Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, August 31

Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, August 31

Scott Delaney

The only good news for the Milwaukee Brewers from this weekend was that Mark Reynolds broke up Jake Peavy's no-hit bid in the eighth inning. Peavy finished with a one-hitter in 7.2 innings as the San Francisco Giants beat the Brewers 3-1 on Saturday night.

The Brewers lost their fourth straight and seven of nine overall, while the Giants won their fifth straight.

San Francisco stays alive in the postseason hunt, while the Brewers saw their NL Central lead cut to a game over the St. Louis Cardinals, who split a doubleheader with the Chicago Cubs.

Today the Giants should have no issue getting it done in the season finale. Madison Bumgarner (15-9, 3.02) is on the hill, and though I'm not listing pitchers, make note it's certainly to our advantage to have him up, as he's in after a one-hitter against the Colorado Rockies. He had a perfect game after seven innings.

The southpaw is 3-2 with 1.67 ERA in six starts against the Brewers.

Take Frisco here.

4♦ SAN FRANCISCO

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, August 31

Craig Davis

Your free play of the day is the Baylor Bears and SMU Mustangs OVER the posted total in college football Sunday action.

The spread is pushing forward towards a five-TD number because the betting public is all over the favorites... but what's also happening is the total is driving upwards despite not much money coming in on it.

That tells me Vegas is begging for people to bet the under. They might have one of those "gut feelings" and trying to force bettors into taking the under. And why shouldn't Vegas be worried about too many "over bets"? These two teams were known highly for their offenses a year ago, and supposedly Baylor is even better this year, offensively, and welcome back QB Bryce Petty.

I think Baylor might be able to name their score, but I'm not so sure SMU won't be able to do the same thing... just not to the same extent.

I'm looking for a high-scoring affair from the very beginning... and the final score in the neighborhood of 57-27. Take the over as your free play of the day.

1♦ SMU-BAYLOR OVER

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, August 31

Jeff Benton

Your Sunday freebie is the Baylor Bears.

Big number on the Bears this Sunday, but I see little reason to back the SMU Mustangs in this battle on the Brazos River.

The Bears are debuting their new McLane Stadium, and Art Briles has never been shy about running up the big number, as Baylor is 22-8 against the spread since late 2011, and better still, the Bears covered all 7 when they were asked to cover 20 points or more last season.

Baylor still has Bryce Petty at QB, while SMU goes with soph QB Burcham. Hard to see the Mustangs keeping pace in this one, that is for sure.

SMU is just 5-11 as a road underdog since 2010, and the last meeting between the teams in 2012 produced a 59-24 Baylor hammer-job.

Go ahead and lay it.

2♦ BAYLOR

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, August 31

Gabriel Dupont

The SMART INTANGIBLE with the Padres - Winning momentum is on San Diego's side, as it's now won four straight. And the fact this win streak includes a couple wins over So Cal-rival Los Angeles has the Padres fired up even more.

The SMART INTANGIBLE working against the Dodgers - Not sure how many more heartbreaking losses the first-place Dodgers can take. Last night they experienced another extra-inning loss, as Alexi Amarista singled in the winning run with one out in the 10th inning, giving the Padres to a 2-1 win.

In conclusion, why SAN DIEGO is my SMART PLAY in this game - Los Angeles' lead in the National League West is down to 2 1/2 games over San Francisco, which beat Milwaukee 3-1 for its fifth consecutive victory. Los Angeles' lead is its smallest since it was up by the same margin on Aug. 6.

And while the Dodgers are playing not to lose, the Padres are on a roll right now, and playing with no regard to winning or losing - they have nothing to lose in their minds. For the first time in franchise history, the Padres have managed to win extra-inning games on three straight days. They'll complete the sweep tonight.

4♦ SAN DIEGO

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, August 31

Chris Jordan

My free play for today is on the Pittsburgh Pirates, who have suddenly found themselves in the thick of the National League Central race, and ride into this game on a four-game win streak. The Cincinnati Reds are distant in the division and wild-card races, and I don't see them contending today.

The Pirates have won the first two games of the three-game series despite scoring in only two innings. They had a two-run rally in the eighth Friday for a 2-1 victory, and last nigt used a three-run first to hang on for a 3-2 victory.

Though the Reds are coming with Johnny Cueto today, he is mired in a two-start losing streak in which he has allowed six runs over 11 1-3 innings for a 4.76 ERA, and now he has to face a Pirates team that is a major league-best 24-9 at home since June 19.

