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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

NHL : Savvy Penguins Seek 2-0 Lead on Sharks

How valuable is experience in the Stanley Cup Final? The Pittsburgh Penguins have it, and they took advantage of the San Jose Sharks Monday night, grabbing an early 1-0 lead in their series by beating San Jose 3-2 as –130 home favourites. Game 2 takes place Wednesday night in Pittsburgh at 8 PM ET on CBC and NBCSN.

The Penguins, who won their third Stanley Cup in 2009, came into this series as –120 title favourites over San Jose, who brushed aside their long history of playoff futility to make their first-ever Final. Even after Monday's loss, the Sharks still have the best goal differential during this postseason at 1.11 goals per game, and the most profit against the puck line at +7.65 betting units on a record of 12-7 ATS.

But it was Pittsburgh (9-10 ATS, +5.22 units) that drew first blood in Game 1. After coughing up an early two-goal lead, the Penguins scored the winner late in the third period when Nick Bonino scored his fourth of the playoffs. However, the Pens did lose Bryan Rust to an “upper-body injury” after he was checked in the head by Patrick Marleau. Rust is considered day-to-day for now.

NHL : Savvy Penguins Seek 2-0 Lead on Sharks

NHL Odds: Sharks-Pens in Game 2 of Stanley Cup Final
The Pittsburgh Penguins can take a 2-0 lead in the Stanley Cup Final with a win Wednesday night (8 PM ET, CBC and NBCSN) over the San Jose Sharks. The Penguins took the first game 3-2 Monday night, cashing in as –130 home favourites when Nick Bonino scored the winner late in the third.

Pens right wing Bryan Rust (six goals in 18 playoff games) is iffy for Game 2 after getting checked in the head by San Jose left winger Patrick Marleau (five goals in 19 games), who got a two-minute minor. There's no additional punishment for Marleau.

Soccer : United States, Colombia Kick Off Copa America in Santa Clara

The Copa America Centenario begins on Friday in Santa Clara with Group A action. The hosts, USA, will face off against Colombia at 9:30 PM ET.

USA comes into the tournament on a five-game winning streak and to keep it going, they'll be counting on a big performance from Clint Dempsey. The 33-year-old scored 10 goals for his country last season. His team will need him to put on a stellar performance to compensate for Jozy Altidore, who's out with a hamstring injury.

Colombia has won all three games they've played in 2016 and their star man is James Rodriguez, who is coming off a Champions League win with Real Madrid. However, Rodriguez didn't perform as well as expected for his club, so Colombia will count on Rodriquez replicating his 2014 World Cup performance. The 24-year-old Columbian took home the FIFA 2014 World Cup Golden Boot award. If he can, Colombia has the ability to win the entire tournament.

The United States and Colombia have met four times since 2005, with Columbia winning two games, and the teams drawing once. They met in the 2007 Copa America group stage, where Colombia scored a 1-0 win. Their last meeting was in a 2014 friendly and resulted in a 2-1 win for Colombia.

Soccer : United States, Colombia Kick Off Copa America in Santa Clara

Soccer Odds: United States Hosts Copa America, Opens with Colombia
The Copa America Centenario begins on Friday in Santa Clara and the host country, USA, will get things started against Colombia in Group A.

Both teams come into the tournament on a roll. The United States have won four in a row, and Colombia is on a three-game winning streak. They have both been scoring plenty of goals, but are a bit shaky at the back. The two teams have split their last five meetings with two wins and a draw each, but Colombia's two wins came in the last three games.

Friday, May 27, 2016

MLB : Orioles Faltering; Cleveland on the Rise

Two teams heading in opposite directions will meet this Saturday (4:10 PM ET, MLBN) when Cleveland hosts Baltimore in Game 2 of a three-game series at the Jake. The Tribe have won eight of their last 11 games at press time, moving up into second place in the AL Central at 25-20 (+1.50 betting units). The Orioles (26-18, +7.42 units) have fallen from first to second in the AL East after losing six of their last nine.

