Why it’s still difficult to pick favorites in NL East games, plus best bets for Monday

We did it. We made it through the NBA regular season, finally. I’ve made no secret about how desperate I was for it to end so we could get to the playoffs and watch teams actually try to win, and that was on my mind a little as I watched the season come to an end on Sunday.

I mean, what an absolute farce the final day of the season was. The same farce we’ve seen for the last few weeks, as there seemed to be more teams and fan bases interested in losing games than there were in winning. I can’t help but think of the recent uproar in Europe over soccer teams trying to form a super league that enraged fans because it would lower the stakes for all involved, and meanwhile, in the United States, we’ve conditioned fans to root for their teams to lose.

Everybody is constantly looking for reasons why some sports are suffering and what needs to be done to solve it. Have we considered the possibility that it might be the rooting for losses that’s done it? Rooting for defeat seems to be a natural first step to overall apathy toward the team, and once that sets in, maybe that has an impact on a fan’s interest?

It’s a thought to chew on, but not until after you’ve finished reading these stories.

And now for tonight’s picks, which we are all rooting for to win.

All times Eastern, and all odds via William Hill Sportsbook

🔥 The Hot Ticket

Mets at Braves, 7:10 p.m. | TV: ESPN
The Pick: Mets (+135)
: So this is not a blind principle play even though it’s an NL East matchup. That said, I feel it’s important to remind you that underdogs in NL East divisional games are 20-19 on the season, with a return of roughly 7.5 units! So it certainly doesn’t hurt the Mets in this spot, but I’m primarily on this because it’s slightly disrespectful of the Mets.

Like, you can make the argument that New York’s 18-16 record and first-place standing in the division is misleading considering the team has a run differential of -10. The problem with that argument is that the Braves are 19-21 with a run differential of -15. These are two teams who have arrived in similar situations through different methods.

The Mets have great pitching but can’t hit. The Braves smack the ball all over the park but can’t pitch. In matchups like this, I’m more inclined to go with the better pitching team, especially when there’s a slight chance that the hitting team could be without its best hitter (Ronald Acuña) tonight.

Key Trend: Underdogs are 20-19 in NL East divisional matchups this season.

Here’s what SportsLine is saying about the game: The Advanced Computer Model isn’t a fan of either side of the money line, but it’s got a good feeling about the total.

💰 The Picks



Nationals at Cubs, 7:40 p.m. | TV: MLB.TV
The Pick: Under 8 (-110) — 
Tonight’s weather forecast at Wrigley Field is the one any pitcher wakes up hoping to see. Winds will be coming in from right field steadily, and temperatures will be in the upper-50s. That all helps make Wrigley into a pitcher’s paradise — and Wrigley is already one of the friendliest pitcher parks at night, regardless of the wind.

If there’s any reason to be concerned, it’s that Jon Lester doesn’t miss many bats, and both of tonight’s starters tend to give up more fly balls than ground balls. Still, neither Lester nor Chicago’s Adbert Alzolay have given up an excessive amount of heavy contact.

Key Trend: The under is 18-7-1 in the Cubs last 26 games as a home favorite.

Indians at Angels, 9:38 p.m. | TV: MLB.TV
The Pick: Indians (+133) — 
I’m not sure what the oddsmakers are looking at in this one. Cleveland enters this game as something of a surprise in 2021. It’s 21-17 and in second place in the AL Central, thanks to excellent pitching. The Angels are only 17-22 with a run differential of -47, yet they’re pretty heavily favored against Cleveland tonight. You’d think Dylan Bundy or Shohei Ohtani were on the mound for Los Angeles, but they aren’t.

Instead, it’s Patrick Sandoval, who hasn’t started a game this season but has an ERA of 6.14 after three appearances out of the bullpen. In 83.1 career innings, Sandoval has an ERA of 5.40.

Cleveland starter Sam Hentges is only 24 and has only 13.2 MLB innings under his belt, but he’s been impressive in those innings. If nothing else, I’m betting on Hentges being solid because it seems like every starter Cleveland brings up whom you’ve never heard of before is pretty good.

Key Trend: The Indians are 6-2 in their last eight as an underdog.

🔒 SportsLine Pick of the Day: The Advanced Computer Model as well as two of our SportsLine experts absolutely love the value on one side of the money line in tonight’s game between the Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox.

💸 The DFS Rundown

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Top Three Starters

Value Starter

Top Three Hitters

Value Hitter

🏀 NBA Playoff Futures

The Pick: Philadelphia 76ers to win the East (+300) and the NBA Finals (+750) — The NBA regular season is over, and while we still have the play-in games before the final playoff field is settled, now seems like a good time to get some futures in. Like most of you, I am anticipating that once the playoffs begin, all those aches and pains the Brooklyn Nets have been feeling during the regular season will mysteriously disappear. Then, once fully healthy, James Harden, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving will form a death star that will be difficult to stop.

But — but! — the Sixers do have homecourt in the East, and they have been one of the better teams in the NBA. They also have a player in Joel Embiid who can take over a game or a series, and I have a hard time imagining it’s anybody but the Sixers and Nets in the Eastern Conference Finals. That provides a lot of value on the Sixers, as these odds underestimate this team’s chances a bit.

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