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And So It Goes....

Overall: 7-1-0 (0.875)
Basis Function: Daubechies4

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Friday, May 29, 2009

May 29th, 2009 Picks

1-0-0 today and so after breaking the '5' barrier I'll try and take 2 a day to get to 9 again. Then third tries the charm to get that 10 game streak. *crosses fingers*

Baltimore's David Hernandez had a decent start to his Major league career giving up only 1 earned run. He had some issues with walking batters, but was able to get out of most jams. Armando Galrraga appeared solid, pitching through 7 innings while giving up a total of two earned runs. Both teams had to work to get on base but it was in the 8th inning that Luke Scott hit his second home run of the game, a 3 run shot off of Perry, to more or less cinch the victory for Baltimore. Sherrill came on in the 9th and retired 1-2-3 to end the game. And so on to the picks.

1) Steve Stricker vs. Stewart Cink – Cink cards a lower front 9 score
2) Carla Suarez-Navarro vs. Victoria Azarenka – Azarenka
3) Brian Gay vs. Vijay Singh - Gay cards a lower second round score
4) Los Angeles Dodgers @ Chicago Cubs – Los Angeles
5) Clermont Foot @ Vannes OC – Vannes OC win
6) Detroit Tigers @ Baltimore Orioles – Detroit
7) Boston Red Sox @ Toronto Blue Jays – Toronto
8) Ron Hornaday Jr. vs. Kyle Busch – Busch has a better finishing position
9) Washington vs. Arizona State - Washington
10) Los Angeles Lakers @ Denver Nuggets – Denver
11) Michigan vs. Florida - 8 runs or more
12) San Diego Padres @ Colorado Rockies – Colorado
13) St. Louis Cardinals @ San Francisco Giants – San Francisco

1) Steve Stricker has been having a terrific year, with 5 top 10 finishes, including a 2nd place finish at the Northern Trust Open in February and a 3rd place finish at the Bob Hope Classic, netting him nearly $2 million from 11 events.

Stricker reacts in frustration after missing a putt at Colonial while Cink celebrates. Will this scene be repeated?
Stewart Cink cannot boast the same kind of success. Aside from a 3rd place finish at the World Golf Championship Accenture Match Play event he has finished no higher than 24th and has missed the cut three times. His reward for these efforts has been a `paltry' $860,000. Cink has also underperformed at the Colonial, carding a 71 in the first round, especially compared to Stricker who is co-leader with a 7-under par 63.

Since 2004 Cink has more experience on the course, with 17 rounds played and Stricker with 11 rounds. Both players have a median front 9 score of -1 and each have carded only two front 9 scores over par. Cink's best front 9 was a -5 in the first round in 2006 while Stricker carded his best round yesterday, a -4 thanks in large part to his long range putting. Cink's worst score is +1, in 2004 and 2005, while Stricker carded his worst score of +2 in the second round of 2008. I wouldn't be surprised to see Stricker fall away from the leader position in this round, but he's been so much better than Cink all year I can't honestly recommend picking against him here. I do think Cink will have a better front 9 score with more experience on his side, but it's a long shot. Previews of the holes can be found here. The par 4 hole number 5 proved to be the most difficult of the day with less than half the field reaching the green in regulation. It could be a make or break hole for these two today.

A view of the green on hole #3, protected by bunkers.

2) 19 year old Victoria Azarenka is looking to continue her solid play this year, which has seen win her first premier tournament (over an injured Serena Williams) and climb to #9 in the Women's World Rankings. She has already achieved the pinnacle of success in mixed doubles play, winning the 2007 U.S. Open mixed doubles title and the same in the 2008 French Open.

Azarenka plays with a knee brace in the second round while Navarro calmly defeats her opponent to advance.

Her opponent in the third round is Carla Suarez Navarro who has gone through to the finals in one event this year, at Marbella, but has generally been exited through the second or first rounds. She lost to Azarenka earlier this year in straight sets, their only previous encounter.