Danny Salazar (2.83 FIP) is on tap to start for Cleveland. Salazar has been good-to-great since his MLB debut in 2013; the Dominican northpaw has pitched very well this year, but the Tribe are only 4-5 in his nine starts for a loss of 2.08 units. The under is 5-2-2 thus far with Salazar on the mound.

Baltimore will roll the dice with Ubaldo Jimenez (4.35 FIP), another Dominican righty who also sports a team record of 4-5 at minus-1.34 units. Jimenez allowed six earned runs in three of his last five starts, inflating his ERA to 6.04, but it might not be all his fault. Opposing hitters have a .367 BABIP off Jimenez, well above his career average of .296.

MLB : Orioles Faltering; Cleveland on the Rise

MLB Odds: O's Sticking With Ubaldo in Cleveland
It's been rough sledding lately for Ubaldo Jimenez, but he'll make his regular start this Saturday when Baltimore (26-18, +7.42 betting units) visits Cleveland (25-20, +1.50 units). First pitch is at 4:10 PM ET on the MLB Network.

Jimenez has an unsightly 6.04 ERA after allowing six earned runs in three of his last five starts, but his 4.35 FIP and .367 BABIP suggest things aren't quite that bad. Cleveland responds with Danny Salazar (2.83 FIP), who's pitched very well for the Tribe; however, they're 4-5 in his nine starts after scoring just 10 runs in those five losses.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

NBA : Thunder Take 3-1 Lead to Golden State

The Golden State Warriors won 73 games during the regular season, but if they don't win Thursday night (9 PM ET, TNT), their playoffs will be over. Golden State lost 94-118 to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday, dropping the cash as 3-point road favorites to fall behind 3-1 in their Western Conference final.

There's no question that the Warriors aren't the same team that went into the postseason as – 150 favorites to defend their championship. Stephen Curry doesn't seem to have shaken off the injuries he suffered during the first-round series against the Houston Rockets; the two-time and reigning MVP had another off-night Tuesday, scoring just 19 points on 6-of-20 shooting, including 2-of-10 from long range.

But give credit to the Thunder for putting the boots to Golden State. They upset the San Antonio Spurs in the previous round, and now they're 10-5 ATS during these playoffs after blowing out the Warriors in back-to-back games. Russell Westbrook had another triple-double Tuesday night, posting 36 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists. That's five straight games with at least 10 assists for Westbrook, and 10 out of the 15 games he's played in the postseason.

NBA : Thunder Take 3-1 Lead to Golden State

NBA Odds: Warriors on Brink of Elimination Versus OKC
The Oklahoma City Thunder are one win away from eliminating the defending champs. They'll carry a 3-1 lead over the Golden State Warriors into Game 6 Thursday night at Oracle Arena, tipping off at 9 PM ET on TNT.

Russell Westbrook had a triple-double (36 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists) for Oklahoma City in Tuesday's 118-94 win over Golden State, cashing in the Thunder as 3-point home dogs. Stephen Curry, who clearly isn't 100% after suffering multiple injuries during the first round, was held to just 19 points on 6-of-20 from the floor.

NHL : Sharks Put Blues on Brink for Game 6

The San Jose Sharks have a 25-year history of playoff frustration in the books, but they can exorcise some of those ghosts by beating the St. Louis Blues this Wednesday (9 PM ET, CBC and NBCSN). The Sharks took a 3-2 lead in their Western Conference final Monday night, coming from behind twice and scoring two empty-net goals to down the Blues 6-3 as very slim –105 road dogs.

St. Louis decided to go with Jake Allen (.920 save percentage during the regular season) between the pipes for Game 5, after Allen took over for Brian Elliott (.930 SV%) in Saturday's Game 4 and helped secure a 6-3 victory for the Blues at +135 on the closing line. However, Allen stopped just 21 of 25 shots on Monday. Elliott is considered probable at press time to return for Game 6.

