Florida Marlins vs. Houston Astros 4/20

The Marlins and the Astros meet in Houston Tuesday, but the Astros probably aren’t going to be too happy about playing in front of their home crowd. Houston couldn’t beat the female softball champions, let alone most of their Major League opponents. They have struggled mightily in 2010, and have been out shamed only by the Baltimore Orioles. Enough with the negative talk, though. Let’s move forward to Tuesday’s match up. Ok, more bad news. The Astros are set to face Chris Volstad. Volstad throws fire and will almost certainly own the entire Astros lineup (not like that is tough to do).

Facing Volstad is Brett Myers. Myers, recently departed from the Philadelphia Phillies, is looking to back up his impressive performance against the Cardinals last week. Don’t be surprised if Myers blows up, though, as he isn’t exactly known for his consistency. It wouldn’t surprise many people if he decided to let up seven runs in the first innings. With that said, he seems to be improved in 2010, and can be a force to contend with.

The offenses for these teams are very different. The Astros are like a AAA team, while the Marlins have some strong hitters. Powerful bats including Dan Uggla, Jorge Cantu, and Hanley Ramirez are always locked and loaded. The Astros, well, they are just locked. Volstad shouldn’t have much trouble shutting down the Astros, or he will have a lot less trouble than Myers will with the Marlins. Neither team is spectactular, but the Marlins are much better than the Astros in virtually every aspect imaginable. The Marlins are only at -115 on the moneyline, so even though Florida is a favorite, it isn’t by much. Take the Marlins in this game and feel very good about it.

Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Cincinnati Reds 4/20

The Los Angeles Dodgers have had a turbulent 2010 season, looking great at times, while looking terrible at others. They seem to put a beating on weak pitchers, but can’t make contact against strong pitchers. Now, you might think that this could be said for any team, but the Dodgers are different. They don’t hit strong starters, at all. It’s not like they post two or three runs, they flat out can’t hit. Luckily for the Dodgers, Cincinnati is starting Homer Bailey. Bailey has been an overrated prospect for almost four years now. He has never lived up to expectations, and there is no reason to think that this is going to change on Tuesday. Bailey’s ERA for 2010 is approaching 7, much like it has the past two seasons at various points in time.

The Dodgers are starting Chad Billingsley. Unlike Bailey, Billingsley has done his best to live up to all kinds of hype. For years, Billingsley was a top prospect in the Dodgers organization, and now he is setting into his role as a starter in the Los Angeles rotation. He hasn’t been phenomenal in ERA, in fact he has been mediocre at best, but he knows how to turn it around. He can post a stellar performance when he wants to. In the end, Billingsley is a much better pitcher than his opponent, Homer Bailey. Aside from all of this, Billingsley boasts a career 2.35 ERA vs. the Reds. Bailey, on the other hand, has an ERA over 5 against the Dodgers.

The best bet in this game is on the Dodgers moneyline. It is a bit high, sitting at -135, but it is not nearly as high as it should be. If the Dodgers manage to lose this game, it is either because Bailey puts on an amazing performance out of nowhere, or because Billingsley implodes. Take this bet at -135 every day of the week.

Chicago Bulls vs. Cleveland Cavaliers 4/19

The Chicago Bulls should have covered their +11.5 line in the first game of the playoffs, but came up just a few points short. If Chicago could have made a layup in junk time, they would have covered the line. As it turns out, they missed a few short shots that would have locked it up, and Bulls backers walked away disappointed. Today, the Bulls are +10.5 point dogs, one full point less than they were on Saturday. Perhaps odds makers think that Lebron will sit a little more in this game, or maybe the Bulls gained a new flock of bettors after their impressive comeback from a 22 point deficit on Saturday. Either way, the Bulls are still the play in this game.

