Almost every time he takes the mound, Boston ace Josh Beckett does so as a big favorite. In this postseason, when he has been almost unhittable, betting on the underdog is an unrealistic option.
Of course, over the past month the Colorado Rockies have been just as unbeatable, setting up an interesting showdown in the World Series.
Beckett is a minus-200 favorite in today's Game 1 at Fenway Park in Boston, and who else could warrant such a high price against a red-hot team that has won 21 of 22 games.
"I think for the Rockies to have any chance in the Series, they must beat Beckett one time," Las Vegas Hilton sports book director Jay Kornegay said. "But the way he's pitching in the postseason, that's a tall task for any team."
It's an insurmountable task for the Rockies, according to handicapper Jim Kruger, who said the Red Sox are a reliable bet as minus-225 favorites to win the best-of-7 series.
Beckett has been king of the hill in three postseason starts, posting a 3-0 record with a 1.17 ERA. He has 26 strikeouts to one walk, and opponents are batting just .160 against him.
"The numbers on Beckett in the postseason are hard to believe," said Kruger (vegas sportsauthority.com). "Beckett is turning into one of the greatest postseason pitchers in the last 30 years."
So much hype surrounds the Red Sox right-hander that it's easy to forget about Jeff Francis. The Colorado lefty is 2-0 with a 2.13 ERA in the postseason, and he's on 12 days' rest going into his start today.
But that long layoff could work against the Rockies, who had eight days to wait after sweeping seven games from their National League playoff competition.
For several reasons other than Beckett, Kruger said, Colorado is set up for a fall against a more experienced and superior American League team.
"There is too much firepower on the Red Sox. I do believe the excessive amount of time off will be a negative for the Rockies," Kruger said.
"The clock is striking midnight, in my opinion, for the Cinderella team. The Rockies are a terrific story, and I'm rooting for them. But I just don't see it happening. If they somehow win this Series, expect to see more movies made about them than were made about Amy Fisher and Joey Buttafuoco."
Few serious bettors are buying into the underdog story, mostly because Beckett could make three starts in the Series and Boston's Jonathan Papelbon is the best closer in the majors.
The Red Sox lineup is also loaded with David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez leading an attack that produced 30 runs in the final three games of their AL Championship Series victory against Cleveland.
Colorado has been on such a tear, though, that some are gambling on the Rockies to sweep at 18-1 odds and to win in five games at 10-1.
"The biggest bets are definitely coming in on the Red Sox," Kornegay said. "However, we're taking a slew of bets on the Rockies to win in four and five games. I can't believe the number of tickets coming in on those bets."
Kruger said Boston's offense has an obvious advantage in Game 1 against Francis. The Red Sox hit .320 against lefties at Fenway Park this season, and hit .375 against lefties in their past 10 games.
But the Series might not be as one-sided as it seems, especially if a three-game series in June means anything. Colorado took two of three on the road, beating Beckett and Curt Schilling and outscoring Boston 20-5.
The Rockies are not exactly lacking in offense, either, with five players who drove in more than 90 runs.
"Boston is probably the best team in baseball, but Colorado is the hottest team," Kornegay said. "It is an intriguing series."
Contact reporter Matt Youmans at firstname.lastname@example.org or (702) 387-2907.