Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, July 3, 2015 at 10:55 AM
IT'S A BIG HOLIDAY WEEKEND OF BASEBALL IN D.C., KC AND NYC
PLUS MORE NFL TEAM-BY-TEAM GLANCES AS WE CHECK OUT THE RAVENS, BEARS & BUCS
Okay, so we know you all have a very big Fourth of July weekend planned ... parades, barbecues, backyard parties and the like all sound like a whole lotta fun but don't you dare forget there's great Major-League Baseball going on from coast-to-coast and from sea-to-shining-sea!
In fact, maybe it's only appropriate that the weekend's best series is the one being played in the nation's capital as the defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants battles the host Washington Nationals. Good stuff.
But check out this entire holiday weekend sked and you'll find some really tasty series taking place and in today's holiday edition of Jim Sez we get you Giants-Nats plus the American League Central showdown series between the Minnesota Twins at the front-running Kansas City Royals and a fun AL East set too between the Tampa Bay Rays at the New York Yankees.
Got lots to say about those three series and so let's shoot off some baseball fireworks this holiday weekend:
SAN FRANCISCO (42-38) at WASHINGTON (43-35) - Fri, Sat & Sun
Hey, sometimes you just need a change of scenery and that's the case here with the San Fran Giants - the 5-3, 6-5 and 5-4 "straight set" sweep at the hands of the Florida Marlins this week knocked Bruce Bochy's club three full games behind the NL West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers and so you could say there's a sense of urgency for the 2010, '12 and '14 world champs, eh?
The Giants - 8-9 against NL East teams this year - now zip up the Eastern seaboard for this holiday weekend series against the Nationals who entered last night's game in Atlanta having won eight of their last 10 tilts but MVP candidate RF Bryce Harper is leading Washington in just about every known offensive category these days including a .340 batting average, 24 HR with 58 RBI and let's not forget his fantastic .464 on-base percentage - and won't it be fun watching Giants LHP Madison Bumgarner (1.04 WHIP) go head-to-head with Harper in Saturday's special 11:05 a.m. tilt?
MINNESOTA (41-37) at KANSAS CITY (44-31) - Thurs, Fri, Sat & Sun
This four-game set swung into action last night at "The K" with the Royals sporting nice-but-not-safe 4.5-game lead atop the standings in the AL Central. It's safe to say Ned Yost's club has been staggering a bit with that three-game sweep at the hands of host Houston preceding the Twins coming to town and maybe we've all discovered how much Kansas City 1B Eric Hosmer is to his club as he missed all three games in Houston with a finger injury. Still, the Royals are somehow still the best team in the junior circuit despite the fact they have only 57 home runs (that's 11th-best in the AL) and only 322 runs scored (that's 10th-best in the league).
On the flip side, Minnesota - just 16-22 on the road entering last night's game in KC - hopes it can be buoyed this weekend by the return of RHP Ervin Santana who is scheduled to start Sunday after missing 80 games because of a performance enhancing drug suspension. And watch for new Twins' DH Miguel Sano who is making the leap up from Double-A ball where he had 10 HR and 38 RBI in 201 at-bats.
TAMPA BAY (42-39) at NEW YORK YANKEES (42-37) - Fri, Sat & Sun
Hey, this Third of July pitching matchup in the Bronx tonight is pretty good as Tampa Bay rolls out RHP Chris Archer (0.95 WHIP and 9 wins so far) against Yankees righty Masahiro Tanaka (4-3, 3.88 ERA) who's been a little hit-or-miss since returning from the DL last month. The problem for the Rays is that they need someone to stop the bleeding as T-Bay enters NYC on a five-game losing skid (the last four in a row were home losses to the Cleveland Indians) and maybe Archer's the guy even though he was a 5-3 loser to Boston in his last start on Sunday.
One item on our "watch list" here is Yankees OF Jacoby Ellsbury who is hoping to get activated in time for this weekend series - Ellsbury's been out since late May and Joe Girardi's gang may need Ellsbury ASAP with OF/DH Carlos Beltran hurting (again!)
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!
NFL TEAM-BY-TEAM GLANCES
It's summertime and that means the annual Jim Sez report on all 32 NFL teams with our quick-hitter looks continuing today with the Baltimore Ravens, the Chicago Bears and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers ... and check out our quickie pointspread ditties here too:
BALTIMORE (11-7) - The Ravens were one of three AFC North teams to win double-digit games last year (remember Pittsburgh won 11 games and Cincinnati and Baltimore each copped 10 regular-season wins) but if John Harbaugh's club is gonna get a lift from its prized rookies than first-round pick WR Breshad Perriman (UCF) and second-rounder TE Maxx Williams (Minnesota) will need a little more fortune and a little less fate on their sides. Perriman - as we mentioned in a Jim Sez last week - alarmed receivers coach Bobby Engram with all his recent drops while Williams recently tweaked a bothersome hamstring injury and so he had to lay low in last month's mini-camp. In a perfect world, the Ravens would like Perriman and Williams to combine for somewhere in the neighborhood of 80-to-90 catches this year.
Pointspread Notes - The Ravens are an ugly 6-11-1 ATS (against the spread) in divisional games the past three years and that includes last year's 30-17 win at 3-point favorite Pittsburgh in an AFC Wild Card Game.
CHICAGO (5-11) - Believe it or not, last year only the Oakland Raiders surrendered more regular-season points than the Bears (452-to-442) and so suffice to say the one-time Monsters of the Midway have some major work to do on "D" under first-year boss John Fox. However, it's duly noted that the Bears drafted only one defensive player in the first four rounds of last spring's NFL Draft - that's DT Eddie Goldman (Florida State) - and very few of the team's free-agent signees get you excited and so the feeling here is Fox and Company must find some keepers in summer camp. P.S, free-agent signee S Antrel Rolle may not be the "most overrated Bears' defender" as one recent web site called him but don't look for miracles from a dude toasted plenty in his final seasons with the New York Giants.
Pointspread Notes - Avert your eyes, Bears fans, as the Chitowners are 14-27-2 spreadwise since midway of the 2012 season and keep in mind this NFC North crew has suffered losing seasons spreadwise in seven of the last eight years.
TAMPA BAY (2-14) - No doubt there's a lot of weight on rookie QB Jameis Winston's shoulders this year as he tries to lead the Buccaneers out of the NFL wilderness but "weight" was the exact word being tossed around last week in the team's mini-camp. In fact, the Heisman Trophy winner from Florida State informed media folks that he's looking to shed between 8-to-10 pounds prior to the start of regular-season play. Winston said, "Right now I'm 238 (pounds), I'm trying to be my redshirt freshman year (weight), about 230." Winston went on to say he has "nothing to prove" to naysayers who believe his play fell off last year when Florida State was kayoed 59-20 by Oregon in the Rose Bowl/national semifinal round game. It'll be interesting to see how many game snaps Winston will get in Tampa Bay's preseason opener at Minnesota on August 15th - the likelihood is that he'll play the first quarter and be set to play the first half in the Bucs' next preseason game against Cincinnati on August 24th.
Pointspread Notes - Since the start of the 2009 season, the TB Bucs are a collective 14-32-1 against the odds at home (that's a .304 winning percentage) and that includes last year's shaky 2-6 ATS home mark wihere the covers came against Cincinnati and New Orleans.
NOTE: More NFL team-by-team quick hitters in the next edition of Jim Sez.