It’s an All-Star game, so obviously it’s tough to get a perfect read on what’s going to happen. Some people are saying the American League roster is way more impressive than that of the National League, and some think the pitching is better in the AL as well. Maybe – but I’m looking for a reason to make a pick in this game, and I think I’ve found a couple. It’s easy to just pick the AL with the old back-up – THEY HAVEN’T LOST IN 13 YEARS!!! But that’s too easy – here’s what I see in the match-ups.
Hanley Ramirez, SS Ichiro Suzuki, RF Martin Prado, 2B Derek Jeter, SS Albert Pujols, 1B Miquel Cabrera, 1B Ryan Howard, DH Josh Hamilton, CF David Wright, 3B Vladamir Guerrero, DH Ryan Braun, LF Evan Longoria, 3B Andre Ethier, CF Joe Mauer, C Corey Hart, RF Robinson Cano, 2B Yadier Molina, C Carl Crawford, LF
I have to admit, the National League has some awesome players in their order, and power roaring throughout, however, the American League line-up could start either way, from Ichiro to Crawfor or Crawford to Ichiro, and it wouldn’t lose much luster. I mean, Crawford, Cano, Mauer, Longoria is a filthy 1,2,3,4 start. But then again, so is Ichiro, Jeter, Cabrera, and Hamilton. This line-up is absolutely loaded. Coming off the bench the AL has guys who are very hot of late, like Paul Konerko, Ian Kinsler, Adrian Beltre, Tori Hunter, and David Ortiz – to name a few. Alex Rodriguez and Vernon Wells will also get a chance to hit for the AL. I like Joey Votto, McCann, Scott Rolen, and Matt Holliday coming off the NL’s bench, but the advantage here goes to the AL.
Starting Pitching: I would say “starting pitching” but let’s be honest, it would be surprising if either starter pitched to more than 6 batters. But that being said, you have David Price starting for the AL (really good lefty) and Ubaldo Jimenez on the bump for the NL. Price kills lefties, giving up a .194 average on no home-runs in 108 chances against lefties. He’s still a stud against righties, but better against lefties. 5 of the first 6 guys he’ll face are righties, and very good ones at that. Ubaldo has been dominant against just about everyone, hence his 15-1 record, 1.05 WHIP and 2.2 ERA. However, he’s been just a little better against righties. 4 of the first 6 guys in the AL line-up are righties. It may be little, but advantage NL in the starting pitcher match-up.
Reserve Pitching: The AL has an impressive staff with CC Sabathia (though he won’t pitch), Phil Hughes, Cliff Lee, and Jon Lester (and a gaggle of very good closer types), but the NL has to get the nod here. They have a chance to throw Tim Lincecum, Adam Wainright, Josh Johnson, Roy Halladay, Yovani Gallardo, and Chris Carpenter at the AL. Every single one of those guys is absolutely lights out. The AL does have a better situation with very good righties and lefties while the NL has just two lefties on the team, both middle relievers. So maybe this one’s a toss up after all. Better names, but against the solid AL lefties (Crawford, Mauer, Ichiro, Hamilton, and Cano to name a few) might give the NL relievers trouble…
Luck: Obviously the AL has a nice lucky streak going. The NL hasn’t won in 13 straight All-Star games, and most of them have been close. In a game that is very much mental, you have to give that one to the AL!
While the NL isn’t getting near enough credit, I still have to bet against them. The fact that the NL has just two lefty pitchers is too much for me to ignore, and that alone makes me give the AL the nod.
TAKE THE AMERICAN LEAGUE!!!
