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PICKS IN PROGRESS
8* Seattle (8:00 ET): The Seahawks "suffered" through an 0-4 preseason last year, but were more successful in this year's opener, beating Denver 22-14. What's impressive about that is the Broncos already had a game under their belt, having played the Hall of Fame Game in Canton. Curiously, Seattle closed as a slight home dog for LW's contest. But despite resting most starters (including QB Wilson) they had no problem winning outright as it was 22-6 early in the fourth quarter. One of the more refreshing takeaways from that contest was the play of backup QB Paxton Lynch, who threw 109 yards and scored two touchdowns.
Seattle was a playoff team last year. But they were one and done at the hands of Dallas. Minnesota is two years removed from an appearance in the NFC Championship Game, but failed to make the playoffs a season ago, slipping to 8-7-1. They too were a winner in their first preseason game, beating New Orleans 34-25. They put up 460 total yards in that effort, including 217 on the ground. That's pretty impressive. Then again, the Saints have a reputation for not treating the preseason with much urgency. Seattle also ran the ball well last week (151 yards), for the record.
The Vikings defense did give up its fair share of points last week, but also scored a touchdown early in the second half, which is what broke the game open. On offense, QB Kirk Cousins led an eight-play, 73-yard drive in his lone series last week. He and the Vikings' first-teamers played into the 2nd quarter in LY's 2nd preseason game and that's expected again here. For Seattle, Russell Wilson sat out the preseason opener, but is also expected to go at least a quarter here. I like the points here as the Seahawks' backups looked good last week. 8* Seattle
8* Run Line Arizona (4:10 ET): Please note that this is a run line play only where I am backing the D'backs at +1.5. We won w/ the RL yday in a game fueled by revenge (Braves over Dodgers), but this one goes even further than that. While I concede this series has been a gross misread on my part (I've had Arizona in every game), I still believe what the numbers say and that's the D'backs are the far superior team. Taking the run line today "protects us" from what the Giants do best and that's win one-run games. They are a MLB-best 29-11 in that scenario and don't forget about their 12-2 record in extra innings either. The home team does no worse than a one-run loss today.
Just as I said in the Texas writeup, a home team getting swept in a four-game series is pretty rare. What makes this series all the more frustrating from the D'backs perspective is the numbers I alluded to earlier. Though San Francisco is 63-61 and Arizona is 61-63, the Giants have actually been outscored this season (by 47 runs!) while the D'backs have a YTD run differential of +61. Consider that the D'backs run differential is actually third best in the entire National League! The Giants is 4th worst w/ only the three last place teams worse. Run differential suggests Arizona has been about 11 games better than SF this year, not the two games worse that they are in actuality.
Taking the +1.5 wasn't an option in any of the first three games of this series, but it is here due to the Giants having Madison Bumgarner. But I'm playing the teams, not the starters here. Starting pitching is obviously important, but it isn't the "end all, be all" that it used to be in MLB betting. That said, it is "refreshing" to see that MadBum has a 4.64 ERA and 1.344 WHIP on the road to go along with a losing (5-6) team start record. I know that Merrill Kelly has struggled for Arizona, but with the numbers (specifically a +1.5) on his side, the D'backs get the cash here. 8* Run Line Arizona (+1.5)
8* Houston (4:07 ET): This game, like the two others in this package, finds a team (Houston) looking to avoid a sweep. But what makes it a little different is a) it's the road team and b) it's the Astros. Houston certainly isn't accustomed to these kind of results. In fact, they had gone 9-2 vs. the A's this year before this particular series got underway. Overall, the Astros have lost five straight and six of the last seven, which is highly irregular for them. It's their worst stretch of the season besides a seven-game slide back in mid-June. They bounce back and avoid the sweep today, thanks to who's on the mound.
The Astros have lost as big favorites numerous times during this 1-6 slide. The slide began last Sunday w/ an infamous loss as -550 ML favorites to Baltimore, which came one day after they beat the Orioles 23-2! But today they've got an "ace in the hole" in the form of Zack Greinke, who has now made two starts since coming over from Arizona. He gave up five runs in the first run (though three of them were unearned), then returned to usual form on Tuesday by holding the White Sox to just two runs over six innings. That's Houston's only win over the last week. But it's situations like this why they went out and got Greinke. Look for him to deliver.
