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July 17, 2015 (Posted at 5:00 PM ET)

Picks will be posted at noon (12:00 PM ET) on Saturday and Sunday.
 

#1: Take Tampa Bay Rays as underdogs (+132) on the Money Line against Toronto Blue Jays risking 3%.
(Odorizzi and Hutchison must start for wager to have action)

This is a matchup that we believe Tampa is capable of winning and has been underpriced. While the Blue Jays own the most potent offense in the Majors, their pitching leaves a lot to be desired. Their starters and relivers (bullpen) have been hit hard and this is a club that has lost a lot of close games as a result. They has a winning record against every squad in the AL East division except one, the roster with the best ERA, the Tampa Bay Rays!  Toronto is just 3-7 against the Rays this season and while they have averaged a Major League best 5.3 runs per game, that number drops considerably to just 3.5 per game when they have faced the Rays! That's because Tampa is the exact opposite of Toronto in the sense that their hitting can be inconsistent but their pitching has been stellar both from a starting point of view as well as relievers.

Toronto will likely have their hands full with Jake Odorizzi toeing the rubber. With just a 5-5 overall record this season, many may discount how excellent he has been on the mound. His 2.30 ERA is one of the best in the league and his losses have been due more in part to a lack of support than how he has actually pitched. He has also had a good amount of success in past appearances against the Jays. Back on April 13th, he held Toronto to just 2 hits and 1 earned run over 8 innings to improve to 2-0 with a 2.00 ERA in 4 appearances against them! He is limiting right-handed hitters to a .180 average to rank fifth in the majors. Jose Bautista is hitless in nine at-bats against him while Edwin Encarnacion is 1 for 8 and Josh Donaldson is 0 for 5! No Toronto batter has more than one hit against Odorizzi. It is no secret that John Gibbons' squad hits lefties much better than right-handed starters and that has especially been true when they've faced the Rays as Odorizzi in particular has held them to a remarkable .127 batting average in 63 previous at-bats! 

Meanwhile Drew Hutchison sports an impressive win-loss record which has little to do with how he has pitched. His inflated ERA among other metrics shows just how much he has struggled on the mound this season. He is currently 8-2 with a 5.33 ERA in 18 starts this year; however had it not been for the powerful offense that is backing him, he could easily be 2-8 instead! His 7.81 run-support average is baseball's best mark and envy of every other starting pitcher but we don't believe his team can continue to bail him out and cover all of his mistakes. It's only a matter of time before Hutchison's luck runs out and that could be the case tonight against a Tampa squad that is desperate to climb back up the AL East rankings.

The Rays may be the fifth-worst offense in the majors with an average of 3.7 runs per game but they almost always show up when facing the Jays as they have averaged 4.6 against Toronto with Evan Longoria going 14 for 32 in the season series and the speedy Kevin Kiermaier frequently getting on base as well. The Rays should be able to get their offense going tonight against what has been a very hittable pitcher. Tampa owns an outstanding .402 on-base percentage against Andrew Hutchison and should once again have success against him tonight. The fact that Jake Odorizzi pitched last Saturday (shutout the Astros) will also give him the edge over Hutchison whose last start was nearly 10 days ago! It may take him a couple of innings to shake off the rust and the Rays can take advantage if they don't waste runners in scoring position.

Tampa is a club that enjoyed some early season success but has since tapered off prior to the All-Star break. This is a good team that plays solid fundamental baseball and we expect the recent break to have allowed them to re-focus and work out some of their offensive issues that had hampered them in the first half. The Rays have owned Toronto as of late and at these attractive odds there is a lot of value on the visitors to pick up a victory. Not only should Odorizzi give them the edge on the hill by outduelling Hutchison but the Tampa bullpen is one of the best in the league while Toronto's lackluster relievers are the club's #1 priority to address before the trade deadline. This could be a close contest but the Rays have the better starting pitcher, relief group and closer and should be able to mount enough offense off of the poor Blue Jays pitching to win the series opener. As fairly big underdogs, there is definite value in backing them regardless of the final result.

Other notable facts to consider:

  • Tampa is 5-2 as a road underdog of +125 to +150. 
  • Blue Jays have lost 4 of their last 5 games when hosting the Rays.
  • Tampa is 12-6 when the total has been set at 8 to 8.5 runs.
  • Drew Hutchison has an ugly ERA of 6.16 and a 1.76 WHIP in six career starts against Tampa!

 

#2: Take Arizona Diamondbacks (-116) on the Money Line against San Francisco Giants risking 3%.
(Ray and Cain must start for wager to have action)

The Giants are the defending World Series Champions. They've had an up and down first half enroute to defending their title and headed into the All-Star Break winning 4 of their last 5 games including a 3-game sweep of the terrible Phillies which saw their offense come alive outscoring them 27-9! It's easy for the casual bettor to remember the Giants as that team. What many forget however is that prior to those victories this is a team that has struggled mightily on the road. The Giants have dropped 7 straight road games and with a loss tonight would be their longest road losing streak dating back to May of 2000 and we believe that will happen. 

The Giants had always been known as a team that relies on their starting pitching. Madison Bumgarner was the hero of their championship run and yet tonight it may actually be their pitching that will be their undoing. The Giants pitching staff on the road during their recent road losing skid has a 6.43 ERA and their offense hasn't been producing either, averaging just, averaging 2.7 runs per game. They will be looking to avoid making history and yet will do so with Matt Cain on the mound, a pitcher who will only be making his 3rd start of the season after a year layoff due to injury. The right-hander struggled in his season debut at Miami on July 2, giving up five runs and two homers with four walks in five innings which happened to be his only road start of the season. 

Arizona will counter with lefty Robbie Ray taking the mound tonight. Ray has pitched well so far this season and has a 2.16 ERA in 8 appearances so far this season. This will be Ray's first career start against the Giants and we believe that will give him a distinct advantage on the mound tonight. Ray has already proved that he has the ability to navigate potentially explosive lineups and has done an admirable job thus far at being able to limit damage. With the Giants no having much up close and personal experience at the plate against him, it will likely take the San Francisco hitters a couple of times at bat in order to get comfortable with Ray's timing and delivery.  

The D-backs have a potent lineup that can explode at a moment's notice and has both power and speed! Not many know that this is a ball club with one of the best offenses in the NL. Paul Goldschmidt is a legitimate MVP candidate and leads the team with 107 hits and 70 RBIs! He is batting .406 (13 for 32) during a nine-game hitting streak against the Giants. Outfielders A.J. Pollock and David Peralta have combined for 81 RBI this season and the DBacks should get a boost at the plate as Ender Inciarte will be back in the lineup after missing time due to an injury. Inciarte, who hasn't played since June 15, went 8 for 25 with a homer in seven games during a rehab stint in the minors. 

The Diamondbacks are a team that has showed flashes of brilliance this season and are not completely out of the running for the postseason however they do need to make up some ground. A successful series with the Giants, the team that they are directly chasing in the standings is exactly what they need to keep themselves in contention. Given how poorly the Giants have played on the road recently and the struggles of Matt Cain on the road, this is the perfect opportunity for the Diamondbacks to pull a full game closer in the NL West standings. Robbie Ray should keep the Giants at bay since they have never faced the southpaw before while Arizona hitters have seen Cain plenty of times before and have had good success against him.

Other notable facts to consider:

  • Giants are 1-5 in their last 6 series openers.
  • Arizona is 7-3 after losing 3 or more in a row this season.
  • Giants have lost their last 4 games against the Diamondbacks.
  • Arizona hitters have a combined .320 batting average and .356 OBP against Cain in 97 total at-bats! 



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