Inter-league play starts today! I was 2-2 yesterday, as I nailed the Rockies/Astros game, but took a tough one on the nose betting on Liriano and the Twins to beat the Red Sox. I should have walked away from yesterday’s games a winner, 3-1 to be exact, but the Atlanta Braves scored 7 runs in the 9th inning against the Reds – finishing with a walk-off grand-slam to beat Cincinnati 10-9. How can a guy predict things like that? Hanson had trouble at home, Leake pitched awesome, 9-3 going into the final half of the 9th – and I walk away without my big +money payout. Unreal. Such is sports, I guess. Here’s my heads up on tomorrow’s games…
Boston Red Sox @ Philadelphia Phillies (-131) (5-21: 7:05 PM ET) (Lackey vs. Hamels): The Red Sox are doing just fine, but some damage done against the National League – especially a powerhouse like Philadelphia – would do wonders for their confidence going forward. With John Lackey on the mound, I’m not so sure the Red Sox are as scary as the Phillies. I think Lackey is easier to hit than Hamels, at least in your first at-bats against the two. Cole is pretty unique, and because of his success the first time on the bump against an opponent, I have to stick with the Phillies at home against the Sox.
Florida Marlins (-105) @ Chicago White Sox (5-21: 8:05 PM ET) (Nolasco vs. Buehrle): Peavy ended up pitching on Thursday, so that leaves Mark Buehrle on the bump for the White Sox. I think Buehrle has a chance to pitch well against the aggressive Marlins, but Nolasco has been on fire lately, allowing just 16 hits during his last 3 starts (19 innings). Mark has really struggled of late, going 0-2 in his last 3 with an ERA over 6. The DH won’t help the Marlins too much, as they don’t have a lot of power sitting on their bench – but Nolasco will limit the White Sox enough to get the job done for the road team.
I have three baseball games on the schedule for Thursday, so let’s get right to them.
Cincinnati Reds (+147) @ Atlanta Braves (5-20: 1:05 PM ET ) (Leake vs. Hanson): Mike Leake was drafted in the 1st round with the 8th pick just last year. Right now he’s 22 years old and 4-0 with a 3.09 ERA for the Cincinnati Reds, playing his home games at one of the best hitter parks in the league. You don’t hear much about him because he’s sitting in Cincinnati – but this kid is legit. He’s finished 6 innings every time out and has given up more than 3 runs just once, less than 3 runs 4 times. He’s started just 7 games. Tommy Hanson is 3-3, but his numbers are even better than Leake’s (2.88 ERA, 1.12 WHIP) and he’s just 23 years old. Talk about two talented pitchers looking to rule the National League for the next decade. This is one of my favorite match-ups of the week. These are two of the hottest teams in the NL, as the Braves are 7-3 over their last 10 and the Reds even better at 8-2. Leake has been money on the road, winning each of his last 2 starts, shutting down the Cubs in Chicago then out-dueling Adam Wainwright in a win over St. Louis. Hanson had one bad inning his last time out, getting the loss against Arizona. But Hanson has just been decent at home this year, while Leake has been better on the road. The Reds offense has also been more productive. The money is in their favor as well. I like the Reds on the road.
Minnesota Twins (+130) @ Boston Red Sox (5-20: 7:10 PM ET) (Liriano vs. Lester): Jon Lester has yet to pick up a win against Minnesota in 4 tries over the last 3 years. Francisco Liriano recently shut down the Red Sox, pitching 7 shutout innings in Boston. Boston’s well publicized demise is a little much, to be honest, as they’re still 21-20 with 3/4s of the season still to come. But a power lefty that pitches well on the road, yeah, I like Minnesota’s chances.
Colorado Rockies (-140) @ Houston Astros (UNDER 6.5) (5-20: 8:05 PM ET) (Jimenez vs. Oswalt): I don’t know which team is more disappointing. I mean, Houston was supposed to be bad, but this bad? They look like the worst team in baseball, and 14-26 in the National League Central seems pretty disgusting. Only the Orioles have a worse record, and at least they are stuck in a division with Tampa Bay, New York, Boston, and Toronto – a little different fire power there. But Colorado should be good – and they have lost 6 of their last 10, and dropped to 19-20 after a solid start to the season. Ubaldo Jimenez is on the mound, but they’ll have to score to win – though not much. Jimenez already has a no-no on his resume this season, and his .99 WHIP and 1.12 ERA are more than impressive. This game should be extremely low scoring. Roy Oswalt has a history of shutting down the Rockies while Ubaldo has a history of shutting down the Astros (and everyone else this year). I’m making two bets here. I like the under, despite the low-low number of 6.5 – and I like the Rockies. They win with Jimenez on the mound.
