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Cubs enter September still atop World Series odds at sportsbooks

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The Chicago Cubs boast baseball’s best record and the lowest staff earned run average in the National League, which is why their 2016 World Series champion odds have been lowered at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

Entering the final month of the regular season, the Cubs are listed at +300 to win the World Series, which the Northsiders have not done since 1908. It does not take a long-suffering Cubs fan to know that finishing in the range of 100 wins isn’t a guarantee of postseason success, but the Cubs have a formidable big three in their starting pitching with RHP Kyle Hendricks, RHP Jake Arrieta and LHP John Lester.

Trading with the New York Yankees for closer Aroldis Chapman has also fortified the Cubs’ bullpen. Chicago has also had better than league-average production from six of their eight everyday players, including 3B Kris Bryant and 1B Anthony Rizzo.

October baseball is more about pitching and the fundamentals than putting up big numbers, which is why the AL West-leading Texas Rangers have seen their odds come down to +650. Texas has MLB’s best record in one-run games, thanks to a balanced lineup and a strong bullpen built around closer Sam Dyson. Texas should have RHP Colby Lewis back in time for the playoffs to join ace LHP Cole Hamels in their rotation.

The Washington Nationals are also listed at +650. Washington has a safe lead atop the NL East, thanks in large part to big years from 2B Daniel Murphy, RF Bryce Harper and Nos. 1 and 2 starters Max Scherzer and Tanner Roark. The Nats’ bullpen, particularly the middle-inning relief, is problematic. That could prove to be an Achilles heel in a NLDS matchup against the NL West winner, either the San Francisco Giants (+750) or Los Angeles Dodgers (+1400).

Whoever finishes second in the NL West will likely be a wild card. The Giants won the World Series in 2014 as a wild card, and LHP Madison Bumgarner and RHP Johnny Cueto have both been aces on championship teams.

The Cleveland Indians are listed at +800. Like Texas, Cleveland is balanced at the plate and in the field, where RHP Corey Kluber and closer Cody Allen have contributed to the second-best ERA in the American League. The AL Central and AL East winners are likely to meet in the first round, and it’s concerning that Cleveland is a combined 7-12 against the Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays.

The Blue Jays, whose middle relief has been problematic, are listed at +900. Toronto boasts a deeper starting staff than it did in 2015, when it slugged its way to within two victories of the World Series. Both the Orioles (+1200) and Red Sox (+1400) are excellent offensive teams, but pitching depth is an issue.

The defending champion Kansas City Royals are now listed at +20000. The Royals still have a mathematical possibility of a wild card spot, but disabled stints for relievers Wade Davis, Luke Hochevar and Chien-Ming Wang likely hurt their potential for a big finish.

Dodgers Open World Series as Betting Favorites

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The Los Angeles Dodgers offer a better price at the start of this year’s World Series than last season’s favorite did, but value bettors could still be pushed toward the Houston Astros.

The Dodgers are the -170 betting favorite over the +150 underdog Astros on the World Series prices at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. While the Dodgers had Major League Baseball’s best regular-season record and are 7-1 in the postseason, the odds are closer to parity than they were on the eve of the 2016 World Series when the Chicago Cubs were listed at -190 with the Cleveland Indians coming back at +165.

And of course, those Cubs had to win Games 5, 6 and 7 to capture their first World Series title in 108 years.

The combination of being from America’s second-largest city and being in the Fall Classic for the first time in 29 years is driving some big money toward the Dodgers. If one believes Houston can pull this off, it’s probably best to wait until close to the start of Game 1 at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday.

Conversely, a Game 1 win would drive the Dodgers’ value down even farther. For example, they were a -190 favorite before the NLCS and came down to -290 after taking Game 1 against the Cubs.

The strong suit of the Astros’ lineup, which is led by 2B Jose Altuve, is that they can handle high-velocity fastballs in the strike zone. While the Dodgers bullpen has an earned-run average of 0.94 during the playoffs, power-armed relievers such as Brandon Morrow and Kenley Jansen might not fare as well at fogging high heat by hitters like they did in the NLDS and NLCS.

In a similar but different way, the Dodgers’ lineup isn’t vulnerable to Houston’s strongest suit. Justin Verlander, who will start Game 2 on Wednesday, and reliever Lance McCullers excel at making hitters chase breaking balls out of the strike zone, but 1B Cody Bellinger, 3B Justin Turner and the Dodgers hitters possess exceptional plate discipline and led the NL in bases on balls drawn. In other words, there’s a chance for some scoring battles.