Last year Azarenka made it through to the fourth round before losing to fourth seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Victoria Azarenka looks to match her progress in last years French Open with a third round victory.
Navarro did one better, defeating the 26th seeded Flavia Pennetta in the fourth round only to be defeated herself by third seeded Jelena Janković in the quarterfinals. Azarenka is large favorite to win the match today (-200 or so to +130 for Navarro) and given her play this year I can see why. With her knee injury, however, she may not be as strong as she would be otherwise and a retirement looms as a larger and larger possibility the further she goes into the tournament. You can track the progress of the match with the widget up top or click here to see live scores from the Roland Garros site directly.

3) So far this year Brian Gay has three top 10 finishes, including a Tour victory at Harbour Town in April where he set the 72-hole Tour record at -20 and the Verizon Heritage margin of victory record at 10 strokes.

Vijay took a lot of flak in 2002 for saying the PGA Tour was designated for men to play, and make money, on.
He also has two other top 10 finishes on the Tour this year, earning him nearly $1.7 million from 13 events. Vijay Singh has had his difficulties as he missed three weeks on the tour near the end of January recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery and has been taking things easy as he recovers. He's missed the cut 4 out of 10 events since the surgery but appeared to be back on track with a 9th place finish at TPC Sawgrass three weeks ago. His 63 7-under par in the first round at the Colonial certainly seems to back up that assumption.

Singh himself credits part of that success to playing alongside Kenny Perry, saying: "I know the golf course, and Kenny was making a lot of shots as well, and we played off each other...." It's a good sign for Singh considering he hasn't played this event since the Annika Sorenstam incident. Singh levied harsh criticism at the tour and the sponsors for entering her into the Bank One Colonial (as it was known back then) saying that it took valuable spots away from men for whom the Tour was set up for. He's back and it appears the public has more or less forgiven him.

To the contrary, Brian Gay has been a regular at this event, playing every year from 2004 to present. In that time he has played 19 rounds, carding scores of 69 or better in 10 of them. He tied his best score, a 5-under 65, last year in the second round. His 10th place finish in 2008 was his best ever at Colonial. I fully expect both players to card low scores, below 68 at least, with the greens remaining soft after the rains a few days ago. With Singh having already carded his best score of the tournament in all likelihood and Gay yet to card his I have to favor Brian Gay in this matchup.

Preview the back nine.

4) The Los Angeles Dodgers struggled away from Dodger Stadium with Manny Ramirez in the lineup. Nearly 50 games into the season they have managed to find a way to win away without him. Los Angeles will go for their fifth straight win away from home after sweeping the Rockies in Colorado and taking the first game of the series at Wrigley Field. L.A. has been hitting the ball well in their past three games with a .305 batting average but only a .362 slugging average.

Can Billingsley and the Dodgers pull off another heart stopping victory at Wrigley Field?
Fortunately, they've managed to bunch together the multitude of hits leading to 17 runs scored in three wins. It's the Dodgers' pitching and fielding which has allowed them to win on the road, however, limiting their opponents to 8 runs in those three games. They'll need both strong pitching and strong batting in order to keep up with Chicago's hot bats

The Cubs had been slumping heavily, losing 8 in a row before picking up two wins against the Pirates. Including the loss to the Dodgers the Cubs are batting .330 with a .523 slugging average in their last three games. It was Randy Wolf's and Troncoso's pitching which limited the Cubs to one run in the last game and without it the Dodgers would surely have lost.

The Dodgers have placed Ohman on the disabled list leaving their bullpen 'short' with 7 men, but Broxton, Belisario, and Wade should all be available to pitch with Chad Billingsley hoped to go deep into the game. Billingsley has been superb for the Dodgers this year, posting a 6-2 record to go along with his 2.82 ERA and 1.19 WHIP. He will be facing off against Chris Lilly today, who has been decent to say the least, with a 3.77 ERA and a stellar 1.10 WHIP. Lilly's ground ball to fly ball ratio is about half of Billingsley's so it's no surprise he's given up 10 home runs this season compared to Billingsley's 1, but it is surprising he's done so well keeping men off base. Credit the Cubs' fielding and Lilly's ability to throw strikes and avoid walking batters. With the Dodgers having not hit a single home run in their past three games they will be looking to take advantage of the long hits Lilly is prone to give up.