The Sharks have made the Conference Finals three times since joining the NHL in 1991, but they have yet to play for the Stanley Cup. New head coach Peter DeBoer could change all that Wednesday night; DeBoer led the 2011-12 New Jersey Devils to the Cup final in his first season in Newark.

NHL : Sharks Put Blues on Brink for Game 6

NHL Odds: Sharks Can Make First Cup Final With Win Over Blues
The San Jose Sharks are one win away from their first-ever trip to the Stanley Cup Final. San Jose beat the St. Louis Blues (–115 at home) 6-3 Monday night to take a 3-2 lead in their Western Conference final, with Game 6 coming up Wednesday night at home. The puck drops at 9 PM ET on CBC and NBCSN.

At press time, Brian Elliott is listed as probable to return for Game 6 after back-up Jake Allen was ineffective in his second playoff start, allowing four goals on 25 shots – the other two San Jose goals were empty-netters.

Soccer : Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid Meet in Champions League Final

Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid know each other as well as any two teams can know each other. The city rivals will meet this Saturday at the San Siro in Italy for the Champions League Final.

After a 0-0 draw in the first leg of the semifinals, Real edged Manchester City 1-0, then won their final two La Liga matches to finish second to Barcelona. Their biggest injury concern is over defender Raphael Varane, who looks like he'll miss the final with a thigh problem. Cristiano Ronaldo limped out of practice on Tuesday but says that he'll play for the final. Ronaldo has scored 16 goals in the Champions League this season.

Atletico fell 2-1 at Bayern Munich in the second leg of their semifinal, but a 1-0 win in the first leg was enough to push them through. They lost to Levante and won over Celta Vigo to finish third in the table, and seem to be close to full health. Antoine Griezmann leads the way with seven goals in the Champions League.

These two have met 15 times over the last three seasons. Atletico has six wins and three draws, but Real won the Champions League final two years ago and eliminated Atletico in the quarter-final last season.

Soccer : Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid Meet in Champions League Final

Soccer Odds: Madrid Rivals Clash for Champions League Title
Atletico will be looking for revenge after losing to Real Madrid in the Champions League final two years ago. The city rivals meet in Italy on Saturday.

Atletico has the upper hand in their 15 matches with Real over the last three seasons, taking six wins and five draws to four wins for Real. However, two of Real's wins have come in the Champions League. Real Madrid won the final 4-1 two years ago as they pulled away in extra time to claim their 10th European trophy. The following year, Real Madrid eliminated Atletico from the Champions League quarter-finals by winning 1-0 in the second leg of their meeting.

Friday, May 20, 2016

MLB : Fernandez on Fire as Fish Host Nats

The Washington Nationals (24-16, +3.26 betting units) are the top team in the NL East right now, but it's turned into a very competitive division, featuring four teams above .500. That includes the Miami Marlins, who find themselves just three games back of Washington at 21-19 (+2.47 units). They'll play the second game of a three-game series this Saturday at 7:15 PM ET on FOX.

The pitching matchup looks very good for Miami. Jose Fernandez (2.58 FIP) will make his ninth start of the season. Thus far, the 2013 NL Rookie of the Year has earned 3.48 units for the Marlins on a team record of 6-2. Fernandez struck out 11 batters in each of his last two starts, allowing just one earned run over 14 innings combined.

The Nationals, meanwhile, are at the bottom of their starting rotation with sophomore righty Joe Ross (3.36 FIP). After a very strong start to the 2016 campaign – including a 4-2 victory over the Marlins (–155 away) in his first outing – Ross has cooled off a bit, taking the loss in each of his last two games. Washington is still 4-3 behind Ross this year for 0.48 units in profit.

MLB : Fernandez on Fire as Fish Host Nats

MLB Odds: Ross, Nats Hope to Reel in Marlins Again
Joe Ross (3.36 FIP) beat the Florida Marlins in his first start of the 2016 campaign. He'll try it again this Saturday (7:15 PM ET, FOX) when he leads the 24-16 Washington Nationals into Marlins Park for the second game of a three-game set.

