Two contenders in the National League start the month of August looking to capture a series victory.

Atlanta Braves at Cincinnati Reds

Atlanta continues to lead the NL East division, but its lead has been cut due to losing five of eight games on its current road trip.  The Braves did make a couple moves at the trade deadline, picking up outfielder Rick Ankiel and relief pitcher Kyle Farnsworth from Kansas City.  “Ankiel’s a tremendous outfielder, a great athlete,” Chipper Jones said.  “Hopefully he helps solidify things out there.”  The club is still a tremendous 18-9 against the NL Central, which is their best winning percentage against any division this season.  Atlanta is also 20-15 in day games this season (+380) and the total is 19-16 O/U in those contests.  The team is averaging 4.0 runs per game under the sun and hitting for a combined .256 average, while opponents are scoring 3.8 and batting .236.  Atlanta has gone 26-31 in August the last three years (-820).

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The Marlins are red hot and have had great success against tonight’s opponent in tonight’s venue.

Florida Marlins at San Diego Padres

Florida took game one of this three-game series against the first-place Padres, 4-2, at Petco Park.  The club had dropped five of its first six games against San Diego this season, but they have won 10 of 13 at today’s venue.  Since going 2-7 against the Friars in 2000, the Fish have tallied a winning 32-29 mark against them.  It marked the 12th win in their last 18 games, as they continue a seven-game road trip (3-2) tonight.  The Marlins are 32-39 against right-handed starters (-630) compared to 20-12 versus lefties this season.  On the season, Florida has gone 15-18 versus NL West clubs and have gone 205-318 against Western foes in their 18 years in the league.  Playing on Saturdays has been a bit problematic for the young club, posting a 6-11 record this season (-690), but they are 34-32 over the last three years.

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The new-look Astros look to win the second game of this series against NL Central rivals at Minute Maid Park.

Milwaukee Brewers at Houston Astros

Milwaukee is set to play the second game of a six-game road trip, as they are playing the fifth game of a 12-game stretch that sees them playing all divisional opponents.  The Brewers suffered a 5-0 shutout loss last night, dropping their record to 20-25 versus the NL Central (-760).  The team has gone 109-94 against divisional opponents the last three years (+560) and the total is 94-91 O/U in those contests.  The Brewers have played an equal amount of games at home and on the road, going 24-28 in both situations.  The team is actually hitting 21 points higher on the road (.270) that at home this year (.249).  Milwaukee is 21-22 this year when playing against a team with a losing record, but that mark is 7-3 since the All-Star break.  It’s also important to note that the team is 12-13 this month (-40) and 37-41 in July the last three years (-1,020).

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The Rays have a chance of evening the AL East race and capture their eighth straight win in the process.

New York Yankees at Tampa Bay Rays

New York has acquired Astros first baseman Lance Berkman for the playoff push, but it’s unclear if he will be available for tonight’s contest.  “That’s great,” said first baseman Mark Teixeira.  “It’s going to be good for the clubhouse.”  The Yankees may have started feeling the pressure of the race, as tonight’s opponent is just a game behind them.  The club still owns the best record in baseball, but dropped to 31-21 on the road this season with least night’s loss (+210).  New York has been a road underdog of +100 to +125 just seven times this season (+180), with the total being 4-3 O/U in those games.  The Bronx Bombers are an even 8-8 when playing on Saturdays (-520), while sporting a healthy 22-13 mark against the division (+440).  The Yankees are 4-5 versus the Rays this season, but have won 26 of the last 43 meetings.

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Alabama Crimson Tide Football
Alabama is #1 in Maddux Sports College Football Power Rankings
We have reached the #1 team in the nation and it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.  Here is team #1 and the 2010 Alabama Crimson Tide Football Preview.  This will conclude our 31 teams in 31 days college football preview from the Maddux Sports college football handicapping team.

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The Reds look to bounce back after suffering a tough defeat on Friday night, as they still remain less than a game back of the Cardinals in the NL Central race.

Atlanta Braves at Cincinnati Reds

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josh mcdaniels Denver Broncos Head Coach
Josh McDaniels and the Denver Broncos are 6 to 1 odds to win the AFC West
The Denver Broncos will eventually be led by QB Tim Tebow, but if and when that actually happens during his rookie year will play a large role in defining their season.  The Broncos folded after a surprising 6-0 start a year ago behind QB Kyle Orton, who was traded for the disgruntled Jay Cutler.  However, Orton showed he is nowhere near the level of a Pro Bowler as Denver dropped eight of 10 games to finish a roller-coaster season for first-year head coach Josh McDaniels.  Orton is expected to be the starter for the season opener, but how long he stays in that position remains to be seen with Tebow and Brady Quinn waiting in the wings.

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The Dodgers are getting desperate in starting today’s pitcher on less than four days rest.

Los Angeles Dodgers at San Francisco Giants

Los Angeles has fallen 4.5 games back in the NL Wild Card race after last night’s 6-5 road defeat against the Giants at AT&T Park.  “I don’t know if we were playing a little soft earlier, but tonight I liked the way we fought back,” said catcher Russell Martin.  The club is 5-10 since the All-Star break and has managed to score just 35 runs in that span.  Don’t expect things to improve offensively this afternoon, as the Dodgers are averaging just 3.3 runs and hitting for a combined average during the day, leading to a 13-14 daytime record (-290).  Outfielder Matt Kemp is the only Dodger with a batting average over .290 in the second half of the season.  The Dodgers are not only 4.5 games behind the second-place Giants in the division, they are now seven games out of first place.  The starting rotation has done its best to give the club an opportunity to win, posting a 1.54 ERA over the last 13 games, which is the lowest mark in Major League Baseball.  Los Angeles is 14-18 against southpaw starters (-930) this season and the total is 17-15 O/U in those contests.

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Chicago Bears Football Team
The Bears defense staying healthy is a major key to success in 2010
The Chicago Bears will likely put up more impressive numbers with the addition of new offensive coordinator Mike Martz, but they will need a much better defensive effort this season in order to be a real force in the NFC.  The signing of All-Pro DE Julius Peppers should help the Bears pressure the top quarterbacks in the division like Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers if he is motivated enough to prove himself as one of the NFL’s best defensive players.  If not, the Windy City will blow head coach Lovie Smith out of town following another disappointing year.

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The Blue Jays look to finish the month with the most home runs in baseball and pick up a fifth-straight victory on their current homestand.

Cleveland Indians at Toronto Blue Jays

Cleveland has lost six of seven games and the starting rotation has given up 16 runs over 10 innings during a current three-game skid.  The Indians’ offense managed to collect just five hits, while allowing a six-run fourth inning in a 8-1 loss to the Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre last night.  “I think the night belonged to Shaun Marcum,” said manager Manny Acta.  “He was fantastic.”  Today’s game will be the second of a seven-game road trip that has the club traveling to Toronto and Boston.  The Tribe is 19-34 in road games this year (-530) and the total is 24-26 O/U in those contests.  Cleveland is also 12-21 against the AL East division, while having a winning 20-18 mark against their own division.  The club has been very successful playing on Saturdays, notching a 10-7 record (+660).

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