Take the Bucs today.

2♦ PITTSBURGH

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, August 31

Brad Wilton

Going to side with another Under at Safeco Field on Sunday as the Nationals and the Mariners wrap up their interleague series.

While Friday's meeting featured 11 combined runs, the bats were quieted last night in Washington's 3-1 victory.

I see a similar outcome today, as Tanner Roark and Hisashi Iwakuma square off.

Both pitchers have very similar lines for the season, as Roark brings in a 12-8 record with a 2.81 ERA, while Iwakuma stands at 12-6 with a 2.83 season ERA.

Seattle is 9-2-4 Under the total their last 15 interleague games, and Iwakuma has seen 9 of his last 12 starts at home hold Under the posted price.

Roark comes into this one having allowed 2 earned runs or less in 7 of his past 9 starts.

Runs will be limited today, Nats and M's Under the total.

3♦ WASHINGTON-SEATTLE UNDER

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, August 31

Wunderdog

Philadelphia @ New York
Pick: New York -111

The Mets are 14-6 at home against a team with a losing record, and the foldin' Phillies are in town, a team that has packed it in. Last place Philadelphia can't hit, 22nd in baseball in runs scored, 24th in on base percentage, and 26th in slugging. The Phillies are 2-7 in their last nine road games. 37-year old A.J. Burnett (7-14) is 3-8 on the road with a 5.31 ERA. The Phillies are 1-7 in Burnett's last eight starts. New York starter Dillon Gee has had a fine season with opponents hitting .226 off him. Gee held the Braves to two runs on six hits and two walks over 6.2 innings in Tuesday's 3-2 win. The Mets are 7-2 in Gee's last nine starts as a favorite, including 5-2 when he's a home favorite. The Phillies are 3-9 in the last 12 meetings, so grab the home team. Play the New York Mets.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, August 31

SPORTS WAGERS

L.A. ANGELS -120 over Oakland

Cheap price on the Angels, as they have won the first two games of this series while the A’s continue to nosedive. In fact, the Halos have won five in a row and six of seven. They have outscored the opposition over their last five by a count of 24-6 and that’s after facing a slew of strong starters in Henderson Alvarez, Sonny Gray, Jon Lester and Jeff Samardzija. The Angels are a cheap price today because they’ll now face Scott Kazmir and his 14-6 record and 3.08 ERA. Thing is, Kazmir is regressing badly right now and appears to be running on fumes. Kazmir has already logged 158 innings this season. He threw that exact same number of innings last year. Prior to last season Kazmir hadn’t thrown more than 150 innings in a season since 2006. His strikeout rate has dropped dramatically over his past five games in which he’s struck out just 16 batters in 29 frames. Kazmir has been tagged for 33 hits in his last 27 innings and he’s been taken yard in three straight games. He comes in with an xERA of 4.51 over his last five starts in which his actual ERA was 6.28. Everything is trending wrong for Kazmir. His WHIP is 1.53 over his past six starts, his groundball rate is down, his strikeouts are down and his walk rate is up over that same stretch. In his last start, Kazmir walked two and struck out one. He’s now pitching under a lot more pressure too because the A’s are losing daily and their Wild Card lead isn’t so comfortable anymore. 

Since August 10, Oakland has lost 14 of 19 games. In the first two games of this series they have failed to score even one run. In 18 innings here over the past two days, Oakland has 7 hits. Over their last 15 games, the A’s are batting .192 and will now face Matt Shoemaker. Shoemaker put up a mediocre 4.15 ERA and 1.33 WHIP before the All-Star break, but his base skills gave much more reason for optimism. He has started to cash in on that upside in the second half: 2.43 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, 8.8 K’s/9, 1 BB/9 and a 46% groundball rate. His excellent command is supported by an 11% swing and miss rate and 63% first pitch strike rate. In fact, Shoemaker’s elite command against both LH and RH bats are due in large part to having one of the best changeups in the game (23% swing and miss rate). Shoemaker figures to have another strong game here against an A’s team that is seeing golf balls. 


Washington +135 over SEATTLE

Hisashi Iwakuma is coming off a 67-pitch hiccup at Fenway (2.1 IP, 6H, 5R on Aug. 24) but the 33-year-old right-hander has been ultra-consistent this season and over the last month owns an xERA (2.94) very near his season ERA (2.83). Prior to Tuesday’s misstep, Iwakuma hadn’t registered a rough outing since June 25. Iwakuma is a solid starter and certainly could pitch well here. However, this one has little to do with fading Iwakuma. Washington offers up too much value here as a dog that is 19-9 in August and just keeps on winning. 

