Free Picks: Service Plays for Monday, August 18

Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Monday, August 18

Steve Rosen

Atlanta Braves vs. Pittsburgh Pirates    
Play: Atlanta Braves +104

Ervin Santana has done his part to keep the Atlanta Braves’ shaky playoff hopes alive, and the 10-year veteran right-hander takes the mound Monday against the Pittsburgh Pirates, looking to kick off Atlanta’s seven-game road trip with his sixth consecutive victory! Atlanta capped an impressive sweep of Oakland with a 4-3 victory Sunday night, while Pittsburgh lost 6-5 in 11 innings to Washington for its fifth consecutive defeat! Pitt is tired and Atlanta keeps on rolling!

Atlanta’s Justin Upton also has three homers during his streak, driving in nine runs while hitting .360.

Santana beat the Dodgers on Wednesday, giving up two runs with nine strikeouts in six innings to improve to 7-1 in his past nine starts. He has struck out 41 in 40 innings – including back-to-back double-digit strikeout efforts – in his past six outings, posting a 2.70 ERA by allowing only 12 earned runs.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Monday, August 18

Bruce Marshall

Reds at Cardinals
Pick: Over

Cincinnati's pitching staff exited battered and bloodied after being swept in Sunday's doubleheader at Colorado, with the bullpene specially culpable after surrendering elads in both games as the the Rocks scored 10 runs ine ach end of the twin bill. The "total" at 7 1/2 looks very reachable tonight considering the Reds' bullpen, recent struggles by Cincy starter Mike Leake (5 runs and 8 hits allowed in last start at Boston Aug. 13), and ineffectiveness of Cards starter Justin Masterson (6.00 ERA since trade from Cleveland).

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Monday, August 18

River City Sharps

Kansas City Royals vs. Minnesota Twins
Play: Kansas City Royals -1.5

We are not in the business of playng big favorites (especially on the road), but we are going to break that rule here as we back the Royals playing the Twins here tonight. Instead of eating the big price, we are going to roll a smaller play on the run line in this situation. The Royals will give the ball to lefty Jason Vargas (9-5, 3.27) to be opposed by Trevor May from the Twins, who made his major league debut last week and was hit hard by the Oakland A's. As we have told you before, the Royals are feasting on losing teams this season, evidenced by the fact they are 7-1 in their last eight games in that spot. Keep this in mind...the Twins have really struggled against left-handed starters this season and are just 1-6 in their last seven home games vs. a lefty. We see the Royals staying red hot and getting another solid effort from Vargas, while May continues to struggle under the bright lights!

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Monday, August 18

Harry Bondi

WASHINGTON (-2.5) over Cleveland

The hype around Johnny Manziel allows us to get one of the best pre-season bets at home at less then a field goal! Washington is 8-2 ATS as a home favorite their last 10 pre-season games. New Redshins Head Coach Jay Gruden was extremely conservative in game one of the pre-season allowing RG III to throw the ball just 3 times but will give his QB plenty of snaps tonight and have a much more aggressive offensive approach against Cleveland. Browns QB battle between Manziel and Brian Hoyer has gotten all the ink but Washington is a much deeper team and that will be the difference as the Skins will be able to maintain the lead even after RG III heads to the sidelines. Take the Redskins.

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David Banks

Cleveland Browns +2.5

Johnny Manziel will see his first pro action with the starting unit when the Cleveland Browns (0-1, 0-1 ATS) pay a visit to Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins (1-0, 1-0 ATS) at FedEx Field in Landover in NFL Preseason action on ESPN Monday night at 8:00 ET. Manziel played with the second unit last week in a game Cleveland went on to lose narrowly 13-12 to the Lions in Detroit. The Redskins meanwhile opened with an impressive win here at home in Maryland over the New England Patriots 23-6, losing their shutout bid with just 1:23 remaining.

The battle between Manziel and veteran Brain Hoyer for the starting quarterback job is reportedly now a toss-up, so the Browns hope to give both signal callers roughly the same amount of snaps with the rest of the starters in this contest. Hoyer will get the actual start and is expected to play the whole first quarter, while Manziel is expected to play the entire second quarter. Johnny Football performed admirably while playing with the second unit last week completing 7-of-11 passes for 63 yards, and he also ran the ball six times for 27 yards including a nice 16-yard scamper. Hoyer started last week and completed just 6-of-14 with the first team, although he did throw for 92 yards. Besides this highly publicized quarterback battle, the starting running back job is also yet to be determined with rookie Terrence West pushing Ben Tate, who most believed would simply inherit the starting job when Cleveland signed him away from the Houston Texans where he usually played in Arian Forster's shadow. Those positional battles at two offensive skill positions should result in an improved offensive showing by the Browns overall after not scoring a touchdown last week, especially with the starting offensive line and wide receivers playing at least one half and quite possibly a few series to start the second half. And remember that those starters include one of the best receivers in football in Josh Gordon, who can still play in preseason while awaiting his appeal of a season-long suspension.

