23 starts. Guthrie has struggled at home this season going 4-5 with a 4.58 ERA and 1.37 WHIP. Opponents have hit .283 against the righty in 11 outings in Kansas this year. Guthrie has allowed 3 ER or more in 4 of his last 6 starts and issued an average of 2 walks per game over his last 6 outings.

The A’s are 5-2 in their last seven games after scoring two runs or less and haven’t lost 3 straight games since being swept by the Tigers from the 30th June 2014 to 2nd July 2014.

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OC Dooley

Phillies +220

At the bottom of this analysis news of a MOTIVATED player on the Phillies roster who just completed a homestand with a blistering .400 batting average.  The following statistic may come as a shock to most but the Angels offense has combined to produce the FEWEST overall runs in the majors dating back to the All Star Break.  That is bad news C.J. Wilson as in the past six Angel starts his ERA is above the ELEVEN mark.  The oddsmakers have still cast Los Angeles as a prohibitive favorite since Philadelphia is going with the same Jerome Williams who already has been released by two other organizations this season.  However it should be noted that the veteran did spend some time in an Angels uniform during his lengthy career and I feel there is a reason why the Phillies are willing to take a chance with Williams.  Admittedly it has been a disastrous campaign for Philadelphia who during the weekend lost a series at home versus a shaky opponent (Mets) but they begin this west coast swing with some hot offensive performers including Ben Revere (.375 average last sixteen games with 4 stolen bases along the way). Oft-injured veteran outfielder Grady Sizemore has an excellent career batting average (.375) facing C.J. Wilson and has spent the bulk of his career in the American League.  Phillies clean-up stick Ryan Howard has produced a “walk off” game winning hit and a GRAND SLAM homer within the past week. But as mentioned earlier in this analysis the big story regarding the Philadelphia offense is Chase Utley whose batting average in the past three games alone is near the .500 mark.  On Sunday the veteran nearly hit for the cycle and on Monday had a potential 2-run homer called back by instant replay.  Utley is a NATIVE of the Los Angeles area and I for one am shocked he was not dealt to the west coast at the recently completed trade deadline

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Wunderdog

Toronto @ Seattle
Pick: Seattle -108

It didn't appear that either Seattle or Toronto had the roster to compete in the AL this season, but both are right in the thick of things as we head down the stretch. The Mariners appear to be a more viable team, as they have gotten some outstanding pitching. Through 10 games in the month of August, no team has plated more than 3 runs against them. The M's have the best bullpen in either lesgue, and the pitching has been the difference for this team, but the bats came alive last night for 11 runs against the Blue Jays. Toronto may still be feeling the effects of their 19 inning marathon vs. Detroit Sunday, and flying across the country on no rest. The Jays are just 3-11 on the road in their last 14 vs. a winning team, and have had little success solving this M's team at 4-9 in the last 13 meetings. Take Seattle in this one.

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