I won a game and lost a game on Wednesday as the Rays won late and the A’s fell to a new and improved Derek Holland. I have three games on tap for Friday’s MLB action, and all three boast great pitching match-ups. Here’s what I have in mind…
Boston Red Sox (-125) @ Detroit Tigers (5-14: 7:05 PM ET) (Buchholz vs. Scherzer): Beckett was supposed to get the start for Boston, but his ailing life has him on the mend. That moves Clay Buchholz into the starting slot, and he’s been a little better than the Red Sox’ ace this season. Scherzer has shown some of his normal flashes of brilliance, but brilliance alone isn’t what has him rocking a 6.81 ERA and a 1.68 WHIP. Max started off the season well, but he’s been killed lately, and they haven’t been the best offenses doing the damage, either. Boston has taken 6 of the last 7 match-ups against Detroit, and a win here would give them a 3-1 win in this series. I expect that to happen.
Minnesota Twins (+170) @ New York Yankees (5-14: 7:05 PM ET) (Liriano vs. Burnett): I’m pretty sure Burnett pooped in a paper bag, crunched it up, lit it on fire, then threw it on his own porch last time out. After allowing just 9 earned runs over his first 6 starts, Burnett allowed the Red Sox to smash him for 8 earned over just over 4 innings on the bump. The bag was smelly, and no matter how much he tried to stomp it out, it kept smoldering… A.J. has been a streaky pitcher in the past, and Liriano has been close to unhittable this season, posting a 2.36 ERA in his 6 starts. The Twins are 5-1 with Francisco on the mound, and even against the almighty Yankees, a win in New York is where I have my money.
Washington Nationals @ Colorado Rockies (-1.5; -120) (5-14: 7:05 PM ET) (Hernandez vs. Jimenez): Talk about one unlikely hero and another guy with all the crazy elite talent in the world – and both are straight dealing on the bump this season. Say what you want about how Livan Hernandez has been pitching for the last 236 years, but the guy is on his game. Ubaldo Jimenez already has a no-hitter on his resume this season, and the kid is lightening in a uniform for the Rockies. Both have allowed fewer walks and hits than innings pitched, this season, and that’s ridiculous. Ubaldo is responsible for 6 of the Rockies 16 wins this season. Dirty. I can’t bet against the powerful righty, even against a surprising Hernandez on the mound for Washington. If one of these guys is bound to come back to earth, it’s Livan.
My baseball picks haven’t been quite as hot as my NBA Playoff picks, but I’m pretty certain they’ll come around. Baseball is a long season, and if nothing, it’s all about things averaging out in the long run. Wednesday’s games should be entertaining, as two ace-type pitchers go at it in Los Angeles while two young guns with elite stuff brave Texas’ run-happy stadium. Here’s what I think of Wednesday’s games…
Tampa Bay Rays (-103) @ LA Angels (5-12: 7:05 PM ET ) (Price vs. Weaver): Neither team is an underdog in this one. If you want a team to win, you’ll be paying for it slightly. And while both pitchers are as solid as you get, I have to put my money on the Rays offense to continue their solid run production, and David Price should be able to stymie an Angles unit that hasn’t quite gotten their bats under them yet. Weaver has been up and down against the Angels, and Price has been the same. But David is pitching as well as he has since joining the starting rotation, and that’s good enough for me. I’ll take Tampa Bay.
Oakland Athletics (+132) @ Texas Rangers (5-12: 8:05 PM ET) (Gonzalez vs. Holland): I’m excited to see what Holland can do during his second run at the big leagues. He’s been lights out in AAA, but that’s not always telling of how the big show will turn out. I like this to be a low scoring game, despite being in Texas, as Gio Gonzalez has the off-speed stuff to keep the ball in the ball park and strikeout some of those Rangers big poppers. Last time these two teams (and pitchers) went at it, the A’s won 6-0 and Gio had his way with a solid Texas line-up. It’s a new season, sure, but confidence for a young pitcher is everything, and Gonzalez should be on the top of this game in Texas. The A’s have taken 3 of 4 from Texas so far this season.
