Saturday, July 31, 2010

Two, and Counting

Recap: It's nothing to throw a party about, but since the Thursday "rest" day for the Bebe brain, we've put together two straight winning days, taking care of 2 of 3 Best Bets. Last night, we had 3 teams that each held leads of at least 2 runs, and while only 2 of 3 managed to hang on, the capping is absolutely right on the money. Ross Detwiler was solid in the Freebie, Jason Hammel and Matt Garza both did work in the Paid Plays, but the Rays just couldn't hold the Yankees in the yard. Still, I like where we've been sitting in just about every play besides the Padres Freebie on Friday. Holding leads in 4 of 5 plays is definitely a good place to be.

Sports Wagering: MLB

National League

Braves (-120) @ Reds with a total of 9; T. Hanson vs. E. Volquez;
Tommy Hanson had his worst start of 2010 against these Reds; of course, that game involved one of the most absurd late comebacks of the season, maybe of the decade. Point is, Hanson is going to want to rebound strong. Can he? Well, he certainly can't do any worse than that previous start, but perhaps, given Volquez's need to build up arm strength, the Over might be better than backing Hanson against a team that hits him plenty hard. Because, really, even if he pitches better, he's probably only going 6 innings, max, and will likely give up a couple runs to a Reds team that, when healthy, can hit.

D'backs @ Mets (-165) with a total of 9; D. Hudson vs. J. Niese;
I will admit, I'm a little afraid of backing the Mets against Arizona -- the D'backs don't beat many teams in this League, and even fewer on the road, but they seem to have New York's number, even if the pitching match-up strongly favors the Mets. Not only that, Dan Hudson will make his first start for his new team, in a new League, and we've seen how starters tend to perform when they make the leap. This one is a little different, I guess, since Hudson had only made a handful of starts in the AL, so it's not like he's "used to" a particular strike zone or level of competition, but I sure as heck wouldn't back the Mets at this price.

Phillies (-165) @ Nationals with a total of 8.5; C. Hamels vs. J. Lannan;
I will admit, a great deal of my handicapping of this game is going to come once we see how the Phillies deal with that first loss in a long while they suffered on Friday. So, let's wait and see. Will Blanton right the ship, or will the Phils take that customary "equilibrating" second loss off a long win streak? In any event, Hamels is 9-3 with a 2.58 ERA against the Nats, so this isn't exactly a team he fears. Lannan, meanwhile, is 0-7 with a 6.32 ERA against Philadelphia. On paper, this looks like one of the most lopsided pitching match-ups of the year, but we know how often things go according to how they look on paper. Still, I can't argue my way out of it - the Over or the road RL are both on the board.

Brewers (-140) @ Astros with a total of 9; R. Wolf vs. W. Wright;
That's a pretty steep price to pay for a road lefty with a 5.07 ERA on the season. Still, he went 7 shutout against the Astros once this year, already, and Randy is coming off a strong outing against the Reds, so his confidence should be back up. Wesley Wright is 0-1 with a 3.09 ERA against the Brewers, but he's really still just getting his feet wet as a starter, this year, and hasn't yet gone deeper than 5 innings. I'd be tempted to lay the road chalk, except that the Astros just shipped off Berkman, and I wonder how the young guys respond to losing a team leader. Hopefully, Saturday will give us some indications that we can use on this one.

Pirates @ Cardinals (-325) with a total of 7.5; Z. Duke vs. A. Wainwright;
Out of price, out of mind. That is, unless you can get Pirates +2.5 at a good price, hah!

Cubs @ Rockies (-145) with a total of 9.5; C. Silva vs. J. De La Rosa;
Somewhat under the radar, De La Rosa seems to be rounding back into pre-injury form. It took a couple starts, that's for sure, but his last two outings have been strong enough to win, and the 8 strikeouts in each tells you his stuff is coming back. Silva squeaked his way through 5 innings against the Astros, and has been much more Silva-like over the last month or so. He did go 6 innings and allow 2 runs to the Rockies earlier this year, so there's some success, there, but pitching at Coors is a totally different bird, and De La Rosa is 2-0 with a 0.64 ERA lifetime against the Cubbies. I happen to think the line for De La Rosa might be high for a reason, here.

Marlins (-130) @ Padres with a total of 6.5; J. Johnson vs. J. Garland;
Both of these starters have tremendous numbers against the other team, which brings to mind a couple questions. First, Johnson has gone 17 innings in two starts against the Padres, beating Mat Latos way back in April, and losing a 2-1 nailbiter to Garland, in Florida, at the end of June. So, to some degree, this is a Rematch Game. Still, with them battling to a 3-run total, wouldn't you think that this line might have even come out at 6? I suppose Garland is never going to drive the total that low, but he is 4-1 with a 2.01 ERA against the Marlins, and could very well pitch solidly against them, again. This game has all the makings of a pitchers' duel, and potentially a slow one.