The moneyline is very risky in this game, even though it is entirely possible that the Bulls manage to win two games in this series. +625 is very tempting, if only because you have to figure Chicago wins more than 30% of the time here. At the same time, however, the Bulls can’t stop Shaq or Lebron. Shaq can be maintained, but Lebron has been a mystery for years now. The Bulls thrived when Lebron went a few minutes without the ball, but as soon as he got some touches it was over. Beyond this, Chicago didn’t get enough open looks for sharp shooter Kirk Hinrich. They need some clutch threes if they want a legitimate shot at winning this game.

The Cavs are not the best team in the playoffs, that title goes to the Lakers, but they are too much to handle for the Chicago Bulls. With that said, Chicago is a solid bet in game two of the series. The moneyline is very volatile, but has some potential. If you are risk averse, it would be better to bet on the spread at +10.5 for Chicago. Of the two NBA games being played on April 19th, the Bulls are the best overall pick.

Kansas City Royals vs. Toronto Blue Jays 4/19

The Toronto Blue Jays got off to a very hot start in 2010, but they have begun to cool off. At 7-6, the Blue Jays are still holding onto a better record than most expected. On Monday they will start a new series against the Royals. Toronto just wrapped up a series against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and are going to stay in Toronto for his series against Kansas City. It seems as though Toronto is better off on the road, for whatever reason. Kansas City hasn’t been a slouch this year, posting some impressive wins and keeping themselves in games where most figured that they didn’t have a shot. Many bettors have passed up Kansas City, but they are certainly worth a look. Part of their success was due to some great starting pitching from Brian Bannister. Bannister will have a shot to keep his ERA below 3 when he faces the Blue Jays on Monday.

Brandon Morrow is getting the start for the Jays. Morrow has struggled mightily in 2010, despite a decent season in 2009. His ERA is sitting at 12 and things have not been going well at all. If Morrow is unable to perform on Monday, it is certainly possible that he will get a ticket to Triple A. He is fighting for a roster spot on Monday when he faces the Royals, and the pressure is on.

Both teams have their fair share of offensive weapons, with Toronto’s Adam Lind being the biggest bat between the two teams. He has whacked a handful of home runs in 2010 after signing a big contract with the Jays in this past off season. Aside from Lind, this match up is void of any real superstars. Both teams have hitters that can put up runs, though, so don’t expect this to be a low scoring affair.

The best bet in this game is the 1st Five Innings bet, available at Sportsbook.The Royals are even money in this game on the money line, while Toronto is at -120. The problem with taking the money line is that Kansas City’s bullpen is below average at best. It would be terrible to see Bannister toss a great game only to see it was all for not when the Royals relievers come in the game. If you can lock up Kansas City at -120 or better on the 1st Five Innings bet, take it.

Tampa Bay Rays vs. Boston Red Sox 4/18

Tampa Bay is going for yet another win against the Red Sox on Sunday, and it would be their third in a row against Boston. Aside from continuing their winning streak against Boston, the Rays are also aiming for their sixth consecutive win overall, having taken a few from the Orioles prior to this series. The Rays and Red Sox were postponed on Friday night due to rain, and were forced to finish their game on Saturday as part of a double header. The Red Sox had an opportunity in extra innings to close out the game when they loaded the bases, but they blew their chance and ended up losing the game 3-1. Weak offensive production has been a running theme for Boston over the past couple of weeks. They are a bit banged up, with Victor Martinez at least, but losing a bat like David Ortiz can really deplete a lineup. They did, however, post five runs in their second game on Saturday, but were of course unable to come up with the win.

Sunday’s game is intriguing, if only because of the slide that the Red Sox are on. They can’t seem to buy a game, let alone legitimately compete for one. Sunday is not going to be an easy win by any means, as Boston will have to contend with Matt Garza. Garza has been a powerhouse ever since he moved over from the Twins to the Rays a few years ago. Opposing Garza is Jon Lester. A lot was expected from Lester in 2010, but he has not performed to the fullest of his ability. His ERA for 2010 is over 7, and he has yet to add a win to his record. It could be that Lester struggles early on, or perhaps he just isn’t on top of his game this year. Either way, his lackluster performances are a good reason to bet against him.

