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PICKS IN PROGRESS
My 10* PERFECT STORM is on the Tor Raptors at 6:30 ET.
The Bucks (55-15) have clinched the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference for the second season in a row, despite uneven play in the 'bubble' (Milwaukee is just 2-3 SU and ATS). The Raptors lost Friday for the first time since the season restart (122-100 to the Boston Celtics) but they rebounded Sunday afternoon with a 108-99 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies to clinch the No. 2 seed in the conference at 50-19 (4-1 SU & ATS in the 'bubble.'). Milwaukee has been the East's best regular season for the last two seasons but the Raptors ARE the defending champs and have given every indication that they are ready to make a run at back-to-back titles.
How much can this game really mean to Milwaukee? The Bucks have won the two previous meetings between the teams this season, 115-105 at home on Nov 2 and 108-97 at Toronto on Feb 25. There is no denying the Bucks have struggled at times since the restart, as if not for a 'miracle' comeback vs Miami last Thursday, the Bucks would be just 1-4 ATS. Meanwhile, the Raptors sport a terrific seven-man rotation with guards Lowry, VanVleet and Powell plus frontcourt players Siakam, Anunoby, Gasol and Ibaka. In particular, VanVleet (19.4-4.2-6.8) has been outstanding.
Giannis Antetokounmpo should win his second straight MVP award (he's spectacular) but he's listed as probable due to a toothache (DON'T downplay that!). Either way, I'm "all over" Toronto with the points in this one!
My 9* Division Game of the Month (NL East) is on the NY Mets at 7:10 ET.
The New York Mets finally won their first series of the 2020, taking the final two games of their three-game set with the surprising Miami Marlins. Miami didn't play from July 27 through August 3, after 18 players tested positive for the coronavirus but the the Marlins returned to the field on August 4 and won their first SIX games (reaching 7-1). They missed out on a chance to match the best nine-game start in franchise history on Saturday night, when the Mets hit three HRs in an 8-4 victory. The victory was just New York's THIRD, in a 10-game stretch. New York won again 4-2 on Sunday, as Jacob deGrom moved to 2-0 on the season. The Mets are 3-1 in his starts, with deGrom owning a 2.45 ERA, 0.95 WHIP and .198 BAA.
The Washington Nationals visit Citi Filed to open a four-game series with the Mets on Monday. The defending champs are sure not playing like World Series champs, as the Nats have lost three straight games and were four innings from potentially getting swept by the crosstown Baltimore Orioles (for a 4th straight loss), when their Sunday game was suspended due to rain and a tarp issue (Washington trailed, 5-2, at the time). Nationals currently sit at 4-7, having lost three games due to the COVID-19 related issues of the Marlins
These teams just met in a two-game series in Washington last Tuesday and Wednesday, with the Nats winning 5-3 in the first contest and the Mets rebounding to take the next game, 3-1. Tonight's pitching matchup is a battle of left-handers, as Washington's Patrick Corbin (1-0, 3.00 ERA) takes on New York's Steven Matz (0-2, 5.65 ERA). It's a 're-hook' from last Tuesday's 5-3 Washington win. Corbin allowed three ERs on eight hits over 5.2 innings, while Matz allowed five ERs on seven hits over just three innings.
Corbin had a solid season for the Nats in 2019, going 14-7 with a 3.25 ERA in 33 starts (Washington was 21-12). However, he's just 3-5 with a 4.59 ERA in 15 career games (14 starts / teams are 6-8) against the Mets. Matz is now 1-6 (3.91 ERA) in 13 career starts vs Washington, although the Mets are a more respectable 6-7 in those starts. Matz was 11-10 with a 4.21 ERA last season but here's 'the skinny.' He was AWFUL away from home (3-8 with a 6.62 ERA and .293 BAA) but terrific at Citi Field (8-2 with a 2.31 ERA and .230 BAA).
The Nationals look disinterested so far and I'm not ready to give up on the Mets, just yet. Matz is the play at Citi Field.
My 10* Las Vegas Insider is on the Col Rockies at 8:40 ET.
The Colorado Rockies went 71-91 in 2019, leaving them a whopping 35 games back of the NL West champion LA Dodgers. The Rockies return to Denver on Monday, off a 5-3 Sunday loss at Seattle. However, the Rockies had won the first two of their three-game set with the Mariners and have won ALL five series they have played this season. Colorado is 11-4 and off to its best 15-game start since 2013! Arizona is off an 85-77 season (21 games back of LA) but had hopes of making the 2020 postseason, which has been expanded from 10 to 16 teams. So far, NOT so good. The D'backs opened the season losing three of four at San Diego and comes off losing two of three this past weekend against the Padres, again playing in San Diego. Arizona comes to Coors Field 6-10 and last in the NL West.
Before discussing the game's starting pitchers, a little about the teams. The Rockies lead all of MLB with a .261 BA and their pitching staff owns a team ERA of 2.84, which ranks 4th-best. When one considers Colorado's team ERA was 5.56 (29th of 30 teams in 2019), that's QUITE an improvement. In comparison, the D'backs are batting just .211 as a team (amazingly, SIX teams are actually hitting worse!) and Arizona's pitching staff sports a 5.48 ERA (29th of 30 teams)!
Arizona lefty Robbie Ray (1-2, 9.45 ERA) gets the nod tonight at Coors Field, opposed by Colorado's Jon Gray (0-1, 3.31 ERA). Ray has clearly struggled in his first three starts (1.95 WHIP to go along with his 9.45 ERA). He will make his 18th career start against Colorado, going 5-5 with a 5.20 ERA in his first 17 (team is 6-11). Gray also makes his fourth start of 2020 and has deserved much better than to be winless. Colorado's offense has been one of the best in the league but in Gray's three starts, the offense has scored just two runs in each contest, while he was in the game.
That HAS to change! Opposing hitters are batting just .194 Gray and remember, Arizona is hitting .211 as a team in 2020. What's more, excluding Arizona's 14-run outburst against Houston back on August 5th, the D'backs have averaged a woeful 2.8 RPG in their other 15 games. The Rockies had scored four or more runs in 12 straight games before Sunday's 5-3 loss and my bet says gray gets the support he needs tonight to pick up his first win.