Game 1 on Tuesday is an all-lefty matchup between Astros sinkerballer Dallas Keuchel and Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw. The Dodgers are a -165 Game 1 favorite with the Astros coming back at +155. The total is at 7 runs.

Houston is 19-8 in Keuchel starts this season, including 2-1 during the postseason. Since August 2016, the Astros are 14-3 when Keuchel starts on the road.

Los Angeles is 26-4 when Kershaw starts, including 3-0 during the postseason. The Dodgers are also 18-2 in the last 20 Kershaw starts where they were favored. The total has gone OVER in three of Kershaw’s last four starts at home.

With a heat wave expected to put the game-time temperature in the vicinity of 100 degrees on Tuesday, there’s a chance the ball could jump off hitters’ bats and pitchers might fatigue at a higher rate. That could favor OVER bettors.

One odd fact is that this is the fifth World Series between an American League team from the Central time zone and a National League team from the Pacific time zone. The NL team has won all four. None of the four was a sweep.

Dodgers, Indians are World Series favorites in MLB postseason

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Last October was a rare instance where the team with the best record in baseball won the World Series, which is something to keep in mind before laying the favorite.

The Los Angeles Dodgers are the +300 favorite on the World Series odds as the MLB playoffs begin Tuesday, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The Cleveland Indians (+350) are a close second favorite.

From there, the board spreads out to the teams with Division Series home-field advantage, the Houston Astros (+500) and Washington Nationals (+700), followed by the Boston Red Sox (+800) and defending World Series champion Chicago Cubs (+800).

Wild-card teams have won six of the last 22 World Series, while the top regular-season team has triumphed in only seven of the last 31. So there is potential to cash in early on the value of a wild-card team. The New York Yankees (+1400) stack up well against the Minnesota Twins (+2800) in the wild-card game. However, Aaron Judge, et al., fared poorly in their season series against both Cleveland and Houston.

The Arizona Diamondbacks (+1400), conversely, won the season series against the NL West rival Dodgers and might have the starting pitching and slugging prowess to take them out in a best-of-five NLDS. The Diamondbacks have to first get by the Colorado Rockies (+2800).

While MLB has not had a team repeat as World Series champions since 2000, teams that make a World Series seem more apt to do it again, regardless of what happened in the regular season (see the San Francisco Giants in 2010, 2012 and 2014). The Cubs, who have had their act together since the all-star break, are well-priced at 8/1.

It could well be that this is the year the Dodgers, five-time NL West champions, figure it out. But of the top seeds in each league, Cleveland played better in the second half and has lights-out pitching on the front end through the likes of Corey Kluber and on the back end with Cody Allen and lefty Andrew Miller in the bullpen.

As far as the wild-card matchups go, the Yankees (-235) are heavily favored against the Twins (+200), with a 7.5-run total in Tuesday’s AL wild-card game Yankees RHP Luis Severino is MLB’s hardest-throwing starter this season and the Twins are not a team of fastball hitters. Severino has limited batters to a .207/.265/.362 slash line (batting average, on-base and slugging percentage) this season at Yankee Stadium.

Twins RHP Ervin Santana also has a lifetime 6.43 earned run average in six games at Yankee Stadium, while allowing a .310/.379/.486 slash line.

The Yankees, with the likes of RHP Dellin Betances and LHP Aroldis Chapman, possess a deeper bullpen than the Twins. The total has gone under in five of Twins’ last seven road games against the Yankees.

The Diamondbacks (-166) are favored against the Rockies (+156) with an 8.5-run total in Wednesday’s NL wild-card game. Arizona is likely to start ace RHP Zack Greinke, who held the Rockies to a .229/.241/.435 slash line in five starts this season.

The Rockies’ presumptive starter, Jon Gray, is MLB’s second-hardest throwing starter. That could end up being in Arizona’s wheelhouse since power threats such as 1B Paul Goldschmidt, 3B Mike Lamb and RF J.D. Martinez make them one of baseball’s best teams at hitting against high velocity. If Arizona has a fatal flaw, it’s that closer Fernando Rodney has been human at home this season.

Arizona is 7-2 straight-up in its last nine games against the Rockies. The total has gone under in four of these teams’ last six games at Chase Field.