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Top of 2017 World Baseball Classic odds board tight, with USA slim favorite

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With their deep hitting attack and strong bullpen, the United States goes into the 2017 World Baseball Classic as the betting favorite even though they have been shut out of the medals during the first three editions of the event.

Team USA is a +200 betting favorite on a tight World Baseball Classic odds board with defending champion Dominican Republic listed at +250 and two-time champion Japan at +300 at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

The Americans have never placed higher than fourth in the tournament, but come in with a potential powerful lineup that includes 3B Nolan Arenado, 1B Paul Goldschmidt, RF Giancarlo Stanton and CF Andrew McCutchen. The United States also has a plethora of power arms to support their starting pitching with closers Sam Dyson, Luke Gregerson, Andrew Miller and David Robertson all on the roster.

The tournament’s introduction of a designated pitcher pool, which allows teams to replace two pitchers before the second round and the championship, might also favor the Americans because of their depth.

The Dominican Republic is matched up with the United States in Pool C. It’s hard to see a deficiency on manager Moises Alou’s squad. The Dominicans can run out the likes of 2B Robinson Cano, RF Nelson Cruz, 3B Manny Machado, 1B Hanley Ramirez and DH-1B Carlos Santana. The pitching staff is well-stocked, with RHP Johnny Cueto and RHP Carlos Martinez among the notables.

Japan is the only nation that has earned a medal in all three World Baseball Classic events, and it had multiple MLB players when it won in 2006 and 2009. Houston Astros OF Nori Aoki is the only Stateside big-leaguer this time around. Shohei Otani, the Nippon Professional Baseball two-way star who had both a 1.86 earned-run average on the mound and an OPS above 1.000 as a DH last season, is not playing.

With its pitching depth and strong fielding, along with home-field advantage since Pool B and second-round Pool E are being held in Tokyo, Japan should be good for a semifinal appearance.

Puerto Rico (+1000) has a better price than Venezuela (+900) if one is inclined toward a darkhorse play. With three of Major League Baseball’s brightest young infielders with 2B Javier Baez, SS Carlos Correa, SS Francisco Lindor and the veteran leadership of Carlos Beltran, Puerto Rico could contend for a medal again.

Puerto Rico also has momentum from winning the recent Caribbean Series.

Venezuela has underachieved in the past two WBCs and is a bit of an unknown quantity under new manager Omar Vizquel. However, the team accounts for the last six American League batting titles with 2B Jose Altuve and 1B Miguel Cabrera and everyday MLB players populate the entire lineup, including one-time 40-home run man Carlos Gonzalez and all-star CF Odubel Herrera.

Seattle Mariners superstar Felix Hernandez is also back after passing on playing in 2013. There’s talent there, but it’s never clear how a team will react in a short tournament, especially when the country’s recent history is checkered

MLB Home Run Derby odds boil down to Stanton, Judge

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The combination of a home ballpark and being the only returning power hitter in the field has put Giancarlo Stanton atop the MLB Home Run Derby futures board – albeit barely.

Defending champion Stanton, of the hometown Miami Marlins, is listed as a +165 betting favorite to capture MLB’s annual contest of clout at Marlins Park on Monday night at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

New York Yankees rookie slugger Aaron Judge, who has an MLB-best 30 home runs and is threatening to take down Mark McGwire’s rookie record, is listed right behind at +175. By virtue of having had more home runs on June 15, Stanton is the No. 1 seed, whereas Judge is No. 2.

Eight players will be participating in a bracket-style timed event, where each player has four minutes to hit as many home runs as possible. Hitters get another 30 seconds if they hit two home runs measured at more than 440 feet.

Stanton, who bashed 61 big flies during the 2016 contest at San Diego’s Petco Park, will try to become just the third repeat champion and third player to win in his home park. Judge will try to be the first rookie to win since 1986.

Either player is a worthy play, but there’s far, far greater value in picking one of the darkhorses. For the quarter-finals, Staton faces that other Yankees rookie, Gary Sanchez (+1400 to win). Sanchez has the longest average home-run distance in the field (422 feet to Judge’s 415 and Stanton’s 410) and could be an early bracket-buster. Upsetting Stanton would throw the field wide-open.

The Minnesota Twins’ Miguel Sano (+1000) and Kansas City Royals’ Mike Moustakas (+1400) meet in the other quarter-final in the “Stanton region” of the bracket. Sano (average home run distance of 414 feet) should also be considered a darkhorse.

Judge faces the other Marlins representative, Justin Bour (+1400), in his quarter-final. Bour has an average home-run distance of 398 feet – tied with Moustakas for lowest in the field – and might be a bit of a sacrificial lamb up against Judge.

Meantime, Los Angeles Dodgers rookie Cody Bellinger (+900 on the 2017 Home Run Derby odds) and the Colorado Rockies’ Charlie Blackmon (+2000) meet in an all-NL West quarter-final. Bellinger has enlisted his father Clay Bellinger as his pitcher and will be the fourth competitor to have his dad serving up meatballs. One of the other three (Robinson Cano in 2011) won and another (Bryce Harper in 2015) was runner-up.

Blackmon, meantime, faces a potential Bellinger-Judge tag team just to make the final, so his high price is probably a red herring.

New York Yankees underdogs at Boston Red Sox in opener of series between rivals

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The relative health of each AL East rival’s lineup could lead to some betting trends being reversed when the New York Yankees pay their first visit of the season to Fenway Park to face the Boston Red Sox.

The Red Sox are the -127 betting favorite against the +107 underdog Yankees with an 8-run total in the matchup for the series opener on Tuesday, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

Boston is 8-2 straight-up over its last 10 home games in April and 9-4 over its last 13 home games against division opponents, according to the OddsShark MLB Database. The Yankees are also just 2-8 in their last 10 road games against Boston as the underdog.

That being said, Boston might have some injury-related MIAs with 2B Dustin Pedroia (ankle/knee) and 3B Pablo Sandoval (knee) both considered questionable. Super-utility player Brock Holt (vertigo) is also sidelined. It’s doubtful the Yankees are going to have any sympathy as they labor on without SS Didi Gregorius (shoulder) and C-DH Gary Sanchez (biceps).

Tuesday’s pitching matchup includes two righty power arms, with the Yankees’ Luis Severino facing the Red Sox’s Rick Porcello. Severino is coming off back-to-back double-digit strikeout efforts and will be seeking his first career win at Fenway Park.

The total has gone under in all three of Severino’s career starts against Boston. The total has gone under in seven of Porcello’s last 10 starts against the Yankees.

Righty Masahiro Tanaka is the Yankees’ scheduled starter on Wednesday, while Chris Sale will face New York for the first time since his off-season trade from Chicago.

In his most recent start, Tanaka had excellent command of his signature split-finger fastball. Although the total has gone over in seven of Tanaka’s last 10 starts against Boston, head-to-head he’s done well against Red Sox hitters such as Xander Bogaerts (.222 lifetime), Mookie Betts (.167), Hanley Ramirez (.154), and Jackie Bradley Jr. (.118).

Sale has had 10 or more strikeouts in three consecutive starts and the total has yet to be higher than five in any of his outings.

An all-lefty matchup is on tap for Thursday, with the Yankees’ CC Sabathia opposite Boston’s Drew Pomeranz. Sabathia has a poor career record at Fenway Park (5.25 ERA in 16 starts), but the total has gone under in eight of the lefthander’s last 10 starts against Boston.

Pomeranz has had trouble being efficient and going deep into games this season. The total has gone under in three of Pomeranz’s four career starts against the Yankees at online sports betting sites.