The Mariners are struggling with four losses in their past five games including the first two games of this set. Over its past three games, Seattle has been outscored 23-8 and will now face a starter in Tanner Roarke that has thrived on the road the entire season. Roark went 7-1 last year as a starter for the Nats and this year he’s won 12 and lost 8. That’s 19-9 overall since the start of last year with a road mark of 10-4 over that same span with an oppBA of .229. Remarkably, RH bats couldn't even manage ONE hit against Roarke’s slider the 141 times he threw it last year and he’s throwing it even more this year. Roarke pitches deep into games. He rarely goes less than seven innings. The Nats have won seven times in the last nine games he’s started and over that span, Roarke has allowed one run or less in six of those nine games. The bottom line is when he pitches the Nats usually win.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, August 31

Andrew Lange

Washington at Seattle
Play: Seattle -145

Going to be proactive and play against Washington’s Tanner Roark in an American League setting as he’s shown small signs of regression of late. Back in June, Roark’s fastball and sinker hovered around the 92-94 mph mark. Of late we’ve see Roark sitting 90-91 mph. As a result, he’s fanned only four batters in his last two starts and 17 in his last 32 IP. Note that this is his first full season in The Show and he’s already surpassed his career high in professional innings (166.2). And as we know, MLB innings are a lot more stressful and demanding. Lastly, while not ultra-potent, the Mariners have the ability to stack their lineup with 7-9 lefties which matches up well vs. Roark’s soft-tossing ways from the right-hand side. Nothing flukey about Seattle’s Hisashi Iwakuma who owns near identical ERA (2.83) and xFIP (2.89). He’s off his worst start of the season (2.1 IP, 5 ERs), one that manager Lloyd McClendon said was nothing more than just not “having it.” The Mariners gave him a full week off and back at home, I expect Iwakuma to return to form as we play the medium-sized home favorite.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, August 31

Jonathan Young

New York Yankees – 108

The Yankees come into Sunday’s game with the Blue Jays in fine form having won seven of their last 10 games. They still sit eight games behind the Orioles for 1st place in the AL East standings but New York has slowly closed the gap in the AL Wild Card race, now trailing both Kansas City and Detroit by just three and a half games.

The Yankees send righty Brandon McCarthy to to the hill today and since joining the New York rotation, he has been solid. He is 5-3 with a 2.47 ERA and 1.20 WHIP over 9 starts for the pinstripes and has a 56/9 strikeout to walk ratio. In 7 “Day’ starts this year, McCarthy is 3-3 with a stingy 1.88 ERA and 0.90 WHIP. Opponents have hit just .208 against the tall righty in those matinee games. He has allowed 2 ER or fewer in 9 of his last 11 trips to the mound since the 27th June 2014.

JA Happ gets the nod for the Jays today and has been fairly inconsistent throughout the season. He is 8-8 with a 4.36 ERA and 1.37 WHIP over 20 starts in 2014 and has struggled in his last few outings. The lefty is 0-2 with a 6.46 ERA and 1.50 WHIP in his last 3 starts against Boston, Milwaukee and Seattle. In 9 ‘Day’ outings, Happ is 3-2 with a 5.22 ERA and 1.44 WHIP over 39 2/3 IP.  The Jays have lost Happ’s last five starts and six of his last nine.

I believe the value is on the road team today as a small favourite with the better starting pitcher on the hill and a team that has averaged over 5 runs per game over their last 10 games.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, August 31

David Banks

SMU +33
   
The 10th ranked Baylor Bears open up a brand new stadium Sunday, McLane Stadium in Waco, TX, making this the first time the Bears have actually played on campus since 1935 as they host their in-state rivals, the transitioning SMU Mustangs at 7:30 ET on FOX Sports 1. Baylor is the current favorite to win the Big 12 this year after finishing 11-1 during the regular season last year, although the Bears did then lose to Blake Bortles and UCF in the Fiesta Bowl 52-42. SMU comes off of a disappointing 5-7 season in its first year in the AAC, and now Coach June Jones must deal with losing a ton of production on the offensive side of the ball.
   