The Redskins only plan to play Griffin for one quarter, so logic would dictate the same can be expected for the rest of the starting lineup, which could give the Browns a nice advantage from the second quarter on in this game. The Redskins are also in the process of learning a new offensive scheme under rookie head coach Jay Gruden, and remember that the Browns defended the Cincinnati Bengals well in recent years when Gruden served as Cincinnati's offensive coordinator. The Skins are trying to turn Griffin into more of a pocket passer, and he was not all that great last week completing just 2-of-4 passes for nine yards without a single rushing attempt. While the attempt to protect the knee that RG3 tore up two years ago is understandable, is it really wise to totally takes away one of his major strengths (running ability) and has that made Griffin less aggressive? It does not help that Cleveland has a talented defense that boasts the likes of pro bowl cornerback Joe Haden and linebacker Karlos Dansby.

The Browns are small underdogs here, and remember that entering this weekend, preseason Week 2 underdogs coming off a straight up loss were an amazing 72-33-2, 68.6 percent ATS since 2000.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Monday, August 18

The Gold Sheet

Orioles at White Sox
Play: Under 7

Both pitchers are doing well right now. Chris Sale (2.01, 0.88) is one of the best pitchers in the game, and he is coming off eight shutout innings with four hits allowed. The White Sox have won nine of his 12 home starts.

Bud Norris (3.75, 1.26) has a 3.10 ERA since the All-Star Break, and has allowed only five runs in his last three starts, albeit in only 17.1 innings. Orioles bullpen will be even better when they come in. Take Under 7 runs

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BONES BEST BETS

ROYALS RL-1.5 +100

The Royals are now 13-3 in the month of August and coming off a clean 12-6 victory yesterday vs these lowly Twins. Now today Jason Vargas will take the mound for the Royals, coming off a complete game three hit shutout against the A’s in his latest outing. His season numbers are impressive with a WHIP of 1.23, ERA of 3.27 and record of 9-5. In 3 starts against the Twins, Vargas has pitched 7 innings every time, twice pitching shutouts and once allowing two earned runs for a 0.86 ERA. Vargas is also a beast On the road better this season with a 2.13 ERA across ten starts away from home. Starting for the Twins on Monday night will be 24 year old rookie right-hander Trevor May who over just 4.1 innings of work on the road against the Astros and A’s, May has racked up a bloated WHIP of 3.46 and ERA of 12.46. This looks like a great opportunity for the Royals here tonight.

REDS @ CARDINALS – OVER 7.5

The Reds have went over in 4 of their last 5 and have averaged 4.8 runs scored over those 5 games. The Cards offense has been hot too averaging 5 runs a game their last 5 games. Both these teams offenses lately justify a total of at least 8. While Leake has been average this year, Masterson has been bad and the Reds should have no problem putting up some runs. He has given up at least 5 earned runs in 5 of his last 8 starts.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Monday, August 18

Wunderdog

Cleveland @ Washington
Pick: Cleveland +2.5

A pair of first-year head coaches meet in this one, and new coaches want to look good in front of the home fans. That's what Washington did last week in blasting the Patriots, so there is less to show this week. They face a deep and talented Cleveland defense, and the Browns have a new head coach in Mike Pettine who also has plenty to prove. There is tremendous competition in the Browns camp regarding the starting QB job between Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel. Manziel tightened the race with his impressive showing in Detroit. The Cleveland start is crucial because it's presumably the last game before Pettine names his starter for the opener Sept. 7 in Pittsburgh. He said this week that he'd still like to name his man by the third preseason game Aug. 23. Pettine indicated that a continuation of the Detroit game, where Manziel ran and threw well, barked out the plays, and got the right men in motion, will go a long way toward getting the nod on Aug. 18. The Browns defense was brilliant last week, holding the high-flying Lions to 219 passing yards and forcing two turnovers, so grab the dog. Take the Browns in this one.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Monday, August 18

Bob Balfe

Cleveland Browns +2.5

This is a big year for RG3. Last season was a total bust and sometimes players that run his style never return to what they once were after an injury. This team is obviously going to be very careful with him in the preseason and both their top receivers are dinged up heading into the season. How would you as the Browns like to have Rex Grossman as a 3rd string QB. He might not be a quality NFL Starter, but as a backup in the final quarters its like having Manning on the field. Take the Browns.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Monday, August 18

Against the Number

Washington Redskins -2.5

I have no faith in the Browns. At anything. What I do have faith in is Robert Griffin and Kirk Cousins being the best two quarterbacks on the field tonight, and they just happen to play on the same team. The Redskins were far from world beaters last year but I like their coach and I like their offseason acquisitions. I made the mistake in week one of the Preseason thinking that Ryan Mallett was going to go to work on this defense and I was WAY off. I won’t make that mistake again with two shaky QB’s on the road. The Redskins ran roughshod all over the Patriots, while the Browns leading rusher was Manziel. This is not a recipe for success in the battle for field position. Cleveland may be the better team come the 4th quarter when the 3rd stringers are in but I think it may be too late by then. Give me Washington with another statement performance, 27-13.

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