Baseball Report + Jets, Ravens and Panthers Capsules
THE BASEBALL REPORT:
LOOK AT WHO’S FINISHING STRONG AS WE HEAD INTO NEXT WEEK’S
ALL-STAR GAME BREAK…
PLUS MORE NFL TEAM-BY-TEAM UPDATES AS WE CHECK IN WITH THE JETS, RAVENS & PANTHERS
Let’s face facts:
Major-League Baseball players like to take vacation time too and so—with the annual All-Star Game looming in Minnesota this coming Tuesday night—you know (and we know) that plenty of big-leaguers just can’t wait till we get to Sunday when non-All Stars all grab a three- , four- or even five-day break in the action.
So, we always like to pay special attention to the teams that are flying high as we head into the All-Star Game break ‘cause that shows us they have not lost focus on what’s at hand.
In today’s "Jim Sez" column space, we’ll check in with a couple of MLB teams that have revved it up the past few days and we’ll ask the $64,000 question… will they keep it up these next four days before we get to the Midsummer Classic?
Here’s who is really hot, hot, hot as we head into the July 10th diamond docket…
LOS ANGELES ANGELS (53-37)—Okay, so the Halos have not exactly been able to crack the top spot in the AL West where screeching-hot Oakland still rules the roost but have you noticed where Mike Scioscia’s club has won eight of its last 10 games including yesterday’s wild 9-7 matinee home win against the Toronto Blue Jays?
The Angels—who wrap up the unofficial first half of this 2014 season with a four-game series in Texas (and no RHP Yu Darvish for the Rangers after he threw six rather shaky innings last night in the 8-4 loss against Houston)—are building a rather comfortable lead in the battle for the two wild cards in the junior circuit this year and it’s worth noting the Angels are behind the A’s in the standings is because LAA is only 20-18 against same-division foes this season.
Yes, maybe that will change against the nose-diving Rangers this weekend in Arlington.
The Angels’ plus 71 in run differential is—easily—second-best in the AL behind Oakland’s plus 145 runs and you might be interested in knowing 1B Albert Pujols already has 20 home runs this year including the game-winning two-run blast in the seventh inning in the aforementioned win against Toronto on Wednesday afternoon and did you also happen to know the Angels might have finally solved its late bullpen situation with RHPs Jason Grilli and Joe Smith real pros at the end of these tight games.
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WASHINGTON NATIONALS (49-40)—Hey, we don’t blame anyone out there if they wished to rip up their “laundry ticket” that had the Nats winning “over 89½ games” this year back in April, May and June but faster than you can say Tyler Clippard here’s the D.C. gang winners of eight of its last 10 games while heading into this final game of the rain-abbreviated home-and-home series with Beltway buddy Baltimore (the Nats and O’s finally will wind up their head-to-head fun-and-games on August 4th with a makeup game in Washington).
True, the Nats took over sole possession of first place in the NL East on Wednesday night following their 6-2 road win against the Orioles combined with Atlanta’s 4-1 loss at the suddenly-hot New York Mets but consider that Washington easily leads the NL East in run differential at plus 57 and—don’t look now—but Washington tops all NL teams in team ERA (3.08) and the likes of RHP Doug Fister (8-2) and All-Star RHP Jordan Zimmermann (6-4, 2.79 ERA) have taken the sting out of the fact righty Stephen Strasburg is “only” 7-6 with a 3.47 ERA in a year in which pitchers have dominated the sport.
The Nats don’t want to take their foot off the pedal just yet and a three-game, pre-All-Star Game set in Philadelphia this weekend is supremely important.
Note that Washington’s won four-of-six head-to-head matchups versus the Phillies this year including a three-game sweep in the nation’s capital back in early June when Philadelphia was outscored 19-to-6.
Nice same-season bounce-back, Matty Williams!
And now hear this…
Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers are banging outs lots of winners in Major-League Baseball these days and all you need to do is check in either right here online at www.jimhurley.com or via our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 any time after 1 p.m. Eastern time for the weeknight action, after 11 a.m. ET for weekday games and after 10 a.m. ET for Saturday/Sunday/Holiday Winners.
Plus, the Football Season isn’t that far off as NFL Preseason action swings into gear on August 3rd with the NFL Hall of Fame Game between the New York Giants versus the Buffalo Bills—can’t wait!
