Free Picks: Service Plays for Monday, August 25

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MLB Predictions

Toronto Blue Jays -125

Every game for the Toronto Blue Jays the remainder of the season is critical. It'll be the difference between a playoff spot or another choke job in Toronto. With their offense there is no reason they shouldn't be out of the playoffs, anything less would be choking in my opinion, and Blue Jays' fans will certainly agree. The Jays have won six straight over the Red Sox, so there is room for optimism in this series. Clay Buchholz is a big reason why the Red Sox are last in the AL-East. He's been nothing but a disappointment for the Sox who are already looking forward to next season. Buchholz carries a 5.94 ERA into tonight with a 1.55 WHIP and .356 OBP. Remember he had a stellar 2013 campaign, pitching for a 1.74 ERA. This season he hasn't had it. I thought maybe after a solid outing against the Astros two starts ago he may pick up some momentum, but he followed that 2 run outing up with 6 earned runs against the Angels. This will be the third time the Jays have seen him in a month. The prior two times they hit him for 4 and 7 runs. Why should we expect to see anything change tonight. His opponent, J.A. Happ, looked to be in for a big season in the early goings, but has since had a turbulent ride. However, he has been pretty good at home, 3.26 ERA, and has had success against the Red Sox recently. On July 22nd he went for 6 innings not allowing a single run. The Red Sox are in the midst of a 8 game losing streak, and should be without David Ortiz tonight. They've given up all hope. The Blue Jays should be focused as they try and catch up to Seattle for a Wild Card berth. I'll take Toronto in what is quickly becoming must-win situations for the Jays.

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Jeff Alexander

Tampa Bay Rays +112

The Rays have been unstoppable on the road where they have won 21 of 27.  Baltimore's bats are struggling, producing only 4 runs while getting swept over the weekend by the Cubs.  Look for Baltimore's struggles at the plate to continue against Odorizzi, who has allowed 3 earned runs or less in 12 of his last 13 starts.  He's been lights out in winning each of his last 4 road starts.  Tillman is having a great season, but has just a 3-5 record at home where he has received very little run support.  The Rays have won 3 of their last 4 in Baltimore and are showing value in this spot.

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Jack Jones

Toronto Blue Jays -112

The Toronto Blue Jays (66-64) are showing solid value as a small home favorite over the Boston Red Sox (56-74).  Toronto still has a shot to make the postseason as it is 5.5 games back of Seattle for the final wild card spot.  Boston has lost eight in a row coming in and has nothing to play for but pride.

J.A. Happ has actually resurrected his career in Toronto this season, going 8-8 with a 4.39 ERA over 19 starts and four relief appearances.  Happ has been his best at home, where he is 4-4 with a 3.25 ERA and 1.247 WHIP in nine starts.  The left-hander pitched six shutout innings in a 7-3 win over the Red Sox in his last start against them on July 22.

Clay Buchholz has gone 5-8 with a 5.94 ERA and 1.549 WHIP in 21 starts during a disastrous 2014 campaign.  The Red Sox have lost each of his last six starts as he's gone 0-3 with a 7.05 ERA during that stretch.  Buchholz is 1-3 with a 7.15 ERA in four starts against the Blue Jays in 2014.

The Blue Jays have averaged 6.2 runs and hit .302 with 19 home runs while winning 10 of 13 meetings with the Red Sox this season.  The Red Sox are 2-10 in their last 12 road games vs. a left-handed starter.  Boston is 6-18 in its last 24 vs. a team with a winning record.

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Dave Price

Washington Nationals -142

The red-hot Nationals, winners of 12 of 13, have the edge with Roark on the hill.  The right-hander is 5-1 with a 2.17 ERA in his last eight starts and 5-1 with a 1.78 mark in his last eight on the road.  Washington is 7-1 in his last eight starts, including 4-0 in his last four on the road.  The Phillies are 1-10 in Burnett's last 11 starts, including 0-7 in his last seven.  He has a 6.41 ERA over his last six starts.  The Nationals have won seven of the last 10 meetings and are in good position to continue their dominance over the Phillies here.

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SPORTS WAGERS

TORONTO -114 over Boston

J.A. Happ is an incredibly hard pitcher to get a read on. He is the definition of all or nothing, as six of his last 12 starts have resulted in a pure quality start, while the other six have all resulted in disaster. Despite being 0-3 over his last four starts, a 3.62 xERA and 8.1 K’s/9 in that time shows that he is capable of much more. Happ has been very decent at home with a 4-4 record to go along with a 3.26 ERA. He’ll face a Red Sox offense that is sputtering in August, where they have a .227 BA and .623 OPS. That said, this one is more about fading Clay Buchholz in this extreme hitters park.