Both Billingsley and Lilly struggled a bitBillingsley - 6IP, 9H, 4ER, 6K, 1BB

Lilly - 6.1IP, 8H, 5ER, 4K, 2BB in their last starts, giving up 4 or 5 earned runs over 6 innings off of 8 or 9 hits. I think both pitchers will pitch near shut outs today and it will come down to the bullpens over a 1 or 2 innings, and clutch batting in the final inning. It should be close, but I think the Dodgers will have the lead going into the ninth, possibly from a home run earlier in the game, and will be able to hold on with Broxton pitching.


Keys for Denver: Stop whining about calls, take high percentage shots, and get big games from J.R. Smith and Chris Andersen.
It's Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals and the Denver Nuggets face elimination for the first time this postseason. After the teams split Games 3 and 4 by getting away from the 'last-one-to-score-wins' motif of the series with Denver winning by 19 at home and the Lakers taking one at the Staples Center by 9. Bloggers for each team give their opinionsPickaxe N' Roll (DEN)

Lakers Nation (LAL) give their previews of the game with each side identifying attacking the basket and taking smart shots as keyes to the game.

From ``Lakers Nation'': The Lakers will have to control the tempo, the glass, get back in transition, and stop the dribble penetration as well as rotate out to three point shooters. The Lakers will need to slow Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups & Nene. Limit the impact of the explosive yet volatile J.R. Smith.

``Pickaxe N' Roll'' identifies 7 keys to the game, the most important of which being the rebounding battle. Looking at the box scores from Games 3 and 4 the offensive rebounding stats jump out. In their 19 point victory the Nuggets had a 20-9 edge on the offensive glass, but only a 14-10 edge in their Game 5 loss. Clearly, the Nuggets either need to start making the smarter shots or completely dominate the offensive boards to pick up a win in this game. Finally, Magic Johnson and Brent Barry chime in with their reasons for why this series will go to a Game 7. Essentially, home court advantage will enable Denver to make the plays they need to make to win.

13) The St. Louis Cardinals hope they can somehow find a way to rediscover their slumping offense which has scored a meager 3.6 runs per game in their last three games. They've also batted only .222 with a .414 slugging average in this games. Yet, despite their lack of offense the Cardinals are riding a two game winning streak as they visit AT&T Park to take on Matt Cain and the San Francisco Giants.

San Francisco will depend on Matt Cain to make Ankiel and Ludwick's return to the order a quiet one.
A big part of that success has been the performance of their pitching staff, limiting Milwaukee to one and two runs in the victories. St. Louis will start Joel Piniero tonight who is coming off a 3-2 loss to the Royals. Piniero has walked 7 batters in 611/3 innings pitched this season and has a remarkably low K/9 of 3.1, meaning nearly all of his outs are from balls in play.

The Cardinals will thus welcome Ricky Ankiel and Ryan Ludwick back into the lineup tonight with open arms and a sigh of relief. It may not be coincidence the Cardinals' slump in May has come at the same time these two have been out of the lineup. Aside from providing much needed strength at the plate the two are skilled fielders, something Piniero's success depends on. San Francisco already has one of the lowest rated offnses in the league and will have their work cut out for them tonight.

Matt Cain will certainly aid San Francisco in keeping up with the Cardinals. Cain has a 2.40 ERA and 1.32 WHIP this season and is coming off a very nice start in Seattle where he gave up only 1 earned run from 10 hits. He also had 7 strikeouts without walking a batter. I would not bet on Cain limiting the Cardinals to one run if he gives up 10 hits tonight with St. Louis averaging nearly a double with every hit in their last three games. Cain has a 9.58 ERA in two career appearances against St. Louis so I expect he will be sorely tested.

Overall, I think Ludwick and Ankiel will make their presence felt most in the out field, limiting the Giants' hits. San Francisco is batting .327 in their last three games, all wins, so I expect their batting numbers to go down. Still, I think Cain is the better overall pitcher and with a bit of luck the Giants will be able to find the gaps in the outfield enabling them to still get their share of hits. As long as Cain does not have a disastrous outing I think the Giants should win this game, but the Cardinals will have a chance at every point in the game.

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