NFL TEAM-BY-TEAM GLANCES
Hey, it’s summertime and that means the annual Jim Sez reports on all 32 NFL teams with our quick-hitter looks continuing today with the New York Jets, the Baltimore Ravens and the Carolina Panthers… and do check out our quickie pointspread ditties here too.
NEW YORK JETS—There’ve been plenty of folks who thought the Jets have been slightly delusional in their Super Bowl talk in recent years… and now here’s still-unproven QB Geno Smith spouting similar stuff some 50-plus days away from the start of this 2014 regular season.
Smith said via the NFL Network that he “feels good about our team making a Super Bowl run” even though the Jets right now are listed as 65-to-1 favorites to win it all at this very moment. Hmmm.
Maybe the second-year pro from West Virginia should spend less time in the forecasting business and more time figuring out how he’s gonna beat out Michael Vick for the #1 QB spot this summer. Maybe Smith is the expected favorite to win the job, but don’t pencil in his name at #1 in the depth chart just yet, okay?
Pointspread Notes—The five-year head coaching career of J-E-T-S boss-man Rex Ryan has produced a rather so-so 44-41-1 ATS (against the spread) log and did you know that this AFC East team is 21-19-1 odds-wise as an underdog including outright pup wins last year against 3½-point favorite Tampa Bay, 9½-point fav Atlanta, 3½-point choice New England, 6½-point fav New Orleans and 7-point chalkie Miami?
BALTIMORE—No question that there’s a whole lot swirling around the Ravens these days with the pending Ray Rice suspension hanging over the franchise’s head plus there’s the fallout of the recent trade of LB Rolando McClain to the Dallas Cowboys, but somewhat lost among all the chatter is what’s gonna happen overall to this Baltimore defense?
Keep in mind that last year’s Ravens allowed 49 points to QB Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos to start the year and then 41 and 34 points, respectively, to end it versus New England and Cincinnati.
In between the Ravens held eight different opponents to 20 points or less—and Baltimore won six of those eight games SU (straight-up) -- and now there’s rumblings that all three of the team’s high draft choices—that’s ILB C.J. Mosley (Alabama), DT Timmy Jernigan (Florida State) and FS Terrence Brooks (Florida State) all could see significant time this season as Baltimore reshapes a too-slow defense. Stay tuned.
Pointspread Notes—Only once last year did the Ravens string together back-to-back spread wins as the AFC North crew did so with Week 2 and Week 3 wins/covers against Cleveland and Houston. Otherwise, the 2013 Ravens—the first Baltimore team to not make it to the post-season since the 2007 season—wound up going a wobbly 6-8-2 versus the vig and that marked the team’s first losing spread mark since—you got it—2007!
CAROLINA—Okay, so we’ll get into the Panthers’ opening-week woes in a moment (see Pointspread Notes below) but how about a word or two regarding this overall sked for the reigning NFC South champs?
The Panthers begin and end the season against same-division foes with Tampa Bay and Atlanta on the docket plus Carolina doesn’t get its bye until Week 12 and gotta believe that’s a bit later than head coach Ron Rivera and Company would like.
If the Panthers—who finished last year at 12-4 and beat out 11-and-5 New Orleans for the divisional crown—wish to repeat in the always topsy-turvy NFC South then that 27th-ranked passing game (190.2 ypg) must get a spark going in the post-WR Steve Smith Era.
Here’s one name you may want to watch:
WR Tiquan Underwood had just 24 receptions and 4 touchdowns last year for the point-starved Tampa Bay Bucs but he’s being counted on to be a top target for QB Cam Newton as Underwood steps in for Ted Ginn who is playing his pro ball in Arizona these days.
True, the Panthers selected Florida State WR Kelvin Benjamin with the 28th overall pick in this May’s draft but it’s Underwood who could be the splashy sort for fantasy league owners—gotta believe if he stays healthy he could wind up with 10-or-more TDs this year.
Pointspread Notes—Take heed that the Panthers have failed to cover each of their past five Week One games and one other trendy item on the board here is the Charlotte gang has gone 9-7 or 9-7-1 ATS in four of the past five years and so, generally speaking, we seem to know just about where this club is gonna be from a spread standpoint.
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