Sunday, August 08, 2010

Start Strong

Recap: Yesterday was, for all intents and purposes, a good day! When the day began, we had 3 plays ready to roll - a Free Play on the Marlins, a Free Play on the Red Sox, and the 2* Top Play on the Braves. When the day ended, we won our 2* Top Play, the Yankees made a pitching change, and the skies destroyed southern Florida. Both Free Plays went No Action, and we ended up with a 1-0, winning day! That finished off a solid week, and since taking that day off from handicapping on the 29th of July, things have definitely turned for the better.


Sports Wagering: MLB

National League

Cardinals (-140) @ Reds with a total of 7.5; C. Carpenter vs. M. Leake;
There's likely some value with the Reds, just based on the line alone, but at the same time, both teams have some negative situational notes coming into this affair. The Cardinals are coming off a game postponed by about a day's worth of rain in Florida, so they're traveling from the southeastern-most tip of the US all the way up to Cincinnati. At the same time, does the postponement feel more like a day off or like a day wasted? Cincinnati returns home off dominating the Cubbies, but coming home always produces that game that seems like the team is taking a nap. I know the travel from Chicago to Cincinnati isn't too severe, but settling back in at home, we see far too often a team "wake up" after about 6-7 innings of floating.

Braves (-119) @ Astros with a total of 8.5; M. Minor vs. B. Norris;
Obviously, the first question is, "who the heck is Mike Minor?" Well, I'm glad you asked. Minor is the Braves 1st-round draft pick in the 2009 draft, and has just catapulted his way through their Minor League system, pitching briefly for the Braves' A-ball club after getting signed in 2009 (and dominating) before starting this season in AA, moving to Triple-A after a so-so half-season in Mississippi, and just crushing Triple-A. He wasn't there long, but with Gwinnett, Minor went 4-1 with a 1.89 ERA in 6 starts. He fanned 37 in 33.1 innings, and perhaps the best stat, only allowed a single home run. So, he's rolling, confident, and the Braves need a good start if they're going to win any damn road games. Bud Norris just keeps finding ways to give up 4 runs, and his 0-1, 13.50 mark against the Braves in brief work isn't exactly a confidence-booster. I suppose he can't be much worse.

D'backs @ Brewers (-130) with a total of 9; I. Kennedy vs. C. Narveson;
Lamest...rematch...ever. These two faced off back on May 9, and incredibly, both pitched well. Kennedy gave up 2 runs over 7 innings, and Narveson surrendered just 1 run in 5.2 frames of a game the Brewers went on to win 6-1. Another tip of the cap to the D'backs pen for how that one turned out. Coming into this one, though, Kennedy appears to be suffering from some severe arm fatigue, and while the D'backs are hitting better now than the last time they saw Narveson, I don't think I can back them on the road against anyone other than the Mets. Milwaukee is hitting well right now, too, and maybe some of that is finally getting past the All Star Break without losing a key piece. Narveson isn't exactly world-beating, but the Brewers have won 3 of his last 4 starts, which means he's at least keeping them in the game.

Cubs @ Giants (-165) with a total of 8; C. Zambrano vs. M. Bumgarner;
This series should be a formality for the Giants, but baseball is never that simple. Carlos Zambrano is getting what I can only imagine is his last chance to pitch without destroying a water cooler (or teammate, rosin bag, mound, bat, locker, etc.), and I also imagine that getting said chance against the jet-lagged Giants in a pitcher's park is probably the best way to do it. San Francisco had a long, long flight back from Atlanta, losing 3 of 4 in the land of humidity. Zambrano is also a solid 5-1 with a 2.76 lifetime ERA against the Giants, and over the last 5 years has held Giants regulars like Edgar Renteria (.200), Freddy Sanchez (.235), and Juan Uribe (.176) to very low averages. He might just pull something out of his rectum. Tough chance to take, especially with the solid rookie Madison Bumgarner on the other side, who might be coming off a poor start, but that was also at Coors Field. I suppose if you're backing the Cubs, you're hoping that Zambrano cares enough about this one to get his teammates a little interested, and that the Giants are half asleep for game one of the series.

