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Song remains the same in Music City: Nashville wins, series tied

By Newsletter staff
VSiN.com

rinne
Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne blocks a shot against Pittsburgh Penguins left wing Conor Sheary.

The Stanley Cup Final is now a best-of-three as Nashville holds serve again in Music City. Plus more from Vegas on the NBA, MLB, and Saturday’s Belmont!

NHL: Nashville dominates again to tie Pittsburgh at two wins apiece
After Pittsburgh won its two home games by a combined 9-4 score, Nashville topped that by sweeping a pair 9-2. 

Nashville (-145) 4, Pittsburgh 1

  • Shots: Pittsburgh 24, Nashville 26

A much more restrained game than we had seen in recent action. There were only 13 combined shots in the first period (19, 30, 18 in the opening stanzas coming in). Then, only 16 combined shots in the second period (9, 21, 29 prior). Nashville was in a mindset of “protecting” home ice rather than “save the season” which we saw this past Saturday. Worked out the same because two second-period goals broke things open…then an empty-netter closed out the scoring in the final minutes. 

Nashville has won shot counts by game 26-12, 38-27, 33-28, and 26-24. Nashville has won shot count in 10 of the 12 individual periods that have been played. But if the Predators can’t get a win on the road, service holds will keep the Stanley Cup in Pittsburgh for the second straight season.  

Game 5 will be Thursday in Pittsburgh on NBC. The Penguins will likely be favored by around -150, with the total staying at 5.5 with Under vigorish. We noted the large spreads in this series between home favorite prices in an earlier report. A professional hockey bettor told us on background that you’d normally see about -120 both ways when two even teams were trading home ice. Here, it’s MUCH higher, and the teams weren’t seen as even entering the series! 

NBA: ESPN Chalk picks up on VSiN City’s comparisons between ’17 Warriors and ’96 Bulls
Back on May 15, we talked about where Golden State’s current market Power Rating might rate in the all-time archives. The only real match for this level of playoff pricing was the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls…who were laying numbers as high as -10 at home over Shaquille O’Neal’s Orlando Magic squad, and the talented Seattle Sonics team that included Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton.

Today, ESPN Chalk posted an article featuring interviews with some Las Vegas oddsmakers (including Chris Andrews of the South Point) to get their opinions on how much 2017 Golden State would be favored over 1996 Chicago. A quick breakdown of their neutral court assessments…

  • Jay Rood, MGM: Golden State by 8
  • Jeff Sherman, Westgate: Golden State by 6.5
  • Aaron Kessler, Golden Nugget: Golden State by 4.5
  • Nick Bogdanovich, William Hill: Golden State by 2
  • Chris Andrews, South Point: pick-em

That’s an average of 4.2 and a median of 4.5. If you assume home court advantage of about four points either way…that “mix” would suggest Golden State being favored by about 8-9 in Oakland. The games would be near pick-em in Chicago (with Nick and Chris being all over the Bulls!). 

We should point out that the composite would suggest a very exciting series between this year’s Cavaliers team and the ’96 Bulls. To this point, Golden State registers at about -6 on a neutral court over the Cavs. Fun to imagine LeBron vs. Michael with talented supporting casts.

We thought it might prove interesting to start tracking the two championship sequences side by side. That by itself won’t solve any riddles…because you also have to evaluate how the 2017 Cleveland Cavaliers stack up against the 1996 Seattle Sonics. But if we assume a reasonably comparable level of star power and quality, that might at least put us in the ballpark. The first game listed in each pairing is from Seattle/Chicago 21 years ago (which was in a 2-3-2 configuration, meaning three straight road games in the middle for the series favorite). The second game listed is from the current NBA Finals.

Game 1

  • Chicago (-10) beat Seattle 107-90
  • Golden State (-7) beat Cleveland 113-91

Very similar results. Chicago was the bigger favorite, but Golden State cleared expectations by a lot more. If we move beyond “best Power Rating” to “who overachieved their market prices in the most emphatic fashion,” the ’17 Warriors may end up in a class by themselves if they don’t hit a pothole soon.

