Monday was a great example of the importance of watching teams closely and getting to know them, rather than merely looking at the numbers. When I looked at my research for Monday’s Bundesliga relegation matchup between Hamburger SV and Hertha Berlin, almost everyone and their brother who had a pick on the game tagged Hamburg to finish the job and return to the Bundesliga at Hertha’s expense.
And why not? After all, Hamburg had just gone to Hertha and won in the first leg, which meant all it needed to do was not lose at home and it would be in the Bundesliga. Any time you can play for a draw in soccer, especially at home, you’re usually going to get it.
But after a full year of watching the Bundesliga, that just didn’t seem right to me. Hertha has long been a side that plays its best with its backs to the wall, and there isn’t a bigger backs-to-the-wall situation than what the Old Lady faced Monday. With that in mind, I played Hertha on a draw no bet at +165, taking the insurance in case a draw did occur. And true to form, Hertha controlled the match and saved itself with a 2-0 win, starting off a 5-0 day for me. Without my regular watching of the Bundesliga, that pick win doesn’t happen, as the numbers all favored Hamburg or a draw.
Knowing your numbers is important, but it’s only one half of the equation. Here are my picks for May 24.
PHOENIX RISING-NEW MEXICO UNITED U2.5, Off
This isn’t going on the board for another few hours, but when it does, I want to play the under. Phoenix had to push this game back because of COVID protocols, which means New Mexico is likely to dictate the tempo in this matchup. That means a defensive battle, as the Black and Yellow have only conceded seven goals while scoring 10 in nine matches this year. Throw in the elevation of 5,300 feet in Albuquerque, and Phoenix is likely to be gasping in this one. That lends itself to a very low-scoring contest.
BLUE JAYS TTO 3.5, -135
The Blue Jays are not going to keep up this slump forever. They will hit eventually, and they’re probably going to do it against Jordan Hicks. Hicks has given up two or more runs in five straight starts despite only making it out of the fifth inning once in that stretch. Yes, the Cardinals have an ace bullpen, but we’re likely only going to need the Jays to push across one run in five innings against St. Louis’ bullpen. That should be doable.
PHILLIES-BRAVES OVER 8.5, -115
Max Fried does not tend to pitch well against the Phillies, and rain in the forecast for Atlanta during the game means there’s a very real chance that he goes three innings and then has to come out because the Braves don’t want to put him back on the mound after an hour’s delay. That means the Phillies could get into the Braves’ bullpen without having to do a thing other than wait, and with three injured relievers, Atlanta’s pen isn’t as sharp as usual. Throw in that Kyle Gibson should give up some hard hits while pitching to contact, and the over makes a lot of sense.
HURRICANES-RANGERS U5.5, -125
Carolina simply isn’t scoring outside of Raleigh, which makes it a darn good thing from the Hurricanes’ perspective that they could make the Stanley Cup Finals without ever winning a road game as long as they don’t lose on home ice. The Canes have just seven road goals in four playoff games away from PNC Arena, and Igor Shesterkin is now playing like a Vezina Trophy candidate again after having problems with the Penguins in round 1. All three matchups between the Hurricanes and Rangers have finished with four goals or less in this series, and I like that trend to continue.
OILERS TTO 3.5, +110
Connor McDavid is clearly sick of the narrative that the Oilers can’t win in the postseason, and the Flames have had no answer for him in this series. Calgary hasn’t really been able to stop anyone in blue and orange in this series, as the Oil have 15 goals in three games and are getting star performances out of both McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, who have a combined 19 points in this series. Draisaitl picked up four assists last game, so all we need is the Oilers’ two stars to keep playing like stars to make this one hit.
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