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Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Tuesday, July 3, 2012 at 12:35 PM

Monday Night I won my 100-Unit NL Game of the Week on the Pittsburgh Pirates (-) vs. the Houston Astros in a 11-2 blowout. My Tuesday class in my College of Advanced Handicapping seemed like the ideal time to review the fundamentals that made this such a strong play.

The market this year has been very slow to notice the strengths of the Pirates. And, in fact, many pundits and bettors were surprised when Pittsburgh opened as a pricey favorite Monday vs. Houston. It wasn’t pricey enough! Pittsburgh should have been at least -300 in that game…and even then my figures would have shown them having an edge.

Here are a few of the reasons…

TEAM QUALITY: You regulars know I’m always focusing on POWER vs. WEAKNESS. Pittsburgh is a playoff contender that’s been playing their best ball of the season the past several weeks. Houston is a doormat…one that just got swept by the lowly Chicago Cubs over the weekend. I recognized early on that Pittsburgh was going to over value this year. The market, blinded by past failures from this franchise, just can’t accept that the Pirates are a POWER team when their best pitchers are on the mound.

SITUATIONAL BOOSTS: Pittsburgh has been REALLY good at home this year. Monday’s victory brought them to 24-13 in the Steel City. That’s the best home record in the National League! If I had asked you to guess who had the best home record in the NL this year, would you have guessed Pittsburgh? Houston fell to 9-29 on the road with the loss. Obviously, if a team can’t beat the Cubs in Wrigley right now…they’re going to have some trouble against the Pirates. Houston is the worst road team in baseball right now.

GAMEBREAKING PITCHER: Making smart bets is always about GAMEBREAKERS and PLAYMAKERS whether you’re talking about football, basketball, or baseball. In baseball, it’s overpowering pitchers who have the most influence on any given game. James McDonald of Pittsburgh is having that kind of season so far. His ERA now stands at 2.45 for the season, with an excellent WHIP of 1.00. This is an All-Star caliber pitcher who may contend for the Cy Young award if Pittsburgh can stay in the pennant race. Monday Night, he was facing Jordan Lyles of Houston…a minor league caliber pitcher who’s only getting starts because Houston is basically a minor league caliber team right now. MISMATCH!

THE EMOTION FACTOR: Pittsburgh is playing with spirit and enthusiasm because they truly believe they can win the NL Central. That’s as clear as can be when you watch their games. They were also in a bounce-back spot after a Sunday loss in St. Louis. The Pirates won that series on the road, but lost the last game. It’s always worth at least considering a good team in a bounce back spot off a loss. Houston showed now life in Chicago. Why would they start now, with a minor league pitcher on the mound?  

This was such a great play because Vegas oddsmakers and the market as a whole have false perceptions about both of these teams.

*They don’t believe in Pittsburgh

*They don’t believe in McDonald

*They won’t accept that Houston is a minor league caliber team

And, THAT’S why we could get a steal of a price on an overpowering Cy Young candidate pitching for the best home team in the National League while facing a minor league pitcher on the worst road team in the National League. That wasn’t just POWER vs. WEAKNESS…that was EXTREME POWER vs. EXTREME WEAKNESS.

Handicapping is this easy when you’re willing to do the work! I can’t promise that all of my big plays will win by scores like 11-2. Sunday’s 100-Unit winner on Milwaukee over Arizona was more of a nailbiter because the Brewers offense didn’t come through the way I had hoped. I can assure you though that betting the right way will make you money over the long haul.

If you missed out on this weekend’s big play bonanza, you’ll be happy to hear that I have a 100-Unit AL Game of the Week going Tuesday Night. You can purchase it right here at the website with your credit card. If you’ve been winning along with me every day…let’s re-invest some of those winnings on tonight’s AL monster.

My next lecture in my College of Advanced Handicapping will be Friday I’ll be mixing baseball with early football prep work through July and August on these pages. I once again strongly encourage you to print all of these out so you can create a virtual textbook you can refer to year-round and in coming seasons. It’s an honor and a pleasure to be of service to you. I’m glad that you’re now able to recognize that winners like McDonald over Lyles are out there ready to be found by those who have mastered the principals of Advanced Handicapping.

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