MLB Capital gains: Oriole’s, Nationals in first place!

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There are all kinds of happenings currently going on in baseball to give everyone a thrill.

There’s Bryce Harper stealing home, Albert Pujols finally hitting his first home run of the season and the Dodgers playing with passion, but the top story through the first month has to be the party going on in our nation’s Capital.

Both the Nationals and Orioles are in first place!

Washington, D.C. hasn’t had a lot to be excited about from their sports team over the last decade other than their hockey team. It’s a great sports town, but they haven’t had much to cheer about. The Redskins have been mediocre, the basketball team has been at the bottom of the standings forever and their baseball parks have only been filled when the Yankees, Red Sox and Phillies come to town.

But following Sunday’s action, Baltimore and Washington are both in first place and have the area focusing once again on baseball. The Orioles (19-9) last won the AL East in 1997 and only finished better than fourth once (third in 2004). They’ve finished dead last in their division for the last four seasons.

For the Nationals (18-10), they had their best season last year finishing third, one game under .500, but had finished last in five of the six seasons since the franchise moved from Montreal. If we throw in the Senators record before they became the Twins, the last time DC finished first was in 1933. The only time they ever won a World Series was 1924.

Now granted, it’s still early and the combination of the Orioles starting pitching and the Nats’ 24th ranked hitting (.238) could do them in rather quickly, but this is exactly what is so great about baseball. It’s about the possibilities and hopes of all the fans and players believing that something good could happen from a place filled with long lost memories.

The Orioles silenced many of their critics by winning five of their last six games, and doing so in New York and Boston, the Deans of the AL East. The theme coming into last week was “we’ll see what the O’s are made of this week.’’ They then proceeded to play inspired ball in the most intimidating parks of baseball.

The Boston series was a perfect microcosm of the shifting of powers within the division with the Red Sox failing in two extra inning games at home and the upstart O‘s taking it to them with inspired play.

The Nationals made a statement in a similar way slaying their nemesis, the Phillies, from their short existence and doing so using the Phillies model of success. The Nationals aren’t going to score very many runs. They currently have scored only 96 runs on the season, the fourth least in baseball, but it’s the pitching that carries them daily.

The Nats pitching staff has the best ERA (2.59) in baseball, almost a half a run better than the NL’s second best in St. Louis. Their current dominance nightly on the mound almost has the feel of the Phillies squad from the last few seasons.

The Orioles currently lead the AL in ERA (2.78) which comes as a major surprise and the reason where they’re at right now. Their starters could use a boost from Zach Britton when he comes back, but it’s been the bullpen that has been igniting wins and shutting down their opponents.

Baltimore’s bullpen has the lowest ERA (1.41) in all of baseball with an 8-2 mark and has allowed only four home runs, which is the best in the AL.

Again, it’s only May and it might be too premature to talk about a DC area World Series, but the thought of it alone is exciting. Nothing against the Yankees, Rangers, Red Sox and Phillies, but a DC World Series would be huge for the game and also give hope to all of the teams around the league that can’t seem to penetrate the evil Empire’s Death Star.

Harpermania

As if being on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a high school player, being the number one overall draft pick and having one of the quickest bats speeds ever wasn’t enough to fuel the legendary status of rookie Bryce Harper, the kid pulls out his best Ty Cobb-Jackie Robinson impression and steals home.

It didn’t matter that the Nationals eventually lost Sunday night to the Phillies because the entire baseball world got to see what a gamer Harper is. His baseball instincts and knowledge of the game seem to be just a little bit higher than most veterans. He plays the game with a cocky confidence and arrogance in a good way that reminds some of the way Pete Rose played.

The play came after getting hit by a pitch from Cole Hamels, who was sending the kid a message about respect or ‘know your place rookie’ or something like that, it was pretty obvious. After going first to third on a Jayson Werth single, Harper was watching the motion of Hamels throwing to first in an attempt to keep Werth closer with two outs.

On Hamel’s next deliberate toss to first, Harper was gone and beat the throw home. It was a heads-up play contrived on his own and a play we rarely see in baseball. It’s definitely the stuff legends are made of.

Best Prices to Bet

The most profitable line this season out of all baseball games played has been playing any game at +115 no matter who or where it is. Sides at +115 have gone 22-16 for a return of +930, including 12-4 at home at +980.

The -120 favorite has gone 27-14 this season with a profit of +1,020 by simply being laying the number whether it’s a home or away team, although the home side is a little better alone at +560.

If you took all road teams at +145 and +160, you’d be up +1,580 at a 15-6 record.

Take a shot with a few underdogs in the higher price range while also valuing the small favorites a bit more. Of course, this stuff all cycles around and we’ll likely be looking at an entirely new landscape next month. However, taking plus-money and laying low prices at the best numbers is how the professional bettors stay in business during the summer.

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