American League

Red Sox @ Yankees with a total of N/A; J. Lester vs. TBD;
Highly unlikely we have a play on this one, since the Yankees are midway through adjusting the rotation to deal with A.J. Burnett's missed start, yesterday. I might have some more thoughts on this tomorrow morning, but for now, let's move on.

White Sox (-150) @ Orioles with a total of 9; E. Jackson vs. B. Matusz;
No surprise here, Nick Markakis is the one Oriole with good career numbers against the opposing starter. Edwin Jackson has a career 4.86 ERA against the O's, but his 4-1 record suggests that either he got supremely lucky, or one or two bad starts might have inflated the number. We can, of course, go back and dig it up, but with the expensive line, this game is nearly off my radar just from that alone. On top of that, Jackson had himself an impressive return to the AL, but an emotional one, pitching against his old team in Detroit, and amping up his stuff just a tad. That means a letdown is coming, and I don't think I can take that chance it's coming here. Matusz, meanwhile, finally got a home win with 6 innings of 1-run ball, but his inconsistency makes him a very dangerous play, too.

Rays (-155) @ Tigers with a total of 8.5; D. Price vs. A. Galarraga;
Again, I'm not initially tempted to take such a high-priced road favorite, though I will admit that this one is a little more intriguing than the other ones. Price is 2-0 with a 1.65 ERA against the Tigers, including a decent 6.1 inning, 2-run win over them, in Tampa, a couple weeks back. Galarraga hasn't faced the Rays this year, but he's 1-0 with a 6.35 ERA against them in his career. Here's my issue with the Rays in this one. First, they didn't play well, at all, in Toronto. They lost, potentially, two pitchers to sore shoulders (Wade Davis, and Jeff Niemann), and haven't really been hitting, aside from that insane middle game of the Toronto series, and they swept the Tigers in Tampa, so you know Detroit is going to come to play in this one, if not the entire series. Too many things working against Tampa to back them, even with Price on the hill, and Galarraga just isn't very good, so backing him is darn tough, too.

Royals @ Angels (-210) with a total of 9; S. O'Sullivan vs. E. Santana;
Normally, I'd ignore a game of this line, but there are a few key notes that should keep you off the Angels, and strongly consider a play on the Royals. First, the Angels come home off a brutal road trip through Baltimore and Detroit, so they're going to be a little sleepy. Second, the Royals head South from Seattle, so the flight length is decent, but no time change means they're not going to be lagged. Third, Sean O'Sullivan, the Royals' starter, is a former Angel, traded about a month back in the Alberto Callaspo deal. He's going to be hyper-motivated to do battle with his old team. O'Sullivan hasn't really been good, though making 2 of your 4 starts against the Yanks doesn't help, and with the Angels potentially sleepy, this is a great spot for him to go 6 innings of quality ball. Santana, who can be pretty streaky, is actually set to make his 3rd start against the Royals this year. He beat them with a masterful performance on the road, then gave up 4 runs in 8.1 frames of a tough 4-2 loss in Anaheim.

Athletics @ Mariners (-115) with a total of 7.5; V. Mazzaro vs. D. Fister;
As long as Mazzaro isn't facing the Rangers, this kid has been excellent. It's funny, really. He's 6-3 with a 3.86 ERA this year with the A's, but in his two starts against the Rangers, he's gone just 8.1 innings and allowed 11 runs. Take those starts out of the equation, and his numbers drop dramatically. He's only allowed 30 earned runs all year, so just peel a third of his ERA off, and that's how he's handling the rest of the League. Doug Fister's numbers, on the other side, look better than they are. He's got a 3.98 ERA, and he's 2-1 with a 1.50 ERA against the A's, but since his DL stint, he just hasn't been the same. This one could very well be a pitchers' duel, since it's not like the A's are a violent offensive ballclub, but I do think that Fister should probably be a tiny dog for an accurate line.

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