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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

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.

Chicago Cubs, Boston Red Sox stay even on 2017 World Series odds

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Timing will be everything if one is inclined to bet on either the Boston Red Sox or the Chicago Cubs to win the 2017 World Series, due to the effect of big-market bandwagon fandom.

With Opening Day just more than a week away, the Cubs and Red Sox are each listed at +450 on the odds to win the World Series at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

There’s a chance the odds might not get more high-yield once the season starts. With their giant fanbases in the Midwest and New England, both will draw plenty of betting action and odds could fall closer to even money if either has a hot start in April. The teams were both also listed at +450 at the outset of spring training.

The Cubs, who are also +175 to win the National League Pennant, have a nucleus of young stars – 3B Kris Bryant, 2B Javier Baez, SS Addison Russell, 1B Anthony Rizzo – who might stay together for several seasons. The big variable, as always, is the health and performance of the pitching staff; the Cubs are looking for a bounce-back from new closer Wade Davis.

The Red Sox, after three years of regenerating since their 2013 World Series win, have added ace LHP Chris Sale to their rotation and have their own cohort of young offensive stars such as SS Xander Bogaerts and RF Mookie Betts.

Boston has to replace the run production of retired DH David Ortiz, but are a solid choice given that they are the AL East team which is most in win-now mode. The Toronto Blue Jays (+2200) might have missed their window, while the New York Yankees (+2500) are still a year away from their peak.

The upside of the Cubs and Red Sox being so highly touted is that it might inflate prices on other teams – and hey, postseason baseball is a wide-open game. The Cleveland Indians (+900), who were one win away last season and added RBI machine Edwin Encarnacion, still have an excellent shot at getting back to the postseason.

The National League’s other teams in major markets, the Los Angeles Dodgers (+1000), San Francisco Dodgers (+1100) and New York Mets (+1400), have all come down slightly in price since mid-February. All three certainly have the pitching to make a run in October, but perhaps not the balanced lineup.

One team whose odds has been surprisingly static since the winter meetings in October is the Houston Astros (+1400), who have one of the game’s most offensively prolific double-play combos with Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa. The Astros’ late-season stumbles of the past two years might be a fixed reference point for many baseball fans, but they have been following the model of slow-growing their prospects over a period of several years.