Today's Free Picks for
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Posted at 11:00 AM EST and are subject to change.
San Francisco +140 over Los Angeles
9:45 PM EST. There are a few numbers floating around for this one, but we're playing +152 at Pinnacle.
Alex Cobb (RHP - SF) remains a good undervalued arm. His 4.06 ERA and 1.28 WHIP have hidden some very solid skills: 23% K%, 7% BB%, 16% K-BB%, 63% grounders and an outstanding xERA of 2.89. His extreme groundball tilt has made it very difficult for batters to barrel the ball against him (3.7% Brl%). He also allows a high volume of soft contact (87.5 mph EV). As a dog at home in this range, even against the Dodgers (more on that later), Cobb and the Giants must be played.
Julio Urias (LHP - LAD) has made 20 starts covering 110 frames. Over that span he has a great BB/K split of 24/103. The man throws strikes but his 11% swing and miss rate does not support the strikeouts. His swing & miss rate last game was a puny 3.4%, which eschews concerns over volume after he became MLB's only 20-game winner a year ago. Pinpoint control certainly is worth something and his success cannot be denied but if we're to nitpick: xERA, HR/F question his surface stats and his swing & miss rate questions whether the K-rate is sustainable. Dude is good and he pitches for the Dodgers and for that, there is a big premium to pay.
That’s the starters for this one but there’s so much more going on here that we’re going to take a shot on the Giants. You see, you cannot take the human element out of anything and we have to trust that the Dodgers are getting ready for a massive weekend with the Padres coming to town. Unless you’ve been under a rock, you’re aware of the dealings that went on at the deadline, specifically the Padres being involved in one of the biggest trades in baseball history but there’s even more. The Padres coming to Dodger Stadium this weekend is not just a series of baseball games, it’s an event, a tribute and a spectacle all rolled into one that has already started to resonate in that region. Tickets to Friday’s game might be impossible to get because aside from the game, most certainly there will be a pregame ceremony honoring the greatest baseball/sports broadcasting voice that ever lived. Vin Scully was Dodgers baseball. Add it all up and we’re going to trust that the Dodgers will be looking past this seemingly irrelevant game and looking ahead to Friday’s opener, not just to remind San Diego who is king but to honor and pay tribute to a lifelong friend.
For many of us, Dodgers and national broadcasting great Vin Scully, who passed away Tuesday at the age of 94, had been part of our worlds for almost our entire lives. Being an east-coaster whose birth postdated the Dodgers’ exodus from Brooklyn, I first encountered him on NBC’s long-running Saturday Game of the Week. At that time he was teamed with Joe Garagiola. Scully would elevate a standard Astros-Cubs game by saying things in the nature of, “As William Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet, Act I, scene ii…… As Jim Frey removed Rick Sutcliffe from the game, his countenance seemed more in sorrow than in anger.” Garagiola would gargle something trite, and then Scully would remind the audience that, as Sutcliffe had exited trailing 3-2, “He CAN’T win, CAN lose.” He loved to say that. He would stretch those five syllables into 10. He was situationally aware and wanted you to be aware, and so he posted signs and markers.
Preparation—a prerequisite for awareness—was the key to how Scully stayed relevant decade after decade. Scully famously carried an arsenal of index cards containing relevant facts which he could pepper into the broadcast. He didn’t just call a game—he studied it first.
That dedication, which accentuated his own deep fund of knowledge, made his conversational broadcast style possible. “My idea is that I’m sitting next to the listener in the ballpark, and we’re just watching the game,” he said in 2014. “Sometimes, our conversation leaves the game. It might be a little bit about the weather we’re enduring or enjoying. It might be personal relationships, which would involve a player. The game is just one long conversation and I’m anticipating that, and I will say things like ‘Did you know that?’ or ‘You’re probably wondering why.’ I’m really just conversing rather than just doing play-by-play. I never thought of myself as having a style. I don’t use key words. And the best thing I do? I shut up.” The shutting up came at key moments—like his mentor, Red Barber, he let the big moments breathe (Google Kirk Gibson’s walk-off homer in 1988 or the Mets/Red Sox bizarre ending in Game 6 of the World Series).
Scully’s legacy was one of incredible, almost unfathomable largesse and it will never be fully excavated. He had many highs in his life and some moments of personal pain as well but you would never know it from the broadcasts because he kept himself out of them, letting each of 162 games be its own short story. This was his job and he did it amazingly well. Baseball games are largely disposable. We remember the totality of the season and the resultant championships but aside from the odd game, we let the vast majority of them go. The broadcasts go too. So, except for a few key games, or those from the last years of his career, archived on the Internet, much of his work echoed in the ear and then was gone. The tones that transistor radio or car radio spread throughout the region for decades lived for that moment.
I don’t know if one should be sentimental about the passing from our world of Howard Johnson’s orange-roofed restaurants from roadsides nationwide, or the similar attrition of blue-roofed Stuckey’s, or the removal of “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride” and “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” from Walt Disney World. These seem like small losses, and yet they have something in common with larger ones. Point is, Scully’s words could become a signpost for new generations, for those who had to find their own way without familiar landmarks like orange-roofed ice-cream stores and Twin Towers. Sure, it’s just a chain, it’s just a building—take away the human tragedy and those office buildings were very large but not particularly special. It’s the meaning we give these things that creates the loss we may feel when they are gone. Your version will be different from mine, and that’s right and proper. That’s why it’s okay to be sentimental about those parts of the scenery that pass away—they were how we situated ourselves in the world, once upon a time. Scully was part of that process in two ways: He invested each game with a warm, welcoming tone—“Pull up a chair!”—that made it more than the temporary thing it otherwise was. And then, as he went on placing his signposts and markers, he became one of those signposts and markers, a reassuring fixture unto himself.
“It’s the human relationships I will miss when the time comes,” he said in that 2014 profile. “Like everyone in life, I’ve had my tragic moments, and the crowd has always got me through those moments. That’s why I’ve said, ‘I needed you far more than you needed me.’ I rarely use the word ‘fans.’ I realize the origin is ‘fanatics,’ but I always use the word ‘friends.’”
What is a friend but someone who situates you in the world by being reliably themselves, by always letting you know the score? That’s who Vin Scully was. He transcended his role to become more than a mere broadcaster. So long, friend. In the coming days we will remember you with warmth, with fondness, but for now the only thing that feels like a certainty as you leave us is this: We can’t win, but we can lose. RIP.
San Francisco +152 (Risking 2 units - To Win: 3.04)