Well, I lost both of my Tuesday picks in baseball, and while I can’t argue too much with the outcomes, those that watched Boston beat the Angels know that Ervin Santana came to play, and left with a tie game in the 8th inning. And Wainwright pitched a hell of a game for St. Louis, but Cole Hamels had his best outing of the year to grab a win for Philadelphia. I’ll try to get those two losses back on Thursday.
San Francisco Giants @ Florida Marlins (-117) (5-6: 7:10 PM ET) (Cain vs. Nolasco): The Giants can’t hit and Ricky Nolasco is about as accurate around the strike zone as any pitcher in baseball. Now, he doesn’t have unhittable stuff, but against San Francisco you’d have to give him the benefit of the doubt. Then you have to add in Matt Cain, a guy that can’t buy a run from his line-up in 80% of the games he pitches in. Hanley Ramirez has been hot for Florida, and he often stays hot for long stretches. I like Florida to win at home.
Arizona Diamondbacks (-130) @ Houston Astros (5-6: 8:05 PM ET) (Haren vs. Rodriquez): Houston is borderline the worst team in baseball. It’s between them and those idiots in your beer league that take all the crap talking personal because they are so damn bad they have rabbit ears. And I think I’ll give the nod to Houston, because at least those beer league guys are drunk – who knows how they’d do if they were sober. Wandy Rodriguez was supposed to be the ace in Houston, with Oswalt getting older, and, well, the rest of the staff being who they are – a guy names Wandy (not to be confused with Randy) was supposed to take the next step after a solid season. Nope. Not even a real-life guy named Wandy can put on his super-hero outfit and save the Astros from a .333 win-percentage. Enter Dan Haren and this one is almost a guarantee. Haren doesn’t have great numbers early, and since his first half stats are always amazing, it’s about time he starts picking up the slack and striking entire teams out. Houston, step right up. I like Arizona.
I was 1-1 yesterday as the Tigers came through by putting 11 runs on the board against Minnesota and ace Scott Baker to get me a win, but Texas outlasted the White Sox, 6-5, to get me a loss. Oh, .500, how frustrating you are in all your soccer-tie glory. Here’s how I see today’s best match-ups.
Atlanta Braves @ St. Louis Cardinals (-165) (4-29: 1:40 PM ET) (Jurrjens vs. Wainwright): Jurrjens is supposed to be the Braves ace, and it’s a perfect representation of his struggled, because the Braves have lost 8 straight games, and ace’s are supposed to halt losing streaks. Well, there’s never a better time than now – but I just don’t see it. One reason is Adam Wainright and his elite stuff going up against a struggling Braves’ lineup. Jurrjens has a history of pitching well against St. Louis, but Wainright has done good things against Atlanta as well, and he’s off to a blistering start. I’m taking the Cardinals despite the poor pay out.
New York Yankees @ Baltimore Orioles (+150) (4-29: 7:05 PM ET) (Burnett vs. Matusz): I actually like the Orioles to come out of this home game with a win over the mighty Yankees. The Yanks are off to a great start, which is historically odd for them, but they are one of the best teams in baseball – so it makes sense. The Orioles have lost 17 of their first 21, but Brian Matusz has pitched very well and I see him stepping up against the Yankees at home. This win would be huge for Baltimore, and me, because the payout is nice. I’m taking the big dogs!
Wednesday has a few solid pitching match-ups that many people aren’t too excited about, but they should be. Scott Baker might be the most underrated and undervalued ace in the bigs while Max Scherzer (now in Detroit) is a young gunner that has impressed me over the past couple years. In Texas, both Jake Peavy and Rich Harden have a chance to get things turned around against a tough line-up in a tough park to pitch, and maybe prove to everyone why their respective clubs spent so much to bring them in. Here’s my take…
Minnesota Twins @ Detroit Tigers (-110) (4-28: 7:00 PM ET) (Baker vs. Scherzer): Detroit hits righties better than they hit lefties, and coming off an outing where they were blanked (and down right embarrassed) by Francisco Liriano, I think they’ll be ready to get the bat on the ball against Scott Baker. Bake’s hasn’t had his best stuff against Detroit in the past, either – so those things add up to a solid pick on the home team to pull out a win.
