Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday, August 21

Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday, August 21

Larry Ness

San Diego Padres at Los Angeles Dodgers
Pick: Los Angeles Dodgers

The San Diego Padres may be glad to miss Zack Greinke but instead they'll draw Clayton Kershaw and they can't be too happy about that. Kershaw (14-3, 1.86 ERA) was moved up to give Greinke (elbow) extra rest. The two-time NL Cy Young Award winner threw a shortened bullpen session Tuesday and will be pitching on regular rest thanks to Monday's day off.

He's looking to bounce back after suffering a rare loss Saturday against Milwaukee. The left-hander, who had posted a 1.16 ERA in winning his previous 11 decisions, threw a five-hitter but allowed two HRs (for the first time this season) and struck out 11 in the 3-2 defeat. "He's the best pitcher in baseball and he's been on a historically great run. It's incredible," Brewers slugger Ryan Braun told MLB's official website. "It's kind of fun to watch from afar. It's obviously extremely difficult to beat him. It hasn't happened much this year."

Kershaw had a 1.83 ERA and 0.92 WHIP (232-52 KW ratio with opponents batting .195) last year in winning his 2nd Cy Young. His ERA is 1.89 this year (WHIP is 0.84) plus his KW ratio is 174-19 with opponents batting .198. Those numbers are pretty similar but the HUGE difference is, while the Dodgers were 19-14 (minus-$642) in his starts last year, they are 16-4 (plus-$882) so far in 2014. That's QUITE a drastic improvement!

The Dodgers have dropped FIVE of seven after falling 4-1 on Wednesday and their lead over San Francisco has been reduced to three games. Eric Stults threw five strong innings for San Diego, which improved to 11-6 this month. The Padres haven't posted a winning record in any full month since going 16-11 last September. Tyson Ross (11-11, 2.70 ERA) starts opposite Kershaw in this one and had allowed two ERs or less in 10 consecutive starts before Friday's 4-2 loss at St. Louis. The right-hander yielded three runs and four walks over six innings, dropping to 2-4 with a 3.44 ERA in his last six road outings.

"Plain and simple, I just didn't have fastball command the first inning," Ross said after walking the first three batters he faced. "It's hard when you shoot yourself in the foot like that." Ross has never beaten the Dodgers, going 0-3 in his last four starts despite a 2.63 ERA (Padres are 1-4 in his five career starts vs LA / Ross' ERA is 2.51). He's struck out 31 over 24 innings during those showings but received just a combined two runs of support.

Kershaw has made 22 career starts vs the Padres, posting a 2.38 ERA, so I wouldn't expect Ross to get much support here, either. The price is high but justifiable.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday, August 21

Jimmy Boyd

Cleveland Indians -139

Cleveland comes into this matchup having won each of the first two games of the series and are a scorching 7-2 over their last 9 overall. I see no reason why the Indians won't finish off the sweep with one of the league's hottest starters taking the mound. Cleveland's Corey Kluber has a 0.86 ERA and 0.952 WHIP over his last 3 starts and an impressive 1.31 ERA over his last 8 outings. Kluber has won 7 straight decisions.

The Twins will counter with Phil Hughes, who has also been pitching well of late. However, Hughes has an ugly 4.79 ERA over 13 home starts. Cleveland comes in hitting right-handed starters well, as they are averaging 4.7 runs and hitting .261 as a team. Hughes is due for a bad start and I look for him to struggle knowing that he has to pitch well with Kluber on the mound for the Indians.

Cleveland is 22-6 in Kluber's last 28 starts as a favorite, 15-3 in Kluber's last 18 starts after scoring 5+ runs last time out and 6-1 in his last 7 during game 3 of a series. Minnesota is 31-81 in their last 112 games against a starter with a WHIP less than 1.15 and 1-5 in Hughes' last 6 starts as an underdog of +110 to +150.

