Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, June 28, 2018 at 12:00 AM
THE BASEBALL REPORT –
RED SOX-YANKEES RENEW “THE RIVALRY” …
THE NFL TEAM-BY-TEAM UPDATES:
STEELERS, GIANTS & BEARS
Time to ask the $64,000 question again …
Is the rivalry between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees the best in Major-League Baseball?
Well, if you’re being totally honest, the 2003 and 2004 seasons – in which Red Sox-Yankees played out in a pair of seven-game American League Championship Series with the Yankees winning it in ’03 and the Sawx in ’04 – were the apex of this rivalry but ever since things have been lukewarm at best.
This year the teams have split their first six showdowns – Boston copped two-of-three at Fenway Park back on April 10-11-12 and then the Yankees won two-of-three in The Bronx on May 8-9-10 – and the margin of separation between these teams at the top of the AL East has been razor-thin for weeks now.
Here’s what is ahead …
BOSTON (55-27) at NEW YORK YANKEES (52-26) – Fri, Sat & Sun Nite
Bring it on!
The Red Sox will roll with lefties Chris Sale (7-4, 0.93 WHIP) and David Price (9-5, 1.21 WHIP) in the Saturday/Sunday games in this weekend set – and they’re going with a southpaw slinger tonight in Eduardo Rodriguez (9-2 and 92 Ks in 81.2 innings) -- but is that good news against this Yankees lineup starring righty sluggers Aaron Judge (20 HR, 52 RBI) and Giancarlo Stanton (19 HR, 46 RBI)?
Maybe first-year Yankees’ manager Aaron Boone will put Judge back into the leadoff spot for one or more games this series – he did it against the Sox in an earlier-season game – and talk about a modern-day “Murderer’s Row” with Judge / Stanton /2B Gleyber Torres (14 HR, 38 RBI in just 201 at-bats) hitting right at the top of the order (P.S., it’ll never happen ‘cause Boone won’t “pressure” Torres with hitting third in the lineup).
On the flip side, the true MVP – so far – in the junior circuit has been Red Sox DH J.D. Martinez (25 HR, 64 RBI) with OF Mookie Betts (.336 batting average and 61 runs scored) running in second place and we’ll see what type of pitches they get this weekend especially in Sunday night’s affair when Cy Young frontrunner Luis Severino (12 wins, 0.96 WHIP) gets a crack in prime time.
Looking for a possible X-factor here?
Let’s see if Yankees 1B Greg Bird can finally get heated up either in the starting lineup or as a late-game pinch-hitter – Bird’s hitting just .191 with three dingers in 89 at-bats in this herky-jerky season for him. You might find Boston’s righthanded relief pitchers going right at Bird in late-and-close situations, so keep an eye peeled for that possibility/probability.
Now hear this …
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We continue our NFL team-by-team summer accounts right here – and every day at Jim Sez we’ll be posting two, three or four teams as we check out news/notes/reports. Plus, we get you some key pointspread info to boot and note a team’s SU (straight-up) record is listed next to the team name. Here’s the Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Giants and Chicago Bears …
PITTSBURGH (13-4) – There’s a good chance that the Steelers will be in the market for some wide receiver help (just as we mentioned with the New England Patriots and the San Francisco 49ers in a recent Jim Sez column) as young star JuJu Smith-Schuster is banged up these days with left knee issues. Smith-Schuster caught 58 passes for 917 yards and 7 TDs last year and had overtaken the since-traded Martavis Bryant (now a member of the Oakland Raiders) on the team’s depth chart. Look for rookie WR James Washington (Oklahoma State) – he averaged nearly 20 yards a reception last year for the Cowpokes – to get some burn for first-year offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner.
Pointspread Notes – The Steelers failed to cover six of their final seven games last year including that painful 45-42 loss to 7-point underdog Jacksonville in an AFC Divisional Playoff tilt. Overall, Pittsburgh’s an ugly 2-6-1 ATS (against the spread)
NEW YORK GIANTS (3-13) – Let’s turn our attention to something other than the on-going (and seemingly never-ending) contract situation with WR Odell Beckham: The Giants surely have other issues when you consider last year the offense ranked 25th in the NFL in rushing (96.8 yards per game) and 18th in passing (217.4 ypg) and the addition of RB Saquon Barkley (Penn State) with the second overall selection in this year’s NFL Draft has Big Blue Nation all geeked but better believe new head coach Pat Shurmur has a spread-the-wealth mentality that means Barkley won’t get overtaxed (and veteran RB Jonathan Stewart won’t be forgotten in the game plan).
Pointspread Notes – Last year’s Giants finished 0-3 versus the vig as betting favorites (failed to cover Detroit, the Los Angeles Chargers and at San Francisco) after covering six-of-nine as chalk in 2016. Note that NYG is 3-6 ATS in its last nine season-opening games and this year the G-men will open Sept. 9th at home against Jacksonville.
CHICAGO (5-11) – The Bears’ defense wasn’t the problem last year as the NFC North club ranked in the top 10 in the league in rushing/passing/total defense and there’s a strong belief that first-year head coach Matt Nagy’s stop unit will be a strong suit with holdovers Leonard Floyd and Sam Acho and offseason addition Aaron Lynch getting a further boost from Georgia rookie Roquan Smith. The six-foot-one, 225-pound Smith was a driving force on last year’s Bulldogs team that lost in overtime to Alabama in the national championship game and he’s considered a sure star right off the bat.
Pointspread Notes – Believe it or not, last year’s 8-6-2 ATS mark was the Bears’ best since 2010 (see 10-7-1) and that included a snazzy 5-2-1 home spread record with covers against Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Minnesota. Note the Bears have failed to cover their road opener the past three years in a row and this year’s road-opening game is Week One in Green Bay (and in prime time).
NOTE: NFL team-by-team looks keep coming your way all next week right here at Jim Sez.