MLB Weekend Betting Preview

The Mets and Braves kick off a three-game series in New York tonight with the Mets hoping to cut into the Braves' three-game lead atop the NL East.

But it's the total in the Washington San Francisco game that is attracting lots of handicapping interest. Mike Pickett loves the OVER 6.5 in this game as he predicts the worst effort of young Stephen Strasburg's career.

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The last time the Braves ventured to Citi Field in April the Mets swept them in three straight games while outscoring them 9-3. This weekend's series gets started tonight with Tommy Hanson (8-5, 4.19) getting the ball for the Braves and R.A. Dickey (6-1, 2.62) on the hill for the Mets.

After back-to-back poor outings Hanson finally rebounded in his last start against the Marlins. He picked up the win after allowing one unearned run on five hits with eight strikeouts over 6 2-3 innings. Hanson faced the Mets back in April and took the loss despite giving up only one unearned run in five innings.

Dickey had to settled for a no-decision in his last start against the Nationals. He allowed two runs, both unearned, on six hits over seven strong. He's never started against the Braves before but in two bullpen appearances he was roughed up for five runs in three innings. The rest of the pitching matchups in the series are Tim Hudson (8-4, 2.44) vs. Mike Pelfrey (10-3, 3.39) on Saturday and Derek Lowe (9-7, 4.40) vs. Johan Santana (6-5, 3.15) on Sunday.

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In the AL this weekend the Central race gets the spotlight treatment when the Twins and Tigers face off in Detroit for three games. The Tigers currently lead the division with a half-game lead over the White Sox and two games over the Twins.

Minnesota enters the series having won only once in their last five games and they could be without Justin Morneau tonight. Morneau suffered a concussion on Wednesday night after taking a knee to the head sliding into second and is listed as day-to-day.

The Twins will need a strong performance from southpaw Francisco Liriano (6-6, 3.32) as the Tigers counter with ace Justin Verlander (10-5, 3.85). Liriano missed out on what should have been an easy win in his last start against Tampa Bay after allowing one run on four hits with 10 strikeouts in seven innings. Liriano earned a no-decision after the Twins' bullpen surrendered seven runs in the eighth inning.

In two starts against the Tigers this season Liriano is 1-1 with a 3.86 ERA. Verlander is 5-1 in his last six outings and he dominated the Mariners in his last start, holding them to one run on seven hits with 10 strikeouts in seven innings. He's only faced the Twins once this season and took the loss after allowing one unearned run on four hits in 5 2-3 innings.

Also starting in this series this weekend will be Nick Blackburn (7-6, 6.00) and Jeremy Bonderman (4-6, 4.81) on Saturday and Carl Pavano (9-6, 3.58) and Andy Oliver (0-2, 5.93) on Sunday.

Turning our attention back to tonight's slate, Stephen Strasburg (2-2, 2.45) makes another start when Washington takes on San Francisco. The rookie phenom picked up a no-decision in his last start after giving up two runs on four hits with five strikeouts in five innings against the Mets.

After starting his career 2-0 Strasburg has gone winless in his last four starts, but most of the blame has to go on the Nats' offense. In those four starts Washington has scored seven runs and was shut out twice.

Going up against Strasburg for the Giants with be Matt Cain (6-7, 2.98). Cain is 0-3 in his last four starts and allowed three runs on six hits in seven innings in a no-decision versus Colorado last time out. In eight career starts against the Nationals he is 4-2 with a 2.67 ERA.

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