Miami responds this time with their ace, 2013 NL Rookie of the Year Jose Fernandez (2.58 FIP).  In his first full season after Tommy John surgery, Fernandez is on fire for the 21-19 Marlins, earning 3.48 betting units on a team record of 6-2. He fanned 11 batters in each of his last two starts.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

NBA : Cavs Cruise Into Game 2 Versus Raptors

So far, so good for the Cleveland Cavaliers. They shook off a slow start Tuesday night to bury the Toronto Raptors (+11 away) 115-84 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Game 2 takes place Thursday night in Cleveland, tipping off at 8:30 PM ET on ESPN.

Toronto had to play Game 1 without starting center Jonas Valanciunas (27.7 PER in the playoffs), who sprained his right ankle in the previous series versus the Miami Heat. Valanciunas is expected to miss Game 2 as well, and might not return at all this series. With zero injured players, Cleveland should be fresh Thursday night after sweeping through the first two rounds. No Cavalier needed to play more than 30 minutes in the opener; LeBron James (25.0 PER) sat the entire fourth quarter after scoring 24 points on 11-of-13 shooting.

The Raptors will only go as far as their shooters will take them, and after showing signs of life in the Miami series, Kyle Lowry (16.3 PER) struggled again in Game 1. Lowry shot 4-of-14 for just eight points, missing all seven of his attempts from behind the arc. As a team, Toronto went 5-of-24 from long range (20.8%).

NBA : Cavs Cruise Into Game 2 Versus Raptors

NBA Odds : Raptors Getting Creamed in Cleveland
The Cleveland Cavaliers had little trouble disposing of the Toronto Raptors (+11 away) 115-84 in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference final. They'll try it again Thursday night at the Q, starting at 8:30 PM ET on ESPN.

Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas (27.7 playoff PER) missed the opener with a sprained ankle, and isn't expected to play in Game 2. The Cavs took advantage by out-rebounding Toronto 45-23; LeBron James (25.0 PER) had six of those rebounds along with 24 points on 11-of-13 from the floor. James then sat out the entire fourth quarter with Cleveland up large.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

NHL : Young Goalies for Lightning, Penguins

The Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins are both relying on young goaltenders to get them to the Stanley Cup Final. In the case of the Lightning, it could come back to haunt them. Andrei Vasilevskiy (.910 save percentage during the regular season) gave up the winning goal 40 seconds into overtime Monday night, as the Penguins (–225 at home) prevailed to even their series at 1-1 heading into Wednesday's Game 3 at the Amalie Arena. Game time is 8 PM ET on CBC and NBCSN.

The 21-year-old Vasilevskiy actually played quite well in Game 2, making 38 saves in his first start of the playoffs. But the sophomore back-up has a tall task replacing Ben Bishop (.926 SV%), who left Game 1 of this series with a leg injury that appeared quite serious at the time. Bishop might be able to return later in this series; however, his availability for Game 3 is in serious doubt.

The Penguins, meanwhile, have enjoyed tremendous success behind 20-year-old Matt Murray (.930 SV%). He stepped in earlier this year for injured veteran Marc-Andre Fleury (.921 SV%) and played so brilliantly, he's the new No. 1 goalie in Pittsburgh.

NHL : Young Goalies for Lightning, Penguins

NHL Odds: Pens, Bolts on Even Terms for Game 3
In a rare playoff battle of young goaltenders, Matt Murray and the Pittsburgh Penguins face  Andrei Vasilevskiy and the Tampa Bay Lightning this Wednesday (8 PM ET, CBC) in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference final. Murray made 19 saves Monday night as Pittsburgh (–225) won 3-2 in overtime to even the series at one game apiece.

Vasilevskiy actually outperformed Murray in Game 2, making 38 saves, but he gave up the winning goal to Sidney Crosby just 40 seconds into overtime. No. 1 netminder Ben Bishop isn't expected to play Wednesday after injuring his leg in the series opener.

