It’s a little too early to get excited, but through the first two games of the Cardinals v.Brewers series, it appears as though the Cardinals haven’t given up quite yet; even if the rest of the baseball world has. Milwaukee entered the series with a ten and half game lead and on a 28-6 streak that had many wondering aloud if they weren’t the best team in all of baseball. It would still take an epic collapse, but if the Cards can finish off the sweep this afternoon, they will have made a small dent in the lead, whittling it down to seven and a half.
It doesn’t exactly have the tense drama of Yankees v Sox, but in a year surprisingly devoid of great pennant races, I’ll take what I can get.
Speaking of taking what I can get, let’s get to two games on tonight’s docket that are just begging to be taken to the wagering window with a money-earning ticket…
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TODAY’S MLB PICKS:
Washington Nationals +200 @ Atlanta Braves -220 (Total: 7.5)
Chen Ming-Wang (2-2, 3.82) vs. Tim Hudson (13-8, 3.10)
The Nationals have scuffled lately, losers of seven of their last eight to fall once again well below of the .500 mark, after flirting with it for most of the season. They are going to need a very strong push in September to be able to attain that goal. Traveling to Atlanta to face Tim Hudson isn’t an easy way to embark on the season’s final month.
Hudson has been excellent all season. Perhaps a bit over shadowed by the emerging dominance of Jair Jurgens, Hudson has nonetheless been one of the better “#2’s” in the National League (and no, Cliff Lee and Matt Cain do not count. They are both “co-aces”). Hudson has been sharp in his three most recent starts, posting a 2.32 ERA despite going 1-1 with a no-decision.
The Braves as a team are hot, and are settling comfortably into playoff position. Albeit as a wildcard given the insane dominance of fellow NL East’ers, Philadelphia. The Braves have won 7 of 10, and 5 of 6 at home, yet surprisingly are an just even .500 this season against the Nationals (7-7).
Obviously the Braves have the edge, that’s why they are more than 2:1 favorites tonight. However, don’t discount Wang’s presence on the hill. The veteran has continued his unlikely return to the big leagues with pretty solid pitching. Aside from his first outing, Wang is 2-0 with an ERA of just 2.50.
The Braves have the edge, but at +200, the Nationals are worth a flyer tonight. It isn’t the safest pick, but it is an excellent value selection. I’m making the Nats to WIN my official pick tonight.
Tampa Bay Rays +140 @ Texas Rangers (TOTAL: 9.5)
Jeff Neimann (9-5, 3.46) vs. C.J. Wilson (13-6, 3.29)
Where did the vaunted Texas offense go the past few days? They have mustered just three runs in two days against the Rays after tallying 24 runs in three games against Anaheim in their weekend series win. Well, for starters, they are missing Nelson Cruz. The Ranger run producer is often lost in the popular shadow of Josh Hamilton, but it has been Cruz this season who has been their most consistent and effective run producer when healthy. Without him the past few days they’ve struggle to score, even in offense-friendly Arlington.
Tonight the Rays look to keep the trend rolling when Texas-native Jeff Neimann takes the hill against the Rangers ace, CJ Wilson. Both pitchers have been solid all season, and both have pitched reasonably well over the past two weeks; Wilson with a slightly lower ERA and Neimann with about .3 more run allowed, but a nice WHIP almost half a point lower than Wilson’s at 0.88. Wilson has had an interesting two months. He ran a streak of four starts consecutively without allowing more than 2 runs, including two one-run performances and a shut-out. Bookended around those starts are games with five, six and six runs allowed.
I am leaning towards the Rays in another value pick. Getting +140 with a fairly neutral pitching matchup with the favored team struggling at the plate and missing the big bat in the middle of the order gives the Rays just enough edge to be a great value at +140.