The Jays scored just one time yesterday against Chris Archer of the Rays but they just missed hitting several balls out and when they weren’t striking out they were making solid contact. With Edwin Encarnación and Adam Lind back, Toronto’s first six batters look like this: Jose Reyes, Melky Cabrera, Jose Bautista, Lind, Encarnación and Dioner Navarro. Nobody in that group is hitting under .273 and both Cabrera and Lind are hitting well above .300. Reyes is hitting .365 in August. Current Jays have seen Clay Buchholz plenty, with 78 hits in 276 career AB’s against him (.276). That’s when Buchholz was pitching well. The Red Sox have lost Buchholz’s last six starts and the lowest output by the opposition over that stretch was five runs. One of those defeats was by a score of 14-1 to these Blue Jays less than a month ago in Boston. Buchholz was walked 15 batters over his past 30 innings. He has an ERA of 5.94 and a disturbing 1.55 WHIP in 23 appearances, 19 of those as a starter. Of those 19 starts, Buchholz has seven of the pure quality variety. After facing the Rays starters over the weekend, the Jays take a huge step down in class here. Toronto’s offense is on the verge of a serious explosion and we’re suggesting it happens in this series.


St. Louis +124 over PITTSBURGH

This series is as big as it gets, as the Pirates try and chase down the Cardinals for one of the two Wild Card spots. Atlanta, Miami and San Fran are still in it too but this series will have an impact. The Cardinals are very used to big games in late August and so is John Lackey. Lackey has come a long way in the past three years, evolving from one of Boston’s biggest distractions and disappointments to one of its rotation anchors. Despite all he’s gone through, Lackey has managed to stay the course. Talk about eerie consistency and one need not look further than Lackey. That's now two straight years of pinpoint control and elite command for Lackey, replicating the skills that made him one of 2013’s best pitchers, skills wise. He's still inducing grounders at a healthy level, albeit with a few extra line-drives allowed, which upped his hit % a few ticks. ERA and xERA remain in line with each other, with room for slight improvement. Lackey has been mostly unaffected by luck factors. Lackey's late-career renaissance continues. Skills similarities aside, he has pitched as a front-line starter going on two years now. Lackey's remaining starts will all be relevant and they are also an audition for a new contract. He's a good bet to provide front-end production the rest of the way and he’s certainly a better option taking back a tag than Francisco Liriano is spotting one.

Liriano has experienced a huge skill spike since the All-Star break due to a surge in groundballs (60% groundball rate) and a steep reduction in walks but don't expect his improved control to stick. He has posted a 4.7 BB/9 in three separate months this season and his post-All-Star break 57% first pitch strike is the same as it was in the first half. At home this season, Liriano is 1-5 with a 5.23 ERA and an oppBA of .270. In his last two starts, Liriano has walked seven batters over 10 innings. Lastly, these Cardinals know him well with a combined 176 career AB’s against him. St. Louis batters have hit .290 off of Liriano and they figure to get more scoring opportunities in this one. The Cardinals chances of winning the opener of this series has to be considered equal to or better than the Pirates chances, which creates this value play.


SAN FRAN -1½ +124 over Colorado

Forget what the Rockies have done at home over their past nine games (winning six) because it does not matter. When this team takes the road a metamorphosis occurs that turns them into the Bad News Bears. Away from Coors, Colorado is hitting just .236 with just 18 wins in 62 games. Without Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez in the lineup, Colorado is hitting .192 on the road. Back in June, the Rockies came in here and swept the Giants, which incredibly just happens to be 1/6 of their road wins this season. Don’t expect lightning to strike twice. Jake Peavy gets this start for the Giants. Peavy has earned the win in each of his last two starts, after going 0-12 over his previous 18 starts. Since joining the Giants he has made five starts and he’s getting sharper. Peavy has posted a 2.75 ERA over his past three starts. At AT&T Park, he’s 1-1 with a 2.77 ERA and the Giants have won his last two games by scores of 8-3 and 7-1.