Game 2

  • Chicago (-10) beat Seattle 92-88
  • Golden State (-9) beat Cleveland 132-113

A reminder why old school handicappers liked the zig-zag. It even worked against the ’96 Bulls! Chicago had to sweat its rematch, while Golden State won big again. In market terms…the fact that Golden State’s line rose in the zig zag spot is an anomaly that speaks to their impressive current form. 

Game 3

  • Chicago (-4) won at Seattle 108-86
  • Golden State is -3 at Cleveland Wednesday

Chicago set a very high bar in its road opener. Maybe Seattle left everything on the court in that near-miss in Game 2. Golden State is likely to see peak intensity from the Cavs in front of a supportive home crowd. While it’s true that the Game 3 bar is set high…that’s not true for the rest of the series. 

Still Ahead

  • Game 4: Chicago (-5.5) lost at Seattle 107-86
  • Game 5: Chicago (-5.5) lost at Seattle 89-78
  • Game 6: Chicago (-9.5) beat Seattle 87-75 

Wow…Chicago jumped ahead 3-0 in the series…only to see the Sonics come back to win twice by double digits as home underdogs! Easy to forget that. This great Chicago team temporarily lost its bearings. Jordan’s offense couldn’t break 90 points in its last three games. 

We’ll update this theme on other “off” days during the Finals. Wednesday’s Game 3 is currently showing Golden State -3, with a total of 226.5. 

Analytics: “Skill vs. Luck: why underdogs do better in hockey than basketball.”
That’s the name of an excellent video posted today by Vox on YouTube. It runs about seven-and-a-half minutes, and is well worth your time. If you’re new to analytics, or an old hand, you’ll enjoy this well-produced presentation hosted by Joss Fong that explains the dynamic in laymen’s terms. It will particularly resonate with sports bettors, and just might influence your thinking on future investments. Check it out during breakfast, lunch, or a short break from work!

MLB: Red Sox/Yankees renew rivalry Tuesday in the Bronx
It’s always intense when the Red Sox play the Yankees. But, when both teams are good, it’s even better! Heading into their three-game series that begins Tuesday night in New York, the Yanks and Sox currently sit atop the AL East standings with two of the three best records in the entire American League (trailing only Houston). 

Let’s take a quick look at the pitching matchups for this three-game set. We’re going to focus on what sabermetrics calls “the three true outcomes.” Those are strikeouts, walks, and home runs. Those are heavily in control of the pitcher because they don’t involve defense, or the relative luck of where the ball lands once it’s put in play amongst fielders. Focus on the three true outcomes, and you’ll have a good read on pitching quality.

We grabbed these stats from great analytics site Fangraphs (very popular with serious bettors). Also included is “xFIP,” which is short for fielding independent pitching…a representation of the three true outcomes that falls along the same scale as ERA. 

Tuesday’s Pitchers (early line: Yankees -115, total of 9 Under -120)

  • Drew Pomeranz: 29% K’s, 7.7% walks, 1.4 HR/9, 3.25 xFIP
  • Masahiro Tanaka: 20.5% K’s, 6.2% walks, 2.1 HR/9, 4.08 xFIP

Big edge to Pomeranz in strikeouts and xFIP. Tanaka has been stingier with walks, but more home run prone. Yankee Stadium has been a great home run park this season, increasing dingers by 35% to this point in the 2017 campaign.

Wednesday’s Pitchers

  • Rick Porcello: 22.2% K’s, 4.3% walks, 1.5 HR/9, 3.96 xFIP
  • CC Sabathia: 19.5% K’s, 8.5% walks, 1.3 HR/9, 4.26 xFIP

Porcello’s been viewed as a pitcher taking a step backward this season. Yet his xFIP is about the same as last year (3.89). He’s had much worse luck on balls landing in play (allowing a .367 batting average on balls in play so far, compared to .269 last season). Sabathia is having problems with control…and is likely to get hit fairly hard by this Boston lineup in this ballpark. Might be worth thinking about an Over. Or Boston if you think Porcello’s due for some better luck on balls in play. 