Preakness Stakes : Nyquist Favored for Second Jewel of the Triple Crown

The Preakness Stakes is set for Saturday, May 21 at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. The spotlight will be on Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist, as he goes for the second jewel of the Triple Crown.

Nyquist is undefeated, with seven graded stakes wins since breaking his maiden last June. He will likely be challenged by Exaggerator, who has yet to beat Nyquist in four head-to-head starts, including the San Vicente Stakes and the Kentucky Derby, both of which he placed second. He is 9/2 to win the Preakness as we go to press.

However, all eyes will definitely be on Nyquist, who's the 5/8 favorite to win the Preakness, and there are already prop bets that will allow you to wager on him winning the Triple Crown (yes is 2/1). This would be great for horse racing because it would produce back-to-back Triple Crown wins, following American Pharoah's 2015 success. The last Triple Crown win before American Pharoah came in 1978, which was the second of back-to-back wins after Seattle Slew won it in 1977.

The Preakness is the shortest of the Triple Crown races at 9.5 furlongs. It's set to go off at Pimlico at 6:18 PM ET with NBC providing the coverage.

Preakness Stakes : Nyquist Favored for Second Jewel of the Triple Crown

Preakness Stakes Odds: Nyquist Favored for Preakness Stakes 
Early-bird odds for the 141st running of the Preakness Stakes are putting Nyquist front-and-center at 5/8, but those odds could change when the post positions are drawn on Wednesday. Even if the odds do change, it's safe to say that the undefeated colt will remain the favorite for the second leg of the Triple Crown.

Nyquist's eight consecutive victory came at the Kentucky Derby where he beat Exaggerator for the fourth time. The two will likely pick up their rivalry on Saturday at Pimlico in Baltimore. Lani, who also ran at Churchill Downs, is expected to be at Pimlico on Saturday too.

Friday, May 13, 2016

MLB : Punchless Yankees in Tough Versus White Sox

Are the New York Yankees at the end of their rope? Baseball's most storied franchise is off to a disappointing start this year at 13-19, dropping 8.08 betting units along the way. Things will only get tougher this Friday when the Yankees host the Chicago White Sox (23-12, +11.75 units) in the opening game of a three-game series. First pitch is at 7:05 PM ET on the MLB Network.

Not only will the Yankees face the top team in the American League standings, they'll also have to face Chicago's top pitcher. Chris Sale (2.76 FIP) is slated to take the mound for the White Sox; the perennial All-Star has already racked up seven units in profit on a record of 7-0, giving up just four earned runs in his last five starts combined.

New York responds with Luis Severino (4.91 FIP), a blue-chip prospect who's struggled this season after showing promise in 2015. The Yankees are 0-6 in Severino's six starts for a loss of 6.93 units – the worst performance of any pitcher in the majors against the moneyline. Severino's teammates have hung him out to dry, scoring a total of seven runs in those six games.

MLB : Punchless Yankees in Tough Versus White Sox

MLB Odds: Rich Meets Poor in White Sox-Yankees Matchup
Nobody in the majors has paid off as handsomely this year as the Chicago White Sox (23-12, +11.75 betting units). They can fatten their wallets Friday night at the expense of the New York Yankees, one of this season's biggest disappointments at 13-19 (–8.08 units). Game time is 7:05 PM ET on the MLB Network.

Chris Sale (2.76 FIP) is scheduled to pitch for Chicago against top Yankees prospect Luis Severino (4.91 FIP). The Sox have won all seven of Sale's starts for seven units of profit, while the Yankees are 0-6 behind Severino for a deficit of 6.93 units.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

NBA : Spurs on the Brink in Oklahoma City

The San Antonio Spurs just can't seem to put away the Oklahoma City Thunder. Oklahoma City fought back to win Game 5 of their Western Conference semifinal Tuesday night, 95-91 as a 7-point road dog. Now the Thunder can eliminate San Antonio with a victory at home in Thursday's Game 6, tipping off at 8:30 PM ET on ESPN.

