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May 17, 2016

There are two underdog picks tonight.

1: Take Philadelphia Phillies (+112) on the ML against Miami Marlins risking 3% to win 3.36%.
(Velasquez and Chen must both start for wager to have action)

The Phillies find themselves in a favorable situation tonight when they face off against a southpaw pitcher for the second straight night. Left-handed pitchers sometimes hold an advantage on the mound but with the Philly bats having gone up against another one in Adam Conley last night, their routine isn’t as altered as it might be against Chen. The Philadelphia lineup has also already seen Chen this season and had a lot of success against him, mustering up 4 total runs in just 5 innings. In fact, they could have arguably done much more damage in that contest as everyone was seeing the ball well coming out of his hands.

Even though they have lost their last two games, the Phillies have been getting men on base, they simply have not be able to string those timely hits together in order to convert them into runs. The offense has come away with double-digit hits in each of the last two games and that is certainly a promising sign. It is only a matter of time before they get those base-runners to cross home plate. Their confidence should be high coming into this contest given that they’ve surpassed all expectations and we believe they will put up enough runs to come away with the victory.

Both David Phelps and AJ Ramos are unlikely to be available for this matchup and that could severely impact the later stages of this contest. Phelps is the setup man in the bullpen while Ramos is the closer. The final few innings are extremely critical in a ball game and to potentially have both of these guys unavailable could decide the outcome. Both players have been overworked recently and we wouldn't be surprised if Don Mattingly decided to give them some much needed rest. Even if one (or both) does happen to see action, we don't expect them to be effective given their tired arms.

The Marlins will also be without their #1 catcher tonight. JT Realmuto, who's having a stellar season, is getting the night off and Jeff Mathis will be behind home plate for the Floridans. Meanwhile, the Phillies have all of their main weapons as well as closer Jeanmar Gomez who currently leads the Majors in 'saves' and has had the last couple of days off.

The Phillies have been a team that has thrived in grind-it-out styles games and have been extremely proficient in closely contested matchups. They are 4-0 in games that have gone to extra innings and are an impressive 14-3 in games decided by just a single run! Despite their struggles over the last two nights, they have shown that they have a 'winning mentality' in closely contested affairs and are determined to bounce back in this spot. Failures to do so would see the Marlins not only win the series but overtake them in the NL East standings! We expect this to be another tight game but the edge lies with the home side who could easily have been installed as small favorites instead of underdogs.

Other notable facts to consider:

  • Phillies are 9-4 against teams with winning records!
  • Phillies are 10-4 when the total is set at 7 runs or less!
  • Phillies bullpen is 6-0 in save opportunities at home this season!

2: Toronto Raptors +10.5 spread against Cleveland Cavaliers for 3% of the bankroll.

There is no question that the perception of the Cleveland Cavaliers is extremely high at the moment. They are 8-0 this postseason and appear to be the team to beat in the Eastern Conference. That being said, to see them as a double-digit favorite in what is supposed to be a series with the second best team in the East is certainly a tough pill to swallow and we believe the oddsmakers have made a mistake. The difference between these two teams is not double-digits, especially in Game 1.

The Cavaliers have made 'easy' work of their first two opponents; however they have been off for a full 9 days in anticipation of this series. Such a long layoff could hurt Cleveland in this spot as this is a team that thrives of pace and rhythm. They were impressive with their three-point shooting display against the Hawks, but at that time the Cleveland players were in a groove and 'feeling it'. Now having sat on the proverbial bench for more than a week, we certainly don't expect them to step on the court and begin draining threes at the percentage that they had been. It will take them some time to once again become adjusted to playing at game-speed.

Meanwhile, the Raptors have been in knockdown drag-out wars already in this postseason having gone a full 7 games against both the Pacers and the Heat. It's that type of play that shows the true grit and determination by the Raptors. There is something to be said about being tested and still managing to come out on top. Those kinds of series instill confidence in both players and coaching staff and give the team a type of swagger that cannot be matched. While the Cavs are undefeated and no doubt confident themselves, they have not had to 'gut out' a crucial victory as of yet. They have been the bullies of the playoffs and we expect the Raptors to stand up and punch them in the mouth. It will be interesting to see how Cleveland reacts to be put on their heels.

The Raptors were favorites against the Pacers and Heat thanks to finishing as the #2 seed in the Eastern conference. They aren't a team that's good at 'handling' pressure due to their historical drought in winning a playoff series which had happened only once, years ago with Vince Carter in town. Now that they are the overwhelming underdogs, they can do what they did all season which is to prove doubters wrong and play good basketball. Essentially all of the pressure is on the Cavaliers in this series. They are the team that is 'expected' to easily dismantle the Raptors and make their way to the NBA Finals. The Toronto players have the advantage of finally playing loose and free, knowing that they met their targets. Nobody is expecting them to get past Cleveland go to the NBA Finals and that means this team can get back to playing good pressure-free basketball, as they did in the regular season. Dwane Casey and his team love the 'everyone is looking past us' angle as it motivates them to play their best.

The Raptors are a very solid team but outside of a couple of players, they don't have the squad personality to deal with media pressure and aren't comfortable in the role of 'favorites'. Now that they are back in their comfort zone of being the 'underdog', we believe they'll put up competitive efforts, especially in this first game where 'rust' is a factor and surprise many. It wouldn't surprise us if Raptors held the lead for portions of this game and Cavaliers needed a late push to squeeze out a 'W'. If that's the case, the points are likely to come into play. It's also worth noting that the DeRozan and Lowry finally got going when it mattered most, in the final games of the series against the Heat (Game 6 and 7)! Those two are now once again feeling confident as well.

We believe that this is simply too many points to lay in the first Game of the series. Cleveland will likely not come out looking like the dominant team that many average sports-bettors remember. It will take them time to once again adjust to playing in a physical game. A big part of why Cleveland was able to get past the Hawks was due to their 3 point shot. We don't believe it will be there for them in Game 1 which will allow the Raptors to keep things well within this generous point-spread. The value is on the overlooked visitors in Game 1 tonight. 

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