Chicago White Sox (+110) @ Texas Rangers (4-28: 8:05 PM ET) (Peavy vs. Harden): Peavy has had one decent outing so far this year, and it was against Cleveland, so it doesn’t really count. Harden hasn’t been nearly as accurate as he’s been in the past, striking out only two more batters than he’s walked so far this year, and really struggling to get much further than the 5th inning. The Rangers are hurting a bit, with a couple key players on the DL. And, I know how competitive Peavy is, and it’s easier for me to see him come in to Texas and turn it around than it is to see Harden start throwing darts again. I’ll give the slight nod to the White Sox.
After losing each of my last two bets, I’m 6-5 with my baseball picks on the season, hardly good enough to call a hot start, but I’m staying on the right side of the .500 mark. We’ll see if I can’t step it up with my only two picks of the week. As always, I have some solid pitching match-ups today. Greinke and Marcum step up in the American League, while the new Philly, Roy Halladay, tries to halt his teams’ losing streak against Tim Hudson and the Braves.
Kansas City Royals @ Toronto Blue Jays (-120) (4-21: 12:37 PM ET) (Greinke vs. Marcum): I like both of these pitchers a lot, but Zach hasn’t brought it all together yet this year, and Marcum is looking good coming off his surgery. With the big name on the mound for the Royals, the line is shifted that way a bit, and there’s some good value on the lesser named ace in Toronto. Neither offense will do big things, so the money line looks like the good bet – this will likely be a close one. I’ve got my money on Marcum and his Jays.
Philadelphia Phillies (-1.5, +110) @ Atlanta Braves (4-21: 6:35 PM ET – ESPN) (Halladay vs. Hudson): This game is toying with me a little bit. Originally I liked Philadelphia to get it done behind Halladay, but then I thought Hudson might just give the Braves enough to pull it out at home, maybe hand Halladay his first loss in a Phils uniform. But after the Braves trouted around and scored 3 runs in the 9th to tied it, and Nate McLouth blasted a walk off HR to win it, I just can’t see Halladay failing when the Phillies need him most. This streak needs to stop, and he’s the guy that has to do it. The Braves lefty-heavy line-up will do their best to get to Roy, but I see the Phillies line-up stepping it up a bit for their new ace.
I was 2-0 yesterday with my baseball picks, and last time I checked, that’s what I’m looking for. Liriano was spot on against the Red Sox while Tim Hudson worked out of a couple jams, and got some help from his offense as the Braves won 6-2 against San Diego. New series start on Friday, and that means new match-ups for your online betting action. The Angels and Blue Jays pit their respective #1’s on the mound while Kansas City and Minnesota do the same. Here’s how I see them…
LA Angels @ Toronto Blue Jays (-102) (4-16: 7:07 PM ET) (Weaver vs. Marcum): Shaun Marcum has been on the money in his starts so far this year, holding an 11-2 strike out to walk ratio in his first two starts to go along with an ERA of 3.46 and an even more impressive WHIP of .92 – the guy is a pretty damn good pitcher, and not very well-known, always a good thing for bettors. As solid as Weaver is, I like the Blue Jays in this one. I think they keep hitting well for Marcum, a normal thing when a guy is coming off a year long injury – win one for the Gipper!
Kansas City Royals (+120) @ Minnesota Twins (4-16: 8:10 PM ET) (Greinke vs. Baker): Scott Baker is a very solid pitcher, and he, like Marcum, rarely gets credit for his work, but he’s very consistent. He’s held a WHIP between 1.18 and 1.20 for the last 3 years – and he’s 27-14 during that time. Very solid. But he’s not lights out like Greinke, one of the best young hurlers in the game. Zach hasn’t had a breakout game yet this year, and he’s great at least once out of every three chances – bummer for the Twins drawing the short straw in this one. The Royals line-up is tougher than many people understand, and they’ll give Greinke enough to get the win.