The Spurs found a way to lose Game 5 despite 20 Oklahoma City turnovers. The Thunder dominated the glass, out-rebounding San Antonio 54-36, and their bench was far superior in this matchup – Dion Waiters led all players at plus-18 on the night. Russell Westbrook nearly had another triple-double with 35 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists, but he also had eight turnovers and shot 12-of-27 from the floor.

As dominant as the Spurs were during the regular season, they had their problems with OKC, splitting their four games straight up and dropping the cash every time. Now San Antonio is 2-3 SU and ATS in this series, with no room left for error. Tim Duncan (11.8 PER playoffs) is having by far the worst playoffs of his storied career, shooting 3-for-18 over the past four games. Will Thursday be Duncan's last dance?

NBA : Spurs on the Brink in Oklahoma City

NBA Odds: Thunder Can Eliminate Spurs in Game 6
The Oklahoma City Thunder are on the cusp of greatness. They carry a 3-2 series lead over the San Antonio Spurs into Game 6 of their Western Conference semifinal; a win at home on Thursday (8:30 PM ET, ESPN) would seal the deal.

The Thunder haven't played particularly well this series, but they've taken advantage of some untimely lapses by San Antonio. Tim Duncan (11.8 PER in these playoffs) is a combined 3-for-18 from the floor over the past four contests. If the Spurs don't win Thursday, Duncan's magnificent career could end with a whimper.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Soccer : Liverpool Welcomes Chelsea to Anfield on Wednesday

Chelsea's title defense sputtered badly this season, but they still hope to finish in the top half of the table. Liverpool has more to play for as they host Chelsea at Anfield on Wednesday, with three games remaining in the Premier League season.

Chelsea is No. 9 with 48 points after a 2-3 loss at Sunderland. It was probably the last game at the club for captain John Terry, who received a red card and is out of contract at the end of the season. The Blues have seven wins, seven losses and four draws away from home over the campaign.

Liverpool defeated Watford 2-0 at home to get to 58 points as the eighth-placed team in the league. They're still two points behind Southampton for a spot in the Europa League next season, but Liverpool is in the final of that competition currently; they'll meet Sevilla on May 18. A win there would put them in the Champions League instead. Liverpool has eight wins, seven draws and three losses at home this season.

These two have met five times over the last two seasons, with Chelsea winning twice and drawing twice. Liverpool won 3-1 at Chelsea in October.

Soccer : Liverpool Welcomes Chelsea to Anfield on Wednesday

Soccer Odds: Chelsea Hopes to Play Spoiler at Liverpool
Chelsea doesn't have much to play for this season, but they go to Liverpool on Wednesday with the chance to play spoiler.

Liverpool can still get into Europe through the Premier League, although they have a huge chance when they play Sevilla in the Europa League final soon. They're two points behind Southampton, who have the final spot, but Chelsea is 10 points behind Liverpool in the table, and a win for the Blues at Anfield would put more pressure on Liverpool to win the Europa League. Revenge will also be a factor as Liverpool won 3-1 at Chelsea on Halloween.

NHL : Blues-Stars in Game 7 Showdown

After trading punches in their Western Conference semifinal, the St. Louis Blues and Dallas Stars will meet in the decisive Game 7 this Wednesday (8 PM ET, NBCSN). Dallas staved off elimination Monday night with a 3-2 victory in Game 6, cashing in as +155 away dogs despite just 14 shots on goal. The road team has won four times in this series – twice in St. Louis, and twice in Dallas.

The big question on everyone's mind: Will Tyler Seguin suit up for the Stars? He hasn't played since Game 2 of the opening round versus the Minnesota Wild, when Seguin (33 goals, 73 points during the regular season) was ineffective in his return from a partially torn Achilles tendon. It remains unclear whether he'll be available for Game 7. Veteran fourth-liner Travis Moen is also iffy for Wednesday's game with an undisclosed injury.

