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May 25, 2016

There are 2 picks tonight.

1: Take Houston Astros (-132) on the ML against Baltimore Orioles risking 3.96% to win 3%.

Sometimes a team just needs a glimmer of hope and a break here and there to be able to envision better days ahead. The Astros got that last night after a walk-off 'W' against the Orioles. The fact that they didn't particularly play well actually helps them in this spot in our opinion as they managed to grind out a 1-run victory which has been a rarity for this team. Having ended up on the losing side of many close games to start the season, Houston needed a win of that kind themselves to regain some of their swagger. The fact that it came in a lengthy contest that took 13 innings to be settled, makes it that much more of a momentum-shifter. That type of win does wonders for a slumping team's self-esteem while leaving the opposing club deflated and dejected.

Houston snapped a 4-game losing streak with last night's win and should play more loose and free tonight. Losing consecutive games takes its toll mentally on a clubhouse that had pretty lofty goals coming into the season. To lose a bunch of them in a row at home makes it even more difficult as the fans were growing impatient. Now with the losing skid finally over, the fans are fully back on their side tonight and the players should be more relaxed in 'pressure-situations' such as with runners in scoring position, etc. Confidence and composure play a big role in the outcome of each game and the Astros will finally have a bit more of that going into this contest.

The pitching matchup pits Colin McHugh against Tyler Wilson and we believe the former has an edge. McHugh was a 20-game winner for Houston last season and while he's off to a poor start this year, he has recently shown signs of breaking out of his funk. He had a quality start in his last game logging 7 strong innings while allowing just 2 runs. Unfortunately for him, the bats did not provide him with run support and he ended up losing that game. If he puts on a simlarly impressive performance tonight again, he'll likely be on the winning side. Wilson is a bit of an opposite case to him as the inexperienced pitcher had a strong start to the season but has found it tougher in recent outings. As the scouting report on him have gotten more and more extensive, opposing batters are doing a much better job against him and it's safe to say that these two pitchers are heading into somewhat different directions. It's also worth noting that McHugh is 13-3 at home against teams with winning records over the last 3 seasons!

Baltimore is a quality club and can hit with the best of them but one advantage the Astros have over the O's is their ability to play small-ball and swipe bags. Houston has 39 stolen bases on the season which ranks #1 in the Majors while Baltimore has only 7 while being caught 6 times, which is the worst in all of MLB! This could be a closely contested affair. In tight games such as this, the ability to steal a base at an opportune time, to put a runner in scoring position as opposed to stuck on the 1st base makes all the difference. The Astros have numerous different options in that regard, led by All-Star Jose Altuve who already has 15 stolen bases this season! Matt Wieters and Wilson are going to have have their work cut out for them in this contest. There is a reason Houston, who are 10 games below a .500 record are favored in this matchup over a Baltimore team that is 26-17 on the season! Look for the home side to capitalize on last night's momentum shifting 13-innings 'W' and clinch another victory.

2: Take Philadelphia Phillies (+105) on the ML against Detroit Tigers risking 3% to win 3.15%
(Nola and Sanchez must start for wager to have action)

In a season that Philadelphia has consistently gotten quality starts out of of its rotation, Aaron Nola has been the best of the bunch. He's quickly establishing himself as the 'Ace' of the staff and has the opportunity to play the role of 'stopper' today. That's because the Phillies have been brought back down to earth in dropping the first two games of this series. Nonetheless, this is a team that has made some excellent progress and is capable of salvaging something out of this 3-game set, by winning this game and avoiding the sweep. It won't help the Tigers that second-base and leadoff man, Ian Kinsler, who's having another outstanding season is banged up and is not in the starting lineup.

Nola vs. Sanchez is a mismatch on the mound based on this season's statistics as the two have gone in opposite directions. Anibal Sanchez no longer has the stuff he used to and the veteran's best days seem well behind him. He's been issuing too many free passes and against a team that has home-run threat in the likes of Maikel Franco and Ryan Howard, that is dangerous. Nola, on the other hand, has an outstanding 5.82 strikeout to walk ratio and has been baffling hitters all season.

Another unique advantage that Nola will have in this contest is that the Detroit Tigers have never faced him before! Given that this is an inter-league matchup, there is a degree of unfamiliarity as these two clubs don't get to battle often. National league teams have by now seen Aaron Nola and have at least some experience at the plate against him but the same can not be said about an American League team, such as the Tigers. Given the Detroit offense's tendency to take big swings at every pitch and try to send one into the stands, as opposed to having a shorter and compact swing that simply puts the ball in play, it wouldn't surprise us if they consistently fanned. Strike-outs could well be an issue for this offense against a talented young hurler that they have no prior experience against. The Phillies, however, do have some experience against Sanchez and some of the players in fact have pretty good numbers off of him.

Francisco Rodriguez got the 'save' last night but it didn't come hassle-free. He gave up 2 hits and a run before getting the job done and after working 2 days in a row, it remains to be seen if Brad Ausmus will call him into action tonight. He may well choose to leave him on the bench to give his arm some needed rest but even if he does give him the ball, the Philly bats have now seen him on consecutive nights and will have a good idea of how to do damage. For a bullpen that has had issues all season long and can hardly be trusted to hang onto a lead, the absence or potential ineffectiveness of K-Rod, only adds to their uncertainty.

The best arms in the Phillies bullpen, Hector Neris and Jeanmar Gomez, are ready to be called into action after getting the last two nights off. Those are two more pitchers that the Tigers have very little experience against and should do a good job in the 8th and 9th inning if summoned for duty. Coach Pete Mackanin took out Odubel Herrera from the game the other night, despite a very good hitting night, because he wasn't running hard down the line on one play and that sends an important message to this ball club. It lets them know that they can't be satisfied with their good start to the season and that 100% effort and energy is required on every play, each and every night. It showed great leadership by Mackanin and is a move that'll pay dividends in the long run. Philadelphia hasn't won in Detroit for a very long time and the players will no doubt be motivated to end that drought! This is a 'False Favorite' situation in our opinion as the pitching edge, both from the starting point of view, as well as the relievers goes to the visitors. At these underdog odds, all the value is on Philadelphia in this particular spot.

Other notable facts to consider:

  • Seven of Nola's 9 appearances have been 'quality starts' this season!
  • Anibal Sanchez has yet to record a 'quality start' despite starting 9 games!
  • Phillies have won 11 of 15 games against teams with winning records!

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