Orioles vs. Tigers Pick MLB – July 17th

It was a great final month of the first half of the season, culminated by a clean sweep in the Home Run Derby. I’ll consider it my mission to keep the good times rolling as the baseball season begins its transformation from “dog days of summer” to its final two phases: the massive buy/sell fest that will dominate the media cycle (as well as my column, as those moves will dramatically alter the landscape of the playoff races), and then the best part of the season; the playoff stretch run.

One last note – not related to wagering, but related to baseball. I’m not sure how many of you caught the whole Franchise Four portion of the MLB telecast, but seeing Willie Mays come out on the field live was ridiculously incredible. Ditto for Hank Aaron and Johnny Bench. But seeing Koufax live – dude looks like he could STILL pitch. Incredible for a guy pushing 80. Wow. If you ever have the chance to go to an All-Star Game, do it. The game itself isn’t the greatest sporting event, but the pageantry and atmosphere of reverence for the game of baseball is truly special…

In the meantime, baseball gets back on the diamond tonight, and while rosters will be imminently fluid over the next few weeks, let’s try to start things on stable ground by notching a second half-starting winner.

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Today’s Free Pick:

Baltimore Orioles at Detroit Tigers (Total: 7.5)

Ubaldo Jimenez vs. Anibal Sanchez

Two veteran pitchers for two venerable playoff teams square off tonight with each team holding equally disappointing 44-44 records. The big difference? The Orioles are in a division where first and last place are separated by six games. The Tigers are chasing the Royals and Twins and have at least another month without Miggy. It’s two radically different situations as these two teams embark on the second half of the season.

The Orioles have one of the more talented lineups in baseball, ranking top five in batting and runs. The Tigers are tops in baseball at .281 batting and haven’t really missed a beat since Miggy went down. But how long can they sustain that pace? J.D. Martinez has been amazing, but they are going to need Simon and Verlander to pitch like the pitchers of 2013 to get squarely back in this race. Sanchez has been decent, but also not as sharp as year’s past. He enters tonight with a pretty mediocre 4.85 ERA and has been about as medicore over his last three starts. The Tigers are predictably mediocre, 9-9, in games he has started this season. In fact, you could say Sanchez is a microcosm of the team in general.

Meanwhile, Jimenez has been a wonderful surprise as he has rediscovered the form that made him a highly-prices coveted addition. He enters with an ERA under three and a dazzling 0.45 ERA in his last three starts. If the offenses are nearly equal tonight, and I think they are, then the edge HAS to go to Baltimore on the basis of starting pitching matchup. That makes the near even-money line of -101 for Baltimore irresistible to pass up.

I’ll take the O’s to continue the Tigers’ woes.

Free Pick: Baltimore Orioles to WIN -101