There's also a solid system in play backing Cleveland. Favorites with a money line of -125 to -175 with a team batting average of .260 or worse on the season (AL) against opponent starting a pitcher who gave up <=2 earned runs in his last 2 outings are 222-103 over the last 5 seasons. That's a 68% system in favor of the Indians.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday, August 21

Mike Lundin

Atlanta vs. Cincinnati
Play: Over 8

The Braves and the Reds will open a four game set in Cincinnati tonight. The over is 3-0-1 in the last four meetings at Great American Ball Park, and I expect this one to go over as well.

The 23 year old David Holmberg (0-0, 16.88 ERA) will make his second appearance in the major leagues for the season. He's only tossed 2 2/3 innings verus the Cubs so far, allowing five runs on seven hits, with three walks and three home runs.

Julio Teheran (11-9, 3.06 ERA) will toe the rubber for the Braves, and he's been hit hard on the road all season long, going 6-7 with a 4.27 ERA over 13 starts. His last outing away from home was a disaster, as he surrendered six runs on nine hits over six innings in a 7-3 loss at Seattle.

All of the Reds last five games has gone over the total.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday, August 21

Bob Balfe

Philadelphia Eagles -3.5

How focused can the starting two running backs for Pittsburgh be if they are caught in a car together with a ton of pot. Don’t get me wrong I think this country should worry about more severe things than guys catching a little puff from time to time, but laws are laws and these guys are dumb dumbs. I don’t know if the Steelers are going to play these two tonight, but there is a good chance they hold them out. If that is the case you have to love the Eagles chances with the rest of the Steelers backs having no experience. The Eagles have yet to get their high powered offense going, but trust me it is coming. There is no way the same unit from last year with a few upgrades is not going to prosper. This team just doesn’t need to give anything away on film. Tonight they should put up some points on declining Steelers Defense.

Pass MLB

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday, August 21

Rocketman

LA Angels vs. Boston 
Play: LA Angels -122

The LA Angels take on the Red Sox in Boston on Thursday night.  The LA Angels are 75-50 overall this year while Boston comes in with a 59-70 overall record on the season.  LA Angels are 41-15 this year against teams with a losing record including 19-5 in the 2nd half of the season.  Boston is 6-17 last 3 years as a home underdog of +100 to +125.  Angels are 7-1 last 8 games overall while Boston has lost 5 of their last 6.  Angels are allowing only 3.1 runs per game their past seven games overall.  Boston is allowing 5.7 runs per game their past seven games overall.  Matt Shoemaker is 11-4 with a 3.84 ERA overall this year, 9-3 with a 3.76 ERA in all starts this year, 5-1 on the road this year and 2-1 with a 3.24 ERA his last 3 starts.  LA Angels are 7-2 at Boston past 3 years.  We'll recommend a small play on the LA Angels tonight! 


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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday, August 21

Sports Atari

Angels -122

The Angels continue to have their way with the Red Sox as they go for the 4 game sweep in Fenway. LA has a decision to make here; cry about the loss of their best pitcher (Richards) to a knee injury yesterday or fight back with a stronger, more motivated push under the “next man up” way of thinking similar to the NFL.

LA has won 7 of 8 games while the Red Sox continue to sit at the bottom of the AL East after dropping 5 of 6.  Matt Shoemaker is in a great spot to show his team that he’s the next best pitcher and the next man up. A 3-1, 2.66 ERA in his last 4 adds to a solid 11-4 season with an overall ERA of 3.84. The Angels are 5-1 when Shoemaker starts on the road in his last 6 attempts and 11-4 overall in his last 15 starts.

De la Rosa on the other hand is an ugly 1-2, 6.00 ERA in his last 5 starts despite decent numbers for the year at 4-4, 3.79. He is regressing and we’re catching him at the right time after giving up 6 runs, 9 hits, 4 walks in only 4 innings of work to the Astros in his last start.  I don’t see him capable of handling the driven LA bats tonight who continue to lead the AL West with the A’s breathing down their neck.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday, August 21

Kevin Rogers

Braves at Reds
Play: Reds

The Reds return home after getting swept by the Cardinals, as Cincinnati hosts Atlanta. Julio Teheran shut out the Reds the last time he faced them earlier this season as a -105 home favorite against Johnny Cueto, as tonight Atlanta is a heavy road favorite while going 2-10 in their past 12 road games. David Holmberg makes his third start for Cincinnati, but this can benefit the Reds since the free-swinging Braves haven't seen the lefty yet. I'll back Cincinnati here to beat Atlanta.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday, August 21