Dodgers @ Giants (-125) with a total of 7; C. Kershaw vs. M. Cain;
Will Matt Cain ever beat the Dodgers? 0-8 now, in his career, but the ERA of 4.32 really isn't so awful. Kershaw has no record against the Giants, but an ERA of just 1.71. He got run in his last start against the Giants, and the Dodgers pen let him down, but you can bet the kid is ready to come back and dominate in a rather pitcher-friendly park in San Francisco. This should be a very fun one, since the Giants are definitely hitting better and trying to acquire some bats at the trade deadline. Buster Posey has completely revitalized that offense, so Kershaw will have his hands full, but I don't know if we'll ever see the youngster more focused than this ESPN rivalry game on Sunday Night. That total of 7 almost looks high, doesn't it?

American League

Indians @ Blue Jays (-175) with a total of 9; J. Gomez vs. J. Litsch;
Jesse Litsch should never be a -175 favorite. That's all I have to say about that.

Tigers @ Red Sox (-150) with a total of 8; J. Verlander vs. C. Buchholz;
Clay Buchholz was a fade candidate the day he came off the DL, but it only took 1 start for him to get his act together, and now, coming off a 7-inning, 1-run effort, it's probably not a great time to back the Tigers. They got their road win thanks to an offensive jolt provided by the newest Tiger, Jhonny Peralta, but given Verlander's propensity to give up a few runs here and there, and given that Youkilis is one of a handful of current Sox that have given him trouble, this is not the place where I'd want to take a shot with Detroit on the road.

Yankees (-145) @ Rays with a total of 8.5; C. Sabathia vs. J. Shields;
Shields has never really shown me he can handle the Yankees, the way that many of his teammates have. He's 2-7 with a 5.45 ERA against the Bombers, and when you put that with C.C.'s 8-3 mark against the Rays, this one looks like a scary spot for Tampa. To Shields' credit, he's been serviceable against New York this year, more than in year's past, I'd say, but it hasn't been enough. C.C. doesn't mind pitching in Tampa, and this price is, in my opinion, high for a reason, once again. Considering C.C. was a -170 favorite at home, this adjustment is quite small, which makes me think oddsmakers believe the public is going to go extra strong on the Yankees. We need to be careful here, but I probably wouldn't back Shields.

Athletics @ White Sox (-150) with a total of 8; G. Gonzalez vs. G. Floyd;
Here's the jinx effort of the century -- Gavin Floyd hasn't allowed a homer since June 2, a span of 10 straigh starts. Gonzalez has been pretty good on that account, too, though not quite as impressive. Also disconcerting, Gonzalez is 0-2 with a 12.96 ERA against the White Sox, while Floyd is 2-0 with a 1.33 ERA against the A's. Floyd, too, has continued to dominate into late July, which is a nice change of pace for him, and I wonder how that carries over into August, if indeed it does. As we've talked about, it's easier to ride waves, though, and we know Gonzalez is a much better pitcher at home, and we also know that the pitching histories line up nicely for Floyd, who will have to take his game up a tiny bit since he won't be facing Seattle for the first time in a while, but he can certainly handle the upgrade in competition.

Orioles @ Royals (-145) with a total of 9.5; K. Millwood vs. B. Chen;
Who would have thought the day would come when Bruce Chen would be a -145 favorite over Kevin Millwood? This is a sad time, indeed. Still, I can't help but think that Millwood's greatest weakness, the fly ball that leaves the yard, doesn't really match up with a Royals' strength. Maybe that's why Millwood was able to last 8 innings against KC and give up 3 runs in a win over them this season. Of course, his 2-10 record is giving plenty of value on that side, and Chen's 5-5 mark is duping people into thinking that he's a serviceable starter. Chen has been on the very precipitous decline this month, and I have little reason to think that he somehow stems the tide.

Mariners @ Twins (-325) with a total of 8.5; L. French vs. F. Liriano;
Quarter-unit on the dog? Sure, why not.

Rangers (-145) @ Angels with a total of 7; C. Lee vs. J. Weaver;
Rematch alert! This could be a fun one, as Cliff Lee went 8.1 strong innings in a 3-2 win over Weaver and the Angels. The Texas pen doesn't figure to get a ton of work, here, so that always makes handicapping a little easier. On the Angels side, Weaver is much better against the Rangers at home, so this might actually be a spot where the Angels would be considered a live dog. My concern comes from the line adjustment, as Lee was a -175 home favorite when these cats faced off, so this move is pretty small. That could either be the result of the expectation of huge public money on Lee, or because the Angels need to be a little more enticing, and the books are expecting decent public and sharp money (combined) on the Texas side. Either way, it's inflated, and we need to figure out why.
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