April 24th 2013 - Posted 5:55 PM Eastern Time


There are 3 different bets risking a total of 6% tonight. One in the NBA and two in Baseball. The two MLB bets are both money line underdogs.


#1: Take Pittsburgh Pirates as +105 underdogs on the Money Line against Philadelphia Phillies risking 2% (Rodriguez and Halladay must start)

These two teams are very different from where they started the season just a few weeks ago. The Pirates opened up 1-5 to start the season but have since won 10 of 14 including 4 of their last 5 while limiting their opponents to just 6 total runs! Pitching has been an area where the Pirates have been much improved and is a big reason for their success to date. Tonight they send their "Ace" to the mound or at least the pitcher who has had the most success so far this season.

Wandy Rodriguez (2-0 0.56 ERA WHIP of .038) get the start tonight. Rodriguez has been nearly unhittable in his first 3 outings! He has gone 16 innings giving up just 2 runs (1 earned) on just 5 hits. He has struck out 11 and only walked 1 batter. There isn't a pitcher in the league that is tossing as well as Rodriguez at the moment.

After compiling an uncharacteristic 14.73 ERA in losing his first two starts, Halladay (2-2 6.04 ERA) has posted a 1.80 ERA and limited opponents to a .143 batting average in back-to-back winning efforts. Halladay only gave up two hits (both solo homers) and went the distance in a 7 inning victory over St. Louis on Friday.

While it is always hard to go against "Doc", it is tempting to do so tonight. The Phillies are a team that goes through its offensive struggles and can be quite inconsistent. Philadelphia who started the season 26 for 62 (.419) with runners in scoring position over their first 8 home games have since gone 5 for 34 (.147), which includes last night's 0-for-5 effort. Cleanup hitter Ryan Howard left two runners on base last night and has just one RBI in his last 11 games. He is 4 for 12 with a homer lifetime against Rodriguez.

Even if Halladay pitches a gem, the statistics show that Philly doesn't always capitlize when given the chance. The Phillies bullpen is also giving up an average of 3 runs per game. If Halladay doesn't pitch a complete game it leaves the door open for Pittsburgh in the later innings.

Pittsburgh catcher Russell Martin also extended his hitting streak to 8 games with a single last night. He's batting .444 with 2 homers and 6 RBI's over that stretch. One final factor is that Phillies didn't see Rodriguez at all last year with his stint with the Astros and Pirates and the way that he has been pitching to start the year, I don't think that is going to help Philadelphia tonight. With Pittsburgh slated as the underdog, there is value backing them tonight.



#2: Take NY Yankees as +115 underdogs on the Money Line against Tampa Bay Rays risking 2% (Pettitte and Cobb must start)

It may be early in the season but things are already heating up over the seasonal battle for the American League East. The AL East has been one of the tighter divisions over the last few years. The Red Sox and Yankees have historically dominated but over the past couple of years, the Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays have been right in the thick of things by the end of the season. All series in this division are important, even in the early part of the season as what happens now could dictate who makes the playoffs later in the season.

The Yankees managed to snap Tampa's 4 game winning streak with a 4-3 victory last night. Tonight they hope to take 2 out of 3 in the series when they send left handed veteran Andy Pettitte to the mound. Pettitte will be looking to make it 4-0 through his first 4 starts of the season!

Pettitte, even at 41 years old is pitching arguably the best he has pitched in years. He is 3-0 with a 2.01 ERA. On the season he has gone 22.3 innings so far and has given up 5 earned runs on 19 hits while striking out 12. Pettitte's last outing was against the Blue Jays where he went 7 1/3 innings and gave up 3 runs. He missed his last turn in the rotation due to some back spasms but should be 100% healthy and ready to go tonight. Pettitte dominated the Rays in his lone opportunity last season allowing just 2 hits and striking out 10 over 7 1/3 innings in a 7-0 home win on June 5. Pettitte is 17-6 lifetime against the Rays with an ERA of 4.01. When Pettitte pitches, his team is 21-10 lifetime against the Rays!

Alex Cobb (2-1, 2.53 ERA) gets the start tonight for the Rays. Cobb is off to a decent star to the 2013 season. In 21.3 innings of work he has allowed 7 runs (6 earned) on 21 hits. He has struck out 15 batters but has also walked 6. Cobb doesn't have a whole lot of experience against this Yankees lineup. Cobb is 1-1 lifetime against the Bombers with a 3.15 ERA. His team is just 1-2 against the Yankees when he is on the mound.

Tampa Bay's Evan Longoria is on a pretty nice hitting streak at the moment and has reached base in all 20 games after his home run last night. Half of his 10 hits in 39 at-bats during a 10-game hitting streak have been home runs. While Longoria may be hot, it's worth noting that he is just 2 for 18 lifetime (a double and a home run) versus Pettitte.

Like Longoria, Yankees' Robinson Cano is finding his groove as well. Cano added two hits last night and is batting .423 (11 for 26) in the last six games. He's batted .387 (12 for 31) in his last 8 games at Tropicana Field. He is also 2 of 9 against Cobb with both hits being home runs.

There is value in taking Pettitte and Yankees as underdogs tonight. He has pitched excellently so far this season and holds a drastic experience edge over the younger Cobb tonight. This may be a close game but Yankees will have the chance to edge it and to get them at plus money justifies the small risk.



#3: Take Atlanta Hawks at +7 spread against Indiana Pacers risking 2%

Atlanta's guard play is shaky at best thanks to the departure of Joe Johnson. Jeff Teague and Devin Harris have done what they can in the backcourt but the truth of the matter is that this Atlanta team will only go as far as Al Horford and Josh Smith take them. These two men are combining for 34.9 points and 18.6 boards per game and they are both very good interior defenders and distributors as well. They have both been tehre and done that, and they have more playoff experience between them than most on the Pacers do. Atlanta has gotten out of the first round quite a bit over the course of the last few seasons and the team has racked up 19 playoff wins in the last 5 years so they are a fairly experienced team when it comes to 7 game series.

Game 1 did not play into Atlanta's strengths at all. Atlanta is at its best when it scores in transition and makes 3-pointers and Indiana never gave the Hawks a chance to get into that comfort zone. Atlanta managed only 14 fast-break points Sunday largely because the Pacers committed only 14 turnovers and most of those came on dead-ball possession changes. The Hawks did manage to make 7 of 17 from downtown but that was only slightly more efficient than the Pacers 7 of 19.

The Pacers are a defensive minded team and that is where they truly excel. They are not known for their offense and typically grind out close games with their defense. They are very physical on the boards and teams who do not match the physical nature of the Pacers usually end up getting run over. That is what happened to Atlanta in Game 1. The Hawks were completely manhandled in the first meeting with the Pacers and will need to play more physical if they want to be able to stay in the game. I expect them to make the necessary adjustments tonight especially after their coach publicly called out his team criticizing them for playing too 'soft'.

NBA playoff basketball is all about adjustments. Only once in these playoffs has the winner of Game 1 in a series (ATS) been able to repeat and win ATS (Against-The-Spread) again in Game 2! I will look for Atlanta to make the necessary adjustments and give it their all to at least keep this close. Take the points.



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