Harry Bondi

PITTSBURGH (+3.5) over Philadelphia

The Eagles free agent acquisitions and draft were mostly centered on their defense but so far this preseason, they have not stopped anybody. Steelers generally lay down during the preseason but not during week three. Pittsburgh is 5-2 ATS during Mike Tomlin’s reign in all important week three games when the starters play more and with more intensity. The fact that 2 Steelers running backs were arrested yesterday for smoking weed will have no impact on this game as their teammates will put this minor indiscretion behind them and focus on earning jobs and continuing to improve their defense and no-huddle offense. Take Pittsburgh.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday, August 21

David Banks

Philadelphia Eagles -3.5

The Battle of Pennsylvania will be televised on NFL Network on Thursday when the Philadelphia Eagles seek their first win of the NFL Preseason when they host the Pittsburgh Steelers, fresh off of their first win, from Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia at 7:30 ET. The Eagles have been on the short end of two shootouts so far, losing 34-28 to the Chicago Bears opening week and then 42-35 to the New England Patriots in Week 2, with both of those games being on the road. The Steelers opened with a road loss to the Giants before nipping the Buffalo Bills 19-16 on a last-second field goal last week.

Week 3 is normally the regular season dress rehearsal for most NFL teams with the starters seeing the most action they will see the entire preseason, and the Eagles may have added incentive here seeking their first win of 2014, especially with this being their first game at home. Their quarterbacks did a fine job last week for the second straight game with starter Nick Foles completing 8-of-10 passes for 81 yards and a touchdown and backups Mark Sanchez and Matt Barkley combining to go 20-for-24 for 249 yards and three touchdowns, although each backup did throw an interception. Philadelphia will take a much longer look at Foles this game, not that he has much to prove after an amazing ratio of 27 touchdown passes vs. two interceptions in his breakout season last year, and they will look for a lot more from the running game.Yes the Eagles averaged 4.2 YPC vs. the Patriots, but that was primarily because third string running back Henry Josey gained 56 yards on his eight carries. At least Josey showed that he is capable in the event that starter LeSean McCoy is limited in this game or is held out entirely, which is conceivable as he is battling turf toe. The Eagles even acquired a running back this week in Kenjon Barner that played for Chip Kelly at Oregon and is thus familiar with the Eagle offense.

Pittsburgh Head Coach Mike Tomlin had been one of the best preseason coaches in football over his first six seasons with the club going 19-6 straight up over those years, but then his Steelers went 0-4 last preseason and made it five straight preseason losses in Week 1 before breaking through last week. This is a veteran team that is not accustomed to playing offenses that play as the blazing fast tempo that the Eagles do, and when you add in Philadelphia's probable determination to win a game to please its home fans, the Steelers may have their hands full on defense. And with the Steelers' probably not having the same urgency to win this game now that they got their win out of the way, look for them to be more concerned with running their normal offense when their starters are in the game as they prepare for the regular season than with trying to match the rapid-paced Eagles point for point, so expect to see heavy doses of running backs Le'Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount as just about the only unknown on the Pittsburgh roster right now is how the carries between those two running backs will be allocated this year, although indications right now are that Bell should be the man between the 20s and Blount looks to be the goal line back.

The Eagles are 8-1 straight up and 7-2 ATS in their last nine preseason Week 3 dress rehearsals.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday, August 21

Bryan Power

Washington Mystics vs. Indiana Fever    
Play: Washington Mystics +5½

I'll be taking the points in Game 1 of this 1st round playoff series as anything above the requisite three points for home court advantage is a premium as far as I'm concerned.  The WNBA's Eastern Conference was terrible this year w/ only one team finishing better than .500.  The idea of laying this many points in a playoff setting w/ a sub-.500 team just doesn't seem very appetizing.