The Blues are unusually healthy for this time of year, but with Monday's loss, they fall to 1-3 in elimination games. The lone victory was the game that counted the most: Game 7 of the first round, when they beat the defending Stanley Cup-champion Chicago Blackhawks 3-2 as +100 home dogs.

NHL : Blues-Stars in Game 7 Showdown

NHL Odds: Will Seguin Play for Stars in Game 7?
The Dallas Stars have defied the odds. Despite the absence of top centre Tyler Seguin (33 goals, 73 points during the regular season), the Stars can advance to the Western finals with a Game 7 win this Wednesday over the St. Louis Blues. The puck drops at 8 PM ET on NBCSN.

Dallas prolonged this series by beating the Blues 3-2 Monday night as +155 road dogs. Seguin (Achilles) didn't travel with the team to St. Louis, but could suit up for Game 7 at home. He hasn't played since Game 2 of the first-round series with the Minnesota Wild.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

MLB : Cubs Host Nationals in Big-Time Matchup

They're the top two teams in the Major League Baseball standings, but there's a sizeable gap in quality between the Chicago Cubs (20-6, +9.78 betting units) and the Washington Nationals (19-8, +7.46 units). They'll meet Friday afternoon in Game 2 of a four-game set at Wrigley Field, starting at 2:20 PM ET on the MLB Network.

Chicago has the best batting order in the majors at 8.1 WAR (Wins Above Replacement), while Washington sits in the middle of the pack at No. 15 with 3.2 WAR. However, Friday's pitching matchup should be favorable for the Nats. Former Cy Young winner Max Scherzer (3.75 FIP) is scheduled to take the mound opposite John Lackey (3.31 FIP).

Scherzer hasn't been at his best this year, but Washington is 4-2 in his six starts for 0.20 units of profit, and Scherzer threw seven scoreless innings against the St. Louis Cardinals in his last game after making some corrections to his mechanics. Lackey has Chicago at 3-2 in his five starts for a deficit of 0.69 units; he's benefited from a .278 BABIP, but the Cubs have left just 61% of his runners on base, both career lows.

MLB : Cubs Host Nationals in Big-Time Matchup

MLB : Max Effort for Nationals at Wrigley
After making some tweaks to his throwing motion, Max Scherzer will lead the Washington Nationals (19-8, +7.46 betting units) into Wrigley Field Friday afternoon to face John Lackey and the Chicago Cubs. First pitch is at 2:20 PM ET on the MLB Network.

Scherzer (3.75 FIP) appears to have regained control of his 94-mph fastball after throwing seven scoreless innings against the St. Louis Cardinals in his last start. Washington needs the 2013 AL Cy Young winner at his best against the Cubs' batting order, which leads the majors at 8.1 WAR.

NBA : Thunder Host Spurs in Game 3 of Western Semifinals

The Oklahoma City Thunder aren't dead yet. They evened their Western Conference semifinal with the San Antonio Spurs at 1-1 Monday night, giving Oklahoma City home-court advantage for the rest of the series – starting with Game 3 Friday night at the Chesapeake Energy Arena. Tip-off is at 9:30 PM ET on ESPN.

After getting blown out in Game 1, the Thunder took advantage of some uncharacteristically poor shooting by San Antonio in Game 2. Then OKC withstood a late run by the Spurs to win 98-97 as 8.5-point road dogs on the closing line, up from +7.5 at the open. Despite the victory, Oklahoma City remains a +230 underdog to win this series and advance to the Western Final.
Both teams have their full rosters active for Game 3. Up to this point, the star of the show has been LaMarcus Aldridge, who scored 79 points for San Antonio over the first two games, and even sank both his 3-point attempts – the only two he's made all year after shooting 0-for-16 during the regular season. Kevin Durant (44 points for Oklahoma City) and Russell Westbrook (43 points) have combined to shoot 2-of-13 from long range for the Thunder.