Many teams in college have turned to the hurry-up offense and even the Philadelphia Eagles of the NFL have followed suit with Chip Kelly at the helm, but few if any teams took it to the ridiculous heights that Baylor did last year. And that high-octane approach resulted in the Bears leading the country in both scoring offense with 52.4 points per game and total offense with an amazing 618.5 yards per contest. And the fact that the Bears ran so many plays from scrimmage made the fact that quarterback Bryce Petty threw only three interception that much more unbelievable, so his early Heisman Trophy hype for this year seems well deserved. He also finished with 32 touchdown passes and over 4200 passing yards, and he is now facing an SMU defense that allowed an awful 412.6 total yards per game last year while ranking 118th in the land in passing defense, so Baylor should be able to run up the score if it so desires here. And with this being the first game in their new home, the Bears may do just that to appease the home fans and also to make an early statement to the pollsters in an attempt to end up as one of the last four teams standing in the brand new College Football Playoff.

SMU managed to win five games last year despite that porous defense because quarterback Garrett Gilbert accounted for the second most yards per game in the country with 379.5. Unfortunately for the Mustangs, Gilbert in now in the NFL and his replacement Neal Burcham played poorly in his brief appearances in 2013, throwing four interceptions in parts of four games against just two touchdown passes while completing only 58.7 percent of his passes and averaging a measly 5.1 yards per pass attempt. And not only is the quarterback Gilbert gone for SMU, but so are a pair of 1000-yard receivers in Jeremy Johnson and Keenan Holman. One receiver that does return is Darius Joseph, who caught 100 passes last year, but he is more of a possession receiver than a blazer. And remember that while the Baylor offense took center stage, the Bears' defense was that best it has been in years last season ranking 28th nationally in total defense and 36th in passing defense despite playing in the pass-happy Big 12, so Baylor should be able to defend the Mustangs well here unless one of the younger SMU receivers can step up.

Baylor is 20-6 ATS in its last 26 home games and 22-8 ATS in its last 30 games overall. SMU is 7-18-1 ATS in its last 26 games vs. the Big 12.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, August 31

SPORTS WAGERS

Utah State +4½ /+176 over TENNESSEE

We’re going to split this up and play the Aggies for one unit on each the money line and point-spread. Utah State is one of only eight teams that have ranked among the top 15 in opponent-adjusted defensive efficiency measure each of the last two seasons. Tennessee lost all six games it played against defenses ranked that highly in the same span. While this is a new year and the Volunteers are a program projected to take steps forward in 2014, this matchup has huge upset potential because the Aggies can be so tough to move the ball against, much less score on. Utah State allowed only 2.8 yards per rush last season (No. 2 in FBS) and allowed only 3.8 points per drive that crossed the Aggies' 30-yard line (also No. 2). Meanwhile, Tennessee ranked No. 117 in producing methodical drives (possessions of 10 plays or more). It should be noted however, that Tennessee played a brutal schedule a year ago that included games against Oregon, Georgia, Alabama, Missouri, Auburn and Vanderbilt. Still, the Vols feature 28 underclassmen on their season-opening depth chart. The Vols are also the only team in the FBS that does not return a single starter on the OL or DL. Their offense last season struggled miserably for the most part and they return just four starters on offense. Among the returning starters is QB James Worley, who completed just 55% of his passes and never stood out. Worley is the second best QB in this game facing a very good defense.

Enter Chuckie Keeton, one of the favorites to win this year’s Heisman. Keeton has the athletic ability to succeed against premier teams and the Vols aren’t in that select group. All Keeton did last year was complete 70 percent of his passes for 1,388 yards, 18 touchdowns and just two interceptions. He also ran for 241 yards and two TDs in just six games before he was lost for the season in early October with a knee injury. The Aggies return 11 of 22 starters, including six that earned all-Mountain West honors a year ago. Junior linebacker Kyler Fackrell, senior defensive end B.J. Larsen and senior linebacker Zach Virgil were all-second team picks and anchor a defense that held five of its last seven opponents to 14 points or less. Indeed the Vols are in a tougher conference but with so many question marks and without an identity yet, they’re a huge risk spotting points against a team that is superior to they are on both sides of the ball. The QB mismatch in the Aggies favor seals the deal.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, August 31

Pat Hawkins

Utah St. at Tennessee
Play: Utah St.

Tennessee is extremely week on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball as both units return zero starters. Without controlling the line of scrimmage the Vols will star ugly rushing the ball and attacking Utah St's elusive QB Chuckie Keeton. The Aggies have been impressive as dog of 5 or more points going 9-0 ATS and 12-1 as non conference dogs of 2 or more points. I wouldn't be shocked if the Aggies win this straight up, but grab the points for insurance.

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