Philadelphia, PA (Sportsbook Betting Lines) - Joe Blanton pitched seven strong innings in his first start of the season and the Philadelphia Phillies beat the Miami Marlins, 3-1, in the finale of a three-game series Thursday night. Blanton (1-1), who lost in a relief appearance Saturday at Pittsburgh, gave up a run on just three hits and a walk with three strikeouts.
Mark Buehrle (0-2) pitched 6 1/3 innings in his second National League start, giving up three runs on eight hits with two strikeouts. The 33-year-old lefty lost his first NL start last Thursday at Cincinnati.
Blanton was the fifth Phillies pitcher to make a start this season after Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Vance Worley and only the second one to earn a win -- Halladay has the other two.
"It means that our five-hole's better," said Manuel.
Blanton gave up a one-out double to Buck in the third inning -- the only Marlins baserunner until Omar Infante hit a two-out double in the fifth, then scored on Buck's single.
Wigginton pushed Philadelphia's lead back to two with a homer leading off the seventh. He fouled off three straight before driving a 1-2 pitch deep into the left field seats for his first home run as a Phillie.
The Phillies start a three-game weekend series with the visiting Mets on Friday...The Marlins begin a three-game series at home against the Astros on Friday.
Aaron Hill and Jason Kubel knocked in the other runs for the Diamondbacks, who bounced back from their first loss of the season.
Los Angeles, CA (Sportsbook Betting Lines) - Chris Capuano pitched into the sixth inning and a big first inning helped the Dodgers take a 3-2 victory over the Pirates to complete a three-game sweep. Capuano (1-0) gave up two runs on six hits with seven strikeouts over 5 1/3 innings for the Dodgers, who at 6-1 are off to their best start since going 9-1 to start the 1981 season. Juan Rivera, James Loney and Juan Uribe each drove in a run.
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Just like Day 1 of the “Sweet 16”, Friday’s games are chock full of some of the nation’s elite. Unlike Thursday’s games, there is a little bit more of a “Cinderella” feel as #7 seed UNLV and #6 seed Vanderbilt will attempt to move on to the Elite Eight. With powerhouses Florida, UNC and Georgetown looking to continue their momentum against lesser known teams, it isn’t surprising that once again the “betting public” is backing most of the favorites. As the early coin rolls in, 56% of Sportsbook.com bettors prefer Georgetown (-7.5) as they take on Vanderbilt; 84% of the early money is backing Oregon (-3) as they square off against UNLV; and a slight majority (52%) of the early cash is on Florida (-10.5) against Butler as the Gators continue their quest for another National Title. The only favorite the public don’t seem confident in is UNC, as 59% of the cash is backing the underdog Trojans (+8).
#1 Florida vs. #5 Butler
The defending National Champs have been on a mission since last April. Joakim Noah and Al Horford turned down millions of dollars for one reason, to REPEAT. After a late season hiccup which saw them lose three out of four, the Gators have won six straight by an average of 20.3 points. More importantly, they covered in five of those six games. Behind their stymie defense that yields only 56.9 PPG, Butler has been a very pleasant surprise this season. As their 20-11 ATS record will indicate, “surprise teams” like Butler are often good bets for gamblers. Playing in an average conference, Butler wasn’t and underdog too often but when they were, they covered (6-0 ATS). Butler’s defense will have its hands full against a Gators offense which averages 80.1 PPG on an amazing 52.9% shooting from the field. With Florida’s tournament experience over the last few years, it isn’t surprising that they are 5-1 ATS this season, 20-4 ATS over the last three seasons and 38-20 since 1997 in tournament action.
#3 Oregon vs. #7 UNLV
As a #7 seed, UNLV is the closest thing to a “Cinderella” we have this year. If you bet on UNLV this season with any regularity, you most likely cashed in. Behind their guard oriented attack, the Rebels are an impressive 20-11 ATS this season. As an underdog they covered in 8 out of their ten games which isn’t surprising since they are 52-30 ATS as a ‘dog since 1997. The Rebels have been a consistent cover during the month of March as well. This March they are 6-0 ATS, 11-3 ATS over the last three seasons and 24-11 since 1997. Their impressive ATS trends don’t end there; versus teams with a winning record they are 15-6 ATS this season and 41-21 over the last three seasons. Although Oregon hasn’t been as generous to gamblers as UNLV this season, they have been covering consistently as of late. There is no question that they are playing their best ball of the season having won their last 8 straight up (SU) by an average of 14.5 points. Not surprising they covered in 7 of those games. It is interesting to note how similar these teams are in regards to scoring and scoring defense. UNLV averages 75 PPG while giving up 66.5 PPG and Oregon scores 75.8 PPG while yielding 65.5 PPG.
#6 Vanderbilt vs. #2 Georgetown
“Hoya Paranoia” is officially back! After a decent start, Georgetown has rolled through the second half of the season. Over their last 18 games, they are 17-1 SU. They have definitely improved ATS as the season has progressed as well. After opening the season 1-4-1 ATS, the Hoyas have covered 78.3% of their games. With their great interior play of Jeff Green and Roy Hibbert, the Hoyas as a team shoot 50.5% from the field. Like the Georgetown teams from years ago, they also excel on defense. Hoya opponents averaged only 56.8 PPG on 38.2% shooting from the field and an extremely low 30.4% from beyond the arc. The last stat could be of some concern to Vanderbilt considering they shoot 37.7% from long-range. Ranking second to last in the SEC in rebounding margin, Vanderbilt will have its work cut out for them against the Hoya trees. As far as covering is concerned, Vanderbilt has been almost a “sure thing” (7-1 ATS) versus good defensive teams that allow less than 64 PPG.
#1 UNC vs. # 5 USC
The Tar Heels are as talented and as deep as any team in the country. Going ten deep and chock full of HS All-Americans, UNC averages 86.1 PPG and scored 100+ seven times. Led by All-American forward, Tyler Hansbrough (18.6 PPG 7.9 RPG) UNC has a very balanced attack which can kill you on the inside as well as on the perimeter. UNC only real concern is their youth as eight of their rotation players are either sophomores or freshmen. UNC was a reliable cover this season going 20-13 ATS. An intriguing covering trend for the Tar Heels in recent years has been how they fared after non-conference games. This season they are 11-3 ATS after non-conference games and over the last three seasons they are 31-13 ATS. USC is also a pretty deep team which is loaded with swingman types. An match-up to keep an eye on will be freshman forward Taj Gibson (12.1 PPG, 8.6 RPG) as he squares off against the AA Hansbrough. USC has been a covering machine this season achieving a 21-10 record ATS. They have thrived in the underdog role, having covered 10 out of 12. When playing a team with a winning record, the Trojans are an incredible 20-6 ATS. Keep in mind, USC dedicated their season to former star to Ryan Francis who passed away before the season so as they get closer to the ultimate goal, emotion could definitely be on their side.
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