NBA : Thunder Host Spurs in Game 3 of Western Semifinals

NBA : Spurs Still Favored Over Thunder for Game 3
The Oklahoma City Thunder may have evened their Western Conference semifinal at 1-1, but the San Antonio Spurs are still –270 favorites to win this series with Game 3 coming up Friday night (9:30 PM ET, ESPN) at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Oklahoma City (+8.5 away) took advantage of some unusually poor shooting from San Antonio – and several not-so-unusual mistakes from the officiating crew – to edge the Spurs 98-97 Monday night. Russell Westbrook led the Thunder with 29 points and 10 assists; however, Westbrook shot just 11-of-25 from the floor and 1-of-6 from downtown.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Soccer : Real Madrid, Manchester City in Champions League Semifinal

Real Madrid and Manchester City played to a stalemate in the first leg of their Champions League semifinal last week in England. The two move to Spain for the second leg on Wednesday at 2:45 PM ET with a spot in the finals on the line. Madrid is -230 to qualify for the finals on the futures market, while City is +175.

Real Madrid was missing the injured Cristiano Ronaldo in the 0-0 draw, but despite the setback, they were the better team. Madrid is coming off a 1-0 win at Real Sociedad in La Liga, and have six wins, a loss and a tie in their last eight games. Ronaldo has also been training ahead of this game and will play tomorrow.

City followed up the game against Madrid with a 2-4 loss at Southampton in the Premier League, which was on Sunday. Now they'll have to put that game behind them as they head to Madrid for Wednesday. City played quite defensively in the first leg despite their opponent missing top-scorer Ronaldo, and it will only get tougher with Ronaldo suiting up for the second leg.

Soccer : Real Madrid, Manchester City in Champions League Semifinal

Soccer : Ronaldo, Real Madrid Host Manchester City in Semifinals
Real Madrid and Manchester City are all square at 0-0 going into the second leg of their Champions League semifinal game on Wednesday, May 4.

The first match was a scoreless draw in Manchester; however, Madrid had City on the back foot all game. Cristiano Ronaldo was out with an injury, which made Madrid's dominance especially impressive. Now, Ronaldo  is back in training and expected to play. The Spanish squad is -230 to qualify for the finals.

City is returning for the rematch off a 2-4 road loss with Southampton in the Premier League and has yet to win a Champions League trophy. They're +175 underdogs to qualify for the finals.

NHL : Caps Need Game 4 Win in Pittsburgh

The Washington Capitals may have been the top team in the NHL during the regular season, but if they don't beat the Pittsburgh Penguins this Wednesday (8 PM ET, NBCSN) in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference semifinal, it could mean an early trip to the golf course. Pittsburgh carries a 2-1 series lead into Wednesday's game at the Consol Energy Center after beating the Caps 3-2 Monday night as a –140 home favourite.

Not much has gone right for the Capitals since they took a 3-0 lead over the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round. Washington has lost four of the past six games, and defenseman Brooks Orpik (three goals, plus-11) was handed a three-game suspension for a late hit on Pittsburgh blueliner Olli Maatta. Orpik won't be available until Game 6 – if the Capitals make it that far.
The Penguins have accomplished all this without the services of their No. 1 goaltender; Marc-Andre Fleury (.921 save percentage) has been out with a concussion since early April. Matt Murray (.930 SV%) started the last six games for Pittsburgh, and his only loss was in Game 1 of this series, when Washington (–135 at home) prevailed 4-3 in overtime.

NHL : Caps Need Game 4 Win in Pittsburgh

NHL : Penguins Host Capitals in Massive Game 4
The Pittsburgh Penguins have taken a 2-1 lead over the Washington Capitals in their Eastern Conference semifinal. They can put a stranglehold on this series by beating Washington in Game 4 Wednesday night, starting at 8 PM ET on NBCSN.

Pittsburgh's unlikely hero has been back-up goaltender Matt Murray (.930 save percentage), who has started each of the last six games in relief of Marc-Andre Fleury (.921 SV%). The rookie from Thunder Bay, Ontario made 47 saves Monday night as the Penguins held on to beat Washington 3-2 as a –140 home chalk.