Thursday’s Pitchers

  • David Price: 24.4% K’s, 6.7% walks, 1.5 HR/9, 4.21 xFIP (in 2 starts)
  • Michael Pineda: 25.1% K’s, 5.6% walks, 1.8 HR/9, 3.35 xFIP

Price has only made two starts. His 2016 xFIP of 3.52 gives a much better read for expectations going forward. Great stuff from Pineda thus far. Though, his home run count is high. Great pitching matchup to end this marquee series.

Other quick baseball notes….

  • The Astros did it again. A 7-3 win at Kansas City represented their eleventh straight victory, their seventh straight on this road trip, and brought their full season mark to 42-16 (22-6 on the road). 

We talked about their recent road scoring barrage yesterday. Let’s quickly run the full scoring line for their 2017 road games. Note again the relative consistency and volume. Not too many 0’s, 1’s, or 2’s. If you assume at least four runs will put you in good shape every night, the Astros have managed that 22 out of 28 times.

Runs scored going in order from road opener to last night:
0-7-10-7-10-6-3-6-4-6-3-7-1-5-3-5-6-10-7-12-3-16-7-17-7-6-7-7

Is this a football team? Look at all those seven’s! They’ve scored seven or more 50% of the time. Stunning. 

  • After Monday’s results, the NL Central is incredibly condensed. Only 3.5 games in the standings separate the first place Chicago Cubs from the last place Pittsburgh Pirates. 

Chicago 29-27
Milwaukee 30-28 (virtual tie, but down .518 to 517 in win pct)
St. Louis 26-29
Cincinnati 26-30
Pittsburgh 26-31

The Cubs are still heavy betting favorites to pull away and win the group. We all know they have the most raw talent. But their competition has some skeletons in the closet. Milwaukee has played 33 home games, and just 25 road games. They’ll likely fade back when that equalizes. St. Louis has a negative run differential despite playing three more home games than road games. Cincinnati has a worse run differential than St. Louis despite playing six more home games than road games. Pittsburgh has a losing record against opponents with losing records…which is typically a red flag for stragglers. 

Chicago fans can relax for a bit longer. It may only take 85 victories to win this division. 

Belmont: More race prep to get you ready for Saturday’s big event
It’s still early in “Belmont Week,” so we’ll aggregate some articles from around the internet for you. 

Penn Live offers this informative breakdown, that also includes more links!
Asbury Park Press gives you five horses to watch
ESPN’s horse racing home page will be updated through the week
The Paulick Report took a look Sunday at Irish War Cry
If you missed it late last week, Ron Flatter’s look at Epicharis

In that PennLive article, Brian Zipse of Horse Racing Nation assigned these early odds for the Belmont:

Classic Empire 8/5
Irish War Cry 5/1
Tapwrit 6/1
Lookin at Lee 8/1
Epicharis 8/1
Gormley 15/1 (Ron Flatter tells VSiN City Gormley is only 50/50 to enter)
Senior Investment 15/1
Twisted Tom 20/1
Patch 20/1
J Boys Echo 30/1
Meantime 30/1
Multiplier 30/1
Hollywood Handsome 40/1

The general consensus now is that 12 horses will run, with Gormley the biggest question mark of the 13 listed above. Hollywood Handsome is confirmed in, and will likely be the biggest long shot all week. We checked with Roxy Roxborough so we could add HH to his list from twitter. He tweeted “Hollywood Handsome should be the longest price…50 to 1.” It would take a price better than 50/1 for Roxy to consider a bet on Hollywood Handsome.

More Belmont coverage through the week on VSiN’s live programming and right here in VSiN City!

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