The offensive story is the same as it always is. Boston needs Dustin Pedroia, Jeremy Hermida and company to kick themselves into gear, because otherwise it will be a very long season. The Rays have had little trouble producing offense, and Tampa Bay’s studs, for the most part, have come to play. Bet on the money line in this game. If you read this article, you would think that Tampa Bay is the heavy favorite, but this is not the case. The Rays are actually +120 on the money line, so there is a great chance for profitability. If the Rays are indeed an underdog in this game, it certainly isn’t by much.

Milwaukee Bucks vs. Atlanta Hawks 4/20

The Atlanta Hawks absolutely crushed the Bucks in the opening quarter of Saturday night’s series opener. Despite a seemingly narrow margin of victory, there is no doubt that the Hawks are the superior team. Without Andrew Bogut, the Bucks are gasping for breath. Even if the Bucks did have Bogut, the Hawks would still be quite a challenge. The Bucks should be happy to be in the playoffs, but they can’t honestly think they have a prayer in this series. Any team is going to struggle when they are void of a superstar player, and Milwaukee is no exception. A sweep in this series is certainly within the realm of possibility. Bet on the series and more at Sportsbook.

Atlanta and Milwaukee get a prolonged break after Saturday’s game. Where most of the series take a day break, the Hawks and Bucks got two days off. This should give both teams plenty of time to get back in proper shape. There are no unknown variables that should play a major role in this game, be it day-t0-day injuries or otherwise. Brandon Jennings stepped up big time in his first NBA playoff game, putting up over 30 points, but his teammates did not follow his lead. If the Bucks want a shot in this game, they will need to set up on both ends of the court. The Hawks have the Bucks outclassed in virtually every dynamic of the game, so they can’t allow for any edges to be exploited.

At -7.5, the Hawks are a great pick. They hovered around 8 for the first game of the series, but even this number is quite generous. It shouldn’t surprise anyone to see the Bucks lose by 20 points, let alone 7.5. Take this bet and feel very good about it. The Hawks might lose one game in this series, but that’s about it.

Miami Heat vs. Boston Celtics 4/17

The Heat and Celtics are set to battle in the first game of their series on Saturday. In earlier action, the Cavs (well, Lebron), were able to top the Bulls and Atlanta got off to a hot start against the Bucks. The home teams have been on fire, but Miami can dominate anywhere, the court’s logo is largely irrelevant. The Celtics have not live up to expectations in 2010, after being forced to ride out numerous injuries and general lackluster performances. Today’s game is the first game of meaning for the Celtics in quite awhile (though the same can be said for the Heat), and they will need to shake off the rust.

Dwyane Wade is one of the top players in the NBA, and he certainly is better than anyone that the Celtics have. He can dominate a game by himself, or he can work his teammates into the flow. Wade always finds a way to get it done. You know he wants this game bad. Boston has won a championship, but Miami has gone a few years since their last title. Without Shaq, Wade wants to prove he can win on his own. He has the weapons on his team, he is a force by himself, and he knows how to win.

The spread is around +4.5 for the Heat, but you have to figure they have a legitimate chance to walk away with the win today. In sacrificing 4.5 points, you can take the money line at +170. This is certainly a profitable bet in the long run, assuming that the Heat show up today. They are prone to some droughts in their games, but in the end, Miami is much better than +170 on the money line. Even if Miami loses today, they are not a long shot by any means.

Tampa Bay Rays vs. Boston Red Sox 4/17

The Rays and Red Sox played on Friday night, but the game was suspended due to rain. Tonight both teams will look to battle again, hopefully getting a full game in. While Friday brought a low scoring contest (it was 1-1 when the game was called), Saturday should be different. James Shields and Clay Buchholz are prone to giving up tons of runs, particularly Buchholz. Beyond this, both teams have very explosive offenses, even if Boston’s early 2010 record indicates otherwise. The Red Sox have been off a rough start (by Boston standards) and they are bound to turn it around.