I have the Mystics rated as the better team in my own personal power rankings.  While the Fever did win three in a row to lock up home court advantage for this series, prior to losing the meaningless regular season finale, they lost here at home to Washington back on August 8th laying an almost identical number. The final score of that game was 74-61, so it really wasn't even close.

The points look even more attractive when you consider that the road team won all four regular season matchups these teams played.  The Mystics' two wins here in Indiana came by a combined 29 points!  The extra rest should help Washington here as they're 5-1 ATS the last six times taking the court w/ 3+ days off.  Take the points.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday, August 21

Bruce Marshall

Braves at Reds
Pick: Over

It was a tough loss for the Braves on Wednesday after rolling off five straight wins, but now they get to face a Cincinnati team that looks in free-fall and can't even count upon ace Johnny Cueto, who was roughed up in last night's 7-3 loss at St. Louis. That's now 10 losses in 12 games for the Reds, whose only wins in that stretch came when Cueto was on the mound. The offense has suffered minus injured Joey Votto, and now manager Bryan Price rolls the dice with minor league call-up David Holmberg (with a 16.88 ERA in limited work earlier this season) to take the place in the rotation of the injured Homer Bailey.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday, August 21

OC Dooley

Padres / Dodgers Over 5.5

This is obviously the lowest posted total possible in baseball which has not only created market “value” but also is actually a “law of averages” wager.  For those not aware there were three different early afternoon games in baseball on this Thursday where only a combined NINE runs crossed the plate in the 3 contests.  As of this typing the lone late afternoon affair in Washington saw a scoreless tie in the sixth inning which in a sense makes this as just mentioned a law-of-averages special for the totals player.  I am aware that baseball’s best pitcher Clayton Kershaw is on the mound tonight for the Dodgers but he actually was MOVED UP a day so the team could protect #2 rotation option Zack Greinke who has complained of shoulder soreness.  I am aware that San Diego’s Tyson Ross has been a workhorse (6+ innings pitched in 20 of 24 starts) but the fact of the matter is that the Padres offense has exploded since the All Star Break.  The franchise was putting up historically bad numbers going into mid-July but the Padres have averaged more than FOUR runs per game since (near the top in all National League offensive production during that span)

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday, August 21

Anthony Michael

Pittsburgh / Philadelphia Under 50

Yes, I know the Eagles have been a scoring machine in the pre-season so far but this game will be a different story.  This game is against cross state rival Pittsburgh and with this being the 3rd pre-season game there will be a regular season feel for about a half.  Look for the Steelers defense to be ready here since they have only given up 36 points in total so far in 2 games.  Pittsburgh is 20-11 to the under in the pre-season under coach Tomlin.  Look for this one to go under as well.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday, August 21

Wunderdog

Pittsburgh @ Philadelphia
Pick: Pittsburgh +3.5

Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin has been good in August and has a deep, talented team for 2014. The no-huddle offense that worked so well in the second half of the 2013 season picked up where it left off with an impressive display Saturday in the second preseason game against the Buffalo Bills. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger operated the no-huddle in all three series he played. The first two drives produced touchdowns. On the Steelers' second play, Roethlisberger connected with wide receiver Antonio Brown for a 76-yard touchdown. The Steelers were three for four on third downs in the no-huddle. Roethlisberger was eight for 11 for 128 yards. They also want balance on offense this season, and they catch a big break in playing the super-soft and small Philadelphia Eagles defense. Philly was dead last at defending the pass last season, and they are 0-2 this preseason, surrendering 76 points - the most of any team this preseason. That's 21 and 22 points more than the Bills and Giants have allowed, and they've played an extra game. Last week they faced a balanced Patriots offense that gouged them for 42 points through three quarters and 476 yards total (250 rushing). Pittsburgh will have no trouble rolling over this Eagles defense, and the Steelers have the far superior D with excellent speed and depth. Pittsburgh is allowing 18 points per game, and the Eagles have allowed 38 points per game. And the Philadelphia offense hasn't been in gear, turning it over four times in each of their two games. This being the week the starters play more, the visitors hold all the cards in a game they don't leave their own state to play.

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