Though he just came over from the National League, Greinke has had success in the past facing Oakland. He's 6-2 w/ a 3.11 ERA in 16 appearances against them. Meanwhile, A's starter Brett Anderson has had no such luck with the Astros as he's 1-4 w/ a 6.58 ERA in six career outings against them. The first two games of this series were both decided by one run, one of them going 13 innings, so it's not like Oakland is dominating. This afternoon, it will be Greinke doing the dominating as he usually does in the Bay Area (9-1 when pitching in either Oakland or SF). 8* Houston
10* Under Twins/Rangers (3:05 ET): The Twins are looking to sweep Sunday and have certainly "brought the lumber" so far in this series as they've scored 29 runs in the first three games, twice scoring 12 or more. But today they run into Lance Lynn. He not only has a 1.42 ERA his L3 starts, but all three have stayed Under as well. In fact, the Under is now 17-8 in all Lynn starts this season. Being that we're halfway through August, the fact that the Twins are still averaging 6.2 runs per game on the road is legit. But I still believe its going to be difficult to maintain that number the last two months of the season. Take the Under.
Today marks the 1st time in the series that Texas is favored to win. They were significant ML underdogs in the two blowout losses. But Lynn looks to be a difference maker for the finale as the Rangers look to avoid the embarrassment of being swept in a four-game series at home, which doesn't happen all that often. Coming into this series, Texas was 35-22 at home this year. Lynn is 9-1 in his 12 starts here in Arlington (10-2 TSR) and the last one saw him allow just one run and four hits in seven innings. Not only has Lynn allowed exactly 1 ER in each of his L4 starts, he's given up 3 ER or less in 19 of his 25 this season.
A six-run 1st inning is what doomed Texas yesterday (all six unearned). That won't be happening again w/ Lynn on the mound, however. Ironically, Lynn pitched for Minnesota last season and wasn't all that effective. Both of today's starters will be facing former teams as Martin Perez pitches for the first time as an opponent at Globe Life Park. Like Lynn, Perez has pitched a lot better for his new team than for his old one. His last time out, Perez allowed only one unearned run in six innings at Milwaukee. The Rangers are averaging only 4.0 rpg their last seven contests. 10* Under Twins/Rangers
8* Texas (3:05 ET): The Twins are looking to sweep Sunday and have certainly "brought the lumber" so far in this series as they've scored 29 runs in the first three games, twice scoring 12 or more. But today they run into Lance Lynn. He has a 1.42 ERA his L3 starts and has allowed exactly 1 ER in each of his last four. Despite this, his TSR during that time is only 2-2. That seems unfair and I think it's also notable that w/ Lynn on the mound here, the Rangers are favorites for the first time in this series. Now three games below .500 on the year, Texas is at its lowest point in the standings in three months. It's a good "buy low" situation.
Spoiler alert: every team I'm taking in this three-game report is looking to avoid a sweep Sunday. In the Rangers' case they look to avoid the embarrassment of being swept in a four-game series at home, which doesn't happen all that often. Coming into this series, Texas was 35-22 at home this year. Lynn is 9-1 in his 12 starts here in Arlington (10-2 TSR) and the last one saw him allow just one run and four hits in seven innings. . Not only has Lynn allowed exactly 1 ER in each of his L4 starts, he's given up 3 ER or less in 19 of his 25 this season! So I've got him as the clear "difference-maker" Sunday.
Minnesota is averaging 6.2 rpg on the road this season, which is very impressive. I know we're halfway through August, which means it's a large enough sample size, but maintaining that scoring average these next two months could prove difficult. Yesterday, it was a six-run 1st inning that opened the flood gates for the Twins. But all six runs were unearned as they came after a throwing error on what looked to be an inning-ending double play. Martin Perez has a 5.82 ERA and 1.765 WHIP his L3 starts and while he may very well pitch better today than what those numbers indicate, he can't match Lynn. 8* Texas
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