Despite losing two of three in Washington over the weekend, the Giants still scored 18 runs against a very good staff, which includes three reputable starters (Zimmerman, Strasburg and Fister). The Giants have scored five runs or more in seven of their past 10 games and lead the majors over that span with a .308 batting average. They’ll now get a crack at Tyler Matzek. Matzek has started 13 games for the Rockies since his call-up in mid-June. Over 77 innings, he was an ugly BB/K split of 30/53. Over his last 29 innings, his BB/K split is 15/21. Matzek has always had control problems, even in the minors, where his best walk rate since 2009 was 4.2 BB/9. He has a WHIP of 1.52 and a BAA of .289 and it’s not due to Coors Field either. On the road, Matzek has allowed 51 hits in 39 innings for an oppBA of .323. He’s 0-5 on the road with an ERA of 6.23, which is right in line with his road xERA of 5.89. Matzek is one of 14 starting pitchers that the Rockies have used this season and if they weren’t in such dire straits, Matzek would be pitching in the minors, where he belongs. Once again, you can expect the Rockies to turn into pumpkins because that’s who they are as soon as they leave Denver.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Monday, August 25

Bob Balfe

Toronto Blue Jays -120

The Redsoxs have not been able to hit the ball this year like they have done so many years in the past and it will be tough going into this done against a left handed pitcher. Boston has not hit lefties that well and all it takes is a couple big blast from this powerful Bluejay lineup to get this game over with in a hurry. Take Toronto.

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BONES BEST BETS

CARDINALS @ PIRATES – OVER 7 -125

The Cards have seen at least 8 runs scored in 7 straight games. The Cards had scored at least 4 runs in 10 straight games before last night. The Pirates have only went under in 2 of their last 9 games. The Pirates have scored at least 3 runs in 9 straight games. Lackey since the trade has a 1.40 WHIP and 5.40 ERA. In his 4 starts with the Cards the average game total has been 8.6 runs. Liriano was hammered in his last start vs the Braves and has been bad at home all season. In 63 innings pitched at home this year he has an ERA over 5.00 and a WHIP over 1.50. This total should be at least 8.

NATIONALS ML -144

Looked into the -1 line here for this one but at a discounted price of just 28 cents off the money line price, the value simply isn’t there. These Nationals are as hot as it gets. They have now won 12 of their last 13 games and are scoring massive totals. Now they get AJ Burnett tonight who has been rough to say the least. 6-14 overall, 0-3 last 3 starts with a 6.41 ERA and 1.63 WHIP – good luck tonight against these guys AJ.

RAYS @ ORIOLES – UNDER 8 -120

Both Odorizzi and Tillman have been amazing of late with sub 0.8 WHIPs over their past 3 starts. Add in that both teams are seeing extremely low scoring games of late (Rays 5.4 L5, 6.6 L10 – Orioles 6.0 L5, 6.2 L10) and we have an under at 8 that we love here. Both the Rays and Orioles have played to just 2 overs in their past 10 games.

YANKEES ML +124

Just a great line here that we feel needs to be played. Pineda goes for the Yankees here tonight and has been fire since his return, giving up just 3 runs in 11 innings. Yankees need to keep winning in this competitive AL East and wild card run and can not afford a day off, they have won 6 of 8. Royals coming off a 3-1 loss to the Rangers Sunday night look to be headed for another let down game as they have the Tigers looking to get back at top the Central. We know it’s James Shields throwing and he has been awesome, Pineda has the chance to better him tonight and at the odds we will take a shot.

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Rocketman

Boston vs. Toronto
Play: Toronto -112

Boston is 56-74 overall this year while Toronto comes in with a 66-64 overall record on the season.  Boston is 19-33 against division opponents this year.  Boston has now lost 8 games in a row heading into tonight.  Boston is scoring only 2.9 runs per game their past seven games overall.  Clay Buchholz is 5-8 with a 5.94 ERA overall this year.  He has been a little wild with 97 strike outs compared to 44 walks on the season.  JA Happ is 4-4 with a 3.25 ERA at home this year.  Toronto is 10-3 overall vs Boston this year.  We'll recommend a small play on Toronto tonight!

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Ross Benjamin

Washington @ Philadelphia
Play: Washington -1.5

The Philadelphia starting pitcher A.J. Burnett has gone 0-7 against the money in his last 7-starts with a large 6.41 ERA and 1.68 WHIP. The Washington starter Roark enters today in great form over his last 3 going 3-0 against the money with a stellar 1.83 ERA. Roark has allowed 1 earned run or less in 6 of his last 8-starts. The Nationals have won 12 of their last 13 overall, and have gone a superb 49-26 the last 2-seasons as a road money line favorite of -110 or more.

Any run-line road favorite of -1.5 (+130 to -155) that had 17 or more hits in their previous game, and their pitcher allowed 1 earned run or less in his previous start, has gone 71-36 (66.4%) against the run-line over the last 17-seasons.

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Doug Upstone

New York Yankees vs. Kansas City Royals    
Play: Kansas City Royals -131

Play On home favorites with a money line of -125 to -175 like Kansas City, whose team's hitters strike out six or less times a game on the season, against opponent starting a pitcher who gave up two or less earned runs in his last two outings. How this system works is teams that make contact could have better success against a pitcher who has thrown the ball well in his past two starts and the visitor has been prone to getting hit more frequently in this situation. Since 2010, teams like the Royals are 42-9, 82.4 percent.

