Jon Gray will rack up the K’s tonight for the Rangers | Why Al Horford will fill the stat sheet in Game 6

By | May 26, 2023

We had a little Friday news dump this afternoon. When the offseason began, it was no secret that the Arizona Cardinals traded DeAndre Hopkins and expected to trade him. As the offseason wore on, the deal was expected, with many rumors flying around the draft that it could be imminent.

But then word came that the Cardinals weren’t going to trade him during the draft, so the draft came and went, and Nuk was still with the Cardinals. A month has passed and Hopkins is no longer a Cardinal, only he wasn’t traded. He was released.

While every team in the league is now free to sign Hopkins, It’s not free for the Cardinals to release him.

Hopkins has a cap number of $29,988,890 in 2023 and $25,453,886 in 2024, the final two years of an extension he signed when he was traded to the Cardinals in 2020. Arizona will eat $21,077,776 in dead cap with the release of Hopkins 14 , $189.9 cap room.

I guess no one else would pay him that money either.

OK, let’s make some money.

All times Eastern, and all odds via Caesars Sportsbook

πŸ”₯ The Hot Ticket

Rangers at Orioles, 7:05 p.m. | TV: MLB.TV

  • Key trend: Jon Gray has struck out 19 batters in his last three starts.
  • The Pick: Gray Over 4.5 strikeouts (-111)

In his first start of the season, Texas’ Jon Gray lasted six innings against the Baltimore Orioles, striking out seven batters. Unfortunately, he also allowed two solo shots and those were the only runs the Orioles needed as they won the game 2-0. Then things went a little wrong for Gray.

Over his next five starts, he pitched just 24 1/3 innings and had a 4.81 ERA. He also only struck out 12 batters in that span, which looks even worse when you learn he walked just as many. When you walk as many guys as you strike out, something isn’t working and you have to adjust.

Gray did it.

After throwing his fastball roughly 50% of the time in his first six starts, Gray has not thrown it more than 40% of the time in his last three starts. He’s stepped up his slider while mixing in a few more curves and changeups. The results have been promising.

Jonathan Coachman is joined by Mike McClure, Chip Patterson and Matt Snyder to break down Friday’s best games!

After striking out just 14.5% of the batters he faced in his first six starts, he has struck out 25.3% of batters since. He struck out eight in seven innings against Seattle, five in eight innings against Oakland and six in five innings in his last start against Colorado.

Simply put, he’s missing more at-bats now than he was going to start the season, and his support hasn’t quite caught on yet. Plus, you know, him did struck out seven Orioles when he faced them earlier this season. All of this makes a total of 4.5 feel a bit low, doesn’t it?

Here’s what SportsLine says about the game: Although it does not have an A-rated play on this game, the SportsLine Projection Model has B grades on the total, moneyline and spread.

πŸ’°The picks

πŸ€ NBA

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Celtics at Heat, Saturday, 8:30 p.m. | Television: TNT
The Pick: Al Horford Over 9.5 points and assists (-120) —
We have no NBA or NHL playoffs tonight, which is a terrible way to spend a Friday, but I can’t send you into the weekend without a game. I have no idea how this series is going to end. Before Game 5, I had a strong feeling that Boston would win, but still, I didn’t think it would affect the final result. But watching the Celtics dominate from start to finish makes one wonder if Miami will finish the job.

Part of the reason the Celtics dominated is because they look like the Celtics again. The team that played in the first three games was unrecognizable, and one of the players who has found form is Al Horford. Horford averaged 12.8 points and assists in the regular season and averaged 11.1 through the first 10 games of the playoffs. Then his shot disappeared. From Game 5 of the Philly series to Game 3 against Miami, Horford shot 27% and averaged just 4.2 points per game. He’s bounced back in the last two games and I expect we’ll see that continue on Saturday. He was never as bad a shooter as he was for that stretch. Also, he has finished with at least 10 points and assists in 24 of 36 road games this year, including five of the eight this postseason.

⚽ Football

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Borussia Dortmund vs. Mainz, Saturday, 09:30 | TV: ESPN+
The Pick: Borussia Dortmund 1st half (-240) —
Everything is so simple for Borussia Dortmund. Beat Mainz on Saturday and you’re Bundesliga champions, ending Bayern Munich’s 10-year run. A draw probably won’t do because it’s hard to imagine Bayern losing to Cologne knowing they have to win. But can Dortmund do it? You’d think so, but Dortmund have been one of the hardest teams in the world to figure out this year. Fortunately, things come well into this fight in the last month. Dortmund lost to Bayern 4-2 to start April and followed that up with a 2-0 loss to Leipzig in the DFB Pokal. That’s when I assumed it was done for the year.

It hasn’t lost since. It has won five games and tied two, outscoring opponents 24-7 during that stretch. Although the game has not been against big teams, Mainz is not a good team right now! Mainz beat Bayern Munich 3-1 last month and had a chance to take one of Germany’s European spots. Instead, it decided to forfeit its next four games and has allowed at least three goals in each, going 13-3. For Mainz it has been much worse on the road all year, and Dortmund have been much better at home. I think this one will be over quickly, but I also fear that Dortmund will shut it down once they take control, so I’m doing something I’ve never done in this column. I am betting on Dortmund in the first half, as there is more value there than the whole match.

Aston Villa vs. Brighton, Sunday, 11:30 | TV: Peacock
The Pick: Aston Villa (+102) —
While Manchester City have won the Premier League again, there has been more parity in the league than usual. Newcastle United finished in the top four and Brighton – the tiny club from a resort town on the south coast of England – clinched a place in the Europa League earlier this week. And it is that achievement that we benefit from here. Brighton manager Roberto De Zerbi admitted there would be a bit of celebration rather than training after Wednesday’s game, which makes you wonder how seriously Brighton will take their season finale against Aston Villa.

Meanwhile, Villa has plenty of motivation. A win here clinches a place in the Europa Conference League, and European play would be a big deal for a club that has struggled to establish itself in the league since returning from relegation. Although it hasn’t received much attention since the calendar turned to 2023, Manchester City are the only Premier League team to average more points per game than Aston Villa’s 1.85.

πŸ”’ SportsLine pick of the day: The only Class A on the board tonight is a money game between the Atlanta Braves and the Philadelphia Phillies.

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