Final game of series offers opportunities

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Through the course of a Major League Baseball season, you’ll find more times than not it’s easier to find a winner than it is to avoid a loser. Meaning, a bit of research, a little reading and the sprinkling of some analytics will help you find valuable prices on quality pitchers and teams.

What becomes difficult, however, is falling for easy traps. And one of the biggest is betting on road teams on the brink of sweeping a series. Fact is, a club in danger of being swept at home can prove to be a commodity you simply cannot ignore.

Think about it. Realistically, the home team will try its hardest in that final game so as not to be embarrassed in front of its own crowd.

Let’s take a look at what’s transpired as we flip the calendar after the first month of baseball. We’re basing things off the final game of a three- or four-game series and through last weekend, road teams looking to successfully close out a series sweep are 15-12. American League teams are 9-3, while the National League clubs are just 6-9.

Understandably, teams have been more successful in finishing off a three-game series sweep, boasting a 13-8 mark in the final game. Teams attempting to close out a four-game sweep are just 2-4.

As tempting as it may be to start looking for the next American League road team on the brink of sweeping a series, one thing to factor in is the price. Breaking it down even further, with the 27 occasions a road team was in position to sweep, a favored guest has proven to be a moneymaker.

Road favorites are 10-2 in the final game of a series they’ve won the first two or three games. If the price is even, the road team is 2-0, giving you a 12-2 winning edge on a guest laying chalk or sitting at +100 and looking to sweep.

Underdogs in that situation, however, don’t have much fight, as they’re 3-10 when looking to break out the broom.

Sure, streaking teams have momentum, and when you’re talking about some of the better clubs in the league, it’s going to be hard to avoid the sweep. Unless of course the visitor is playing overconfident and begins thinking past its guest and on to the next series.

With the home team, we know morale is probably low, the manager is at his wit’s end and the visitors are having fun and playing relaxed. I mean, when you go into an opposing ballpark, most times, you’re supposed to lose, right?

Let’s recap the first month of baseball, and how road teams have fared when they need one win to complete a sweep, we’re going to remember a few things:

1. American League teams have done better, with a 9-3 mark; the senior circuit is 6-9.

2. Sweeping a three-game set has happened 13 of 21 times, while teams are 2-4 trying to sweep a four-game set in the final game.

3. Favorites or teams at even money are a combined 12-2, while underdogs are 3-10 in that final game.

Now, after sweeping the board the past two weeks with my picks, let’s see if we can find some winners for the first weekend in May.

Thursday

Tampa Bay Rays at Kansas City Royals: I like the Rays and I want you to be sure you’re listing the scheduled starters, Charlie Morton and Jorge Lopez. This is a major pitching mismatch, so if the line is higher than -150, consider playing this one on the run line.

Morton just earned his third win of the season on April 27, when he struck out five Boston Red Sox batters and scattered two hits over six scoreless innings. Now he is facing a mediocre lineup he can dominate and mix his pitches well against.

He’ll get the run support, as we just saw Lopez struggle over 3 2/3 innings last Saturday, when he was tagged for six hits and walked three while giving up four runs during his shortest stint of the season. RAYS

Friday

Washington Nationals at Philadelphia Phillies: The Nats and Phils renew their intensified rivalry at Citizens Bank Park for a weekend set. And in this one, I’m banking on Bryce Harper’s bat and Jerad Eickhoff’s arm.

I don’t care who ends up pitching for the Nats, just be sure you’re listing Eickhoff, who just looked spectacular last Friday against the Miami Marlins. The right-hander, who is 1-1 with a 2.12 ERA this season, scattered two hits over seven scoreless innings, and will step to the hill with a flawless ERA at home, across 11 innings of work.

The Phils split a pair in D.C. in early May, then it was Washington winning 2 of 3 in Philly a week later. With the series-opener at home on a Friday, don’t be surprised to see Harper put one or two out against his former team. PHILLIES

Toronto Blue Jays at Texas Rangers: I’m headed to Arlington for my third pick this week, also on Friday, as I like the Rangers in this spot. And like my play on the Phils, I’m basing this one on the home pitcher, as I’m advising you to list Mike Minor. He’s been the team’s most consistent starter, as he rolls in with a 3-2 mark in six starts, and a 2.88 ERA. He set a career high with 13 strikeouts in his last start against the Mariners and is 3-1 with a 1.75 ERA in his past five starts.

He should toe the slab with plenty of confidence, as he was 2-0 with a 3.75 ERA in two starts against Toronto last season. Keep an eye on this price, as you may want to look at the run line if the offering is too high. RANGERS

Last week: 3-0

Season: 8-4

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About the Author

W.G. Ramirez

W.G. Ramirez is a 32-year veteran covering sports in Southern Nevada, and resident of 46 years. He is a freelance reporter in Las Vegas and the Southern Nevada correspondent for The Associated Press.

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