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Bruce Marshall

St. Louis Cardinals at Pittsburgh Pirates
Pick: Pittsburgh Pirates

This is a big series for the Pirates, who seemed to turn around their fortunes late last week when winning three games in a row. Now the Bucs have a chance to make up ground on the team directly in front of them in the NL Central, the Cardinals. Prior to last Tuesday's loss to the Braves, Pittsburgh starter Francisco Liriano had posted a 2.43 ERA over a 10-start stretch. Meanwhile, Redbird starter John Lackey has a 5.40 ERA since his trade deadline acquisition from the Bosox.

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Dave Essler

Houston +1.5 -115
   
Samardzija was already hit pretty hard at Houston this season, and honestly hasn't really been stellar since coming to the A's. His last two outings have been horrible, and Houston has actually seen him TWICE. He's lost two of his three road starts with Oakland. Feldman is a ground ball pitcher who already beat the A's in Minute Maid park. My only slight reservation is that he threw 121 pitches last time out.  The A's had a HORRIBLE road trip last time out and come off a late game yesterday and an emotional series against the Angels, so this is a tough spot, IMO. I am also taking the over, because I do see Houston being able to score. Five straight unders for the Astros. I think that ends tonight, and if they get three we cannot lose them both.

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Nelly

Marlins at Angels
Play: Marlins

This could be a bit of a letdown spot for the Angels after the Sunday night win over Oakland, salvaging one game in the series and taking back the division lead. This is the first game back at home after a very long road trip for the Angels and the give the ball to Wade LeBlanc for his first start of the season. LeBlanc has some success with San Diego a few years ago but has bounced around since, actually starting the season with the Angels and then making one poor relief appearance with the Yankees before re-joining the Angels. He has pretty average numbers in AAA this season and he’ll face a Marlins team that has been crushing left-handed pitching with a .275 team average and more than eight runs scored per nine innings over the last 10 games. On the season Miami is 18-10 vs. left-handed pitching and after starting the year as an awful road team the Marlins have been more than competent away from home the last three months. Miami has scored 39 runs over the last six games as this has been a solid offensive performer and Miami is just one game below .500 on the season. Jarred Cosart was acquired from Houston just before the trade deadline and he has allowed just five runs in three starts with his new team. Cosart faced the Angels twice with the Astros this season with average results and Los Angeles is batting just .247 over the last 10 games vs. right-handed pitching. The Angels have been a great home team but at this price Miami is worth a shot in what should be a tough situation for the hosts.

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Andre Gomes

San Diego Padres +122

The Padres have been probably the most underrated team in this second half of season. We’ve won our play yesterday @ARI, and I’m going to play them today as well.

They will send LHP Eric Stults to the mound and Stults (like their offense) has been terrific lately! His 3.30 FIP & 3.94 xFIP numbers during this month (4 starts) are decent and please note that 3 of thos starts were against decent offensive team batting vs. LHP’s: ATL ranked #4, STL #10 & LAD #15, still he was decent in every game!

On the other end, MIL’s SP Kyle Lohse returns to action after dealing w/ a bad ankle. He is clearly struggling lately w/ 5.07 FIP & 5.07 xFIP in this second half and this Padres’ offense aren’t anymore a dreadful unit – I have them being ranked #4 in this second half of season! Having the chance to get SD @ plus money at home is a valuable proposition for me!

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OC Dooley

Rangers +155

This campaign has been a disaster for Texas due to an incredible amount of injuries that has decimated both the offense and pitching staff.  But one veteran who has remained healthy and by some miracle is still in the running for the American League batting title is Adrian Beltre who has ripped off FIVE consecutive MULTI-HIT efforts (added 13 points to the batting average spanning the last eight outings).  Beltre has motivation to achieve tonight since most feel his five-year stay in Seattle was the worst stop in what could be a Hall of Fame career.  With the Mariners Beltre battled injuries but still was able to amass 103 homers while crossing the plate 400 times.  For the entire season to date Texas has been a disaster with young Mike Mikolas as their starter (1-8) however he has allowed “three or less” runs 3 times in the most recent 4 mound assignments. Seattle’s starting rotation is one of the majors’ elite however rookie Roenis Elias is the lone weak link. Elias has lasted “six or less” innings in SEVEN consecutive starts while averaging 2 walks in five of the most recent 7 trips to the mound.  Last time out Elias issued SIX free passes which will give underdog Texas late tonight extra runners on base

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