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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, July 1, 2015 at 11:47 AM



The calendar page has been flipped forward to read "July" and -- so now that summer is in full swing -- we figured it's high time to check on some of the "hot-as-summer" teams as we close in on the halfway point of this 2015 Major-League Baseball campaign ... and wonder aloud if these teams will be standing there in the winner's circle at year's end:


ST. LOUIS (51-24) - The Cardinals entered last night's Interleague tilt against the beleaguered Chicago White Sox with the far-and-away best winning percentage in baseball (see .680) and with six more victories than the next-winningest team in the bigs (see Houston Astros) while riding this six-game winning streak. Manager Mike Matheny has done a terrific job keeping the Redbirds on the winning track despite a slew of injuries that have kayoed the likes of ace RHP Adam Wainwright and 1B Matt Adams and how about that 29-7 home record that's clearly best in baseball.
Okay, so MLB Network's Chris "Mad Dog" Russo made a good point when he said this year it's World Series championship-or-bust for a Cardinals club that won it all back in 2011 but otherwise has been a post-season bridesmaid for much of the past handful of seasons. No doubt the expectations for the Cards to win it all will continue to grow-and-grow the deeper we get into the summer but we tip our tip to STL for an amazing first three months of this '15 season and should any of us really be surprised if the Cardinals wind up winning 110 games this year? Remember the "over/under" wins total for St. Louis was 87.5 prior to the start of this season.
The Forecast: The Cardinals will get to yet another NLCS this October but the league's best pitching staff (2.61 ERA) may need Wainwright back from his foot injury to "seal the deal".

WASHINGTON (43-34) - Last night's rocking-chair 6-1 win in Atlanta gave the Nationals nine wins in their last 10 games ... but what took them so long to heat up? The fact of the matter is second-year manager Matt Williams had to deal with his own bevy of injuries - right now 1B Ryan Zimmerman is trying to come back from a foot injury while INF Anthony Rendon (quad) is back on the sidelines after he suffered a quad injury last Friday and remember Rendon has compiled only 69 at-bats this year after missing a major chunk of time at the very start of this campaign.
Still, the Nats have been on a major roll even though last night RHP Jordan Zimmermann won for the first time in his last five starts and you can almost pinpoint the start of the turnaround with those recent starts made by RHP Max Scherzer who fanned 16 batters in a 4-0 win at Milwaukee back on June 14th followed by his no-hitter/near perfect game against Pittsburgh on June 20th and then came last Friday's 5-2 win at Philadelphia. Scherzer (9-5, 0.79 WHIP and 1.79 ERA) has been worth every penny of his $210-to-$215 million contract and he gets the lion's share of credit for getting this D.C. bunch pointed in the right direction.
The Forecast: Okay, so the Nats have been underachievers in playoff appearances in 2012 and '14 but tell us right now Scherzer will be the pitcher we're seeing now and that Zimmerman/Rendon/CF Denard Span all will be healthy and helping out RF Bryce Harper in this potentially loaded lineup and gotta say it's World Series-or-bust for these dudes too!

HOUSTON (46-34) - The Astros' latest winning streak - albeit a modest three-in-a-row following last night's 4-0 triumph over Kansas City - is just proof positive that this young team isn't gonna roll over and play dead anytime soon no matter what cynics out there may be thinking. Consider that since last Thursday the 'Stros have copped four-of-six games against the New York Yankees/KC Royals and included in that mini-run were two shutouts thrown by LHP Dallas Keuchel (10-3, 2.03 ERA) who blanked the Bombers 4-0 last Thursday and then last night surrendered seven hits (and no walks) in baffling the Royals who have a legitimate four or five All-Stars in their everyday lineup.
Keep in mind Houston - not a great on-base percentage team and rated low among team batting averages - does lead the AL with 112 home runs and Keuchel is your mid-season choice for the junior circuit's Cy Young and we had better see a Keuchel versus Scherzer matchup to start the All-Star Game in Cincinnati less than two weeks from now or we're gonna be shouting out some expletives!
The Forecast: Hmm, the Astros don't know their way around pennant chase baseball or the post-season but right now you've gotta believe the AL West leaders will secure one of the league's six playoff spots and anything they do in the post-season would be gravy unless you're of the mind that when your team makes it to the post-season, y'all better win because there are no assurances of getting back anytime soon.

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 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 in early August - can't wait!

It's summertime and that means the annual Jim Sez report on all 32 NFL teams with our quick-hitter looks and today it's the Kansas City Chiefs, the Jacksonville Jaguars and the New York Giants ... note that we list the SU (straight-up) mark including post-season games after the team name below plus check out our quickie pointspread ditties on each/every team along the way too!

KANSAS CITY (9-7) - No doubt the Chiefs will be hoping first-round draftee CB Marcus Peters (Washington) can stay on the straight-and-narrow path after he was dismissed from the Huskies last November. Peters - who brings the Chiefs a ball-hawking cover corner with great athleticism - might have been a top 10 draftee had he not suffered a few "meltdowns" in college and now we'll see if the "Father Flanagan" approach utilized by KC head coach Andy Reid can work wonders in summer camp later this month.
Pointspread Notes - The Chiefs are 11-5-1 ATS (against the spread) away since the start of the Reid Era in 2013 but note KayCee failed to cover its final three road games a year ago (at Oakland, Arizona and Pittsburgh).

JACKSONVILLE (3-13) - The Jaguars don't have a whole lot of options at wide receiver and that's why second-year pro Marqise Lee (just 37 catches for 422 yards and one touchdown as a rookie) must be more of a stat-sheet stuffer for this year's crew ... or else. Lee already is off to a rough start for the 2015 season as he suffered a knee injury in offseason workouts and so expect second-year head coach Gus Bradley to be patient with Lee's progress this summer. Still, the league's 31st-best passing attack needs some wide-out help and remember WR Justin Blackmon remains suspended because of substance abuse issues.
Pointspread Notes - The J'ville Jaguars 25-36-3 spreadwise the past four years and that includes a three-game spread winning streak to cap off the 2014 campaign (longest ATS winning streak for the Jags since a six-game streak in 2010).

NEW YORK GIANTS (6-10) - Two of the most important summertime stories for "Big Blue" are the return of WR Victor Cruz (knee) after he played in just six games a year ago and the play of pass rushing D-lineman Jason Pierre-Paul who is looking to play at 265 pounds this year after going at 280 pounds a year ago. If Cruz regains his "Salsa"-like abilities and Pierre-Paul gets inspired by talk of a new contract, then Tom Coughlin's club will be a happy ship later this month ... even if WR Odell Beckham Jr. bellyaches about getting "teased" by Giants teammates for all his little, nagging injuries.
Pointspread Notes - The Giants have registered back-to-back 3-6 spread seasons when placed in the underdog role and that's quite a comedown from when NYG went 10-3-1 ATS as pups in 2011-12.

NOTE: More NFL team-by-team quick hitters in the next edition of Jim Sez plus NBA Free Agent goodies and Major-League Baseball too!

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