Yankees 2-1 series favorites against defending champs

Instead of lamenting another October failure, the New York Yankees are riding the hitting success of Alex Rodriguez and pitching dominance of CC Sabathia to their first World Series appearance in six years.

The Yankees are 2-1 series favorites over the Philadelphia Phillies, the defending champions who have an impressive pedigree for being such big underdogs.

"The Phillies have convinced the public they are really good," Las Vegas Hilton sports book manager Ed Salmons said. "But for some reason, the Phillies don't seem to get a lot of respect from the national media."

Bettors are showing respect for Philadelphia. Salmons said there has been steady two-way action on the series price, which the Hilton has at minus-210. New York owns home-field advantage in the best-of-7 series that opens today.

"My initial reaction was I think the Yankees are a little bit overpriced for the series," Vegas Insider handicapper Mark Franco said. "I think the Yankees have a slight edge with their hitting, but their only real edge is in the bullpen."

Sabathia, 3-0 with a 1.19 ERA in this postseason, opposes Phillies left-hander Cliff Lee in Game 1. The Yankees are minus-165 favorites.

"The price on Sabathia is about as low as he's been," Salmons said. "When the Yankees' price gets to a certain number, it scares the bettors away. But right now, it's right on that line where maybe it's not too high."

Franco (FrancoSports.com) recommends betting individual games rather than the series price. He also said he expects most of the games to go over the total with two powerful lineups hitting in small ballparks. The total for today's game is 71/2 at the Hilton and 8 at several other books.

The Phillies, boosted by Lee's mastery and Ryan Howard's clutch hitting, made quick work of Colorado and the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League playoffs.

Rodriguez has been on a rare power tear in the postseason, leading the Yankees past Minnesota and the Los Angeles Angels. New York's ace in the hole is always closer Mariano Rivera.

"It's not like the Yankees blew anyone away in the first two series," Salmons said. "The Twins could have won two games. I don't understand why the Angels played so fundamentally bad against the Yankees. But the Yankees just have that aura about them."

Contact reporter Matt Youmans at myoumans@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2907.