We all know who the weapons are on Tampa Bay. Stars like Evan Longoria, BJ Upton, and Carl Crawford post runs like it is their job (because it is). On the other side, the Red Sox have the offensive firepower to crush any pitching, assuming that it wakes up. Victor Martinez was day to day, but beyond Martinez, the Red Sox have perennial powers like Jeremy Hermida, Dustin Pedroia, and Kevin Youkilis. The pitchers in this game, however, are what will really allow for the offenses to breakout.

Any time that the Red Sox and Rays face each other, it is a tough game to pick when it comes to the run line or money line. Of course, if there is some great lines being spread, that is an exception to the rule. On Saturday, the lines for this game are quite tough. To help avoid a tough decision, instead take a look at the over/under. The offenses are both powerful, the starting pitchers are not elite by any standards, and 9 runs can easily be covered by one team, let alone two. Over 9.5 I would be hesitant to take this  line, but at 9, it should be a rather safe bet.

New York Mets vs. St. Louis Cardinals 04/16

The Mets are coming off a rare win Thursday night. After dropping two games to the Rockies, New York battled back with a win of their own. Don’t get used to it, though, because the Mets are not as good as this one win might indicate. The Rockies pale in comparison to their foe on Friday night, the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals have added weapons to give Albert Pujols some backing in the batting order, not that they really needed it. Pujols can destroy virtually any pitcher he faces, but Colby Rasmus was an early surprise for St. Louis. Though he has cooled off a bit, Rasmus is still a bat to be feared. Toss Matt Holliday into the equation and you know that this offense is potent.

Chris Carpenter is taking the mound for the Cardinals. 2010 has not gone as planned for Carpenter, as he is working with an ERA that approaches 6. For the Mets, Oliver Perez gets the start. Perez 2010 has been even worse than Carpenter’s. He has never lived up to his potential from the days when he was a Pittsburgh Pirate, and it doesn’t seem like he is ever going to turn the corner. The Cardinals should destroy Perez more often than not. Carpenter, however, should work his way back to form and control a hampered Mets offense.

Considering Perez’s instability on the mound and Carpenter’s ability, the run line is the best bet. The money line is so high and it might be tempting to take the Mets, but the 2010 Mets are not the 2008 Mets. Bettors seem to be forgetting this. The Mets are not the Yankees and they are no longer a perennial power. Take the St. Louis Cardinals on the run line at even money (or even up to -110 or maybe even -120) and be very happy about it.

Florida Marlins vs. Philadelphia Phillies 04/16

The Marlins are looking to add another win to their resume after a thrashing of the Reds on Thursday night. Florida, however, will need to contend with Roy Halladay. Halladay has been on fire in 2010. He has been everything that the Phillies had hoped, and he will look to keep his ERA below 1 when he faces the Marlins on Friday. Halladay has not done particularly well against the Marlins in his previous starts, but Halladay can turn it around if anyone can. Opposing Halladay is Anibal Sanchez. Sanchez is one of the Marlin’s premier arms, but like Halladay, he has not faired well against the Phillies. While neither pitcher has great history against Friday night’s opponent, we know that Halladay has the edge. The Marlins might have a more rested bullpen, but the Phillies bats can make any bullpen wear out in a matter of a few innings.

The offensive side of this battle is not even up for debate. The Phillies are perhaps the most dominant offense in all of baseball, so there are few teams that will be able to hold them down. With Anibal Sanchez’s rough past against Philadelphia, it is certainly possible that he gets blown out early. It is not likely, because he is still a solid pitcher, but it is possible nonetheless.

Because the Phillies have such a massive advantage on offense, it makes much more sense to take the run line in this game instead of straight up on the money line. When the Phillies win, it is typically by more than 1 one, so you have to be willing to take your chances in this spot. The money line just has too much juice to make it profitable. If the Phillies money line is profitable, it isn’t  by much, and it’s not nearly as profitable as the run line at -130.

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