Even with home-field advantage, the San Francisco Giants are going into the World Series at a decided disadvantage. The simple reason is the Justin Verlander factor.
The Detroit Tigers hold the ace in the best-of-7 series, which will begin with Verlander on the mound and might end that way, too.
Verlander, the most dominant pitcher in the majors, is a minus-165 road favorite in today’s opener, and the Tigers are favored by about the same price to win the series. The right-hander went 3-0 with a 0.74 ERA to lead Detroit to the American League championship.
“I can’t see the Giants winning this,” said Dave Cokin, a Las Vegas handicapper and ESPN Radio host. “Verlander might pitch three games in the series if it goes seven, and he might beat them three times.”
The Giants will counter with left-hander Barry Zito in Game 1. San Francisco does not exactly have the look of a dead underdog, however, considering its streak of 13 consecutive wins in Zito’s starts.
After the Tigers swept the New York Yankees, World Series wagering was expected to decline from recent years. But Jimmy Vaccaro, director of public relations for William Hill sports books, said the presence of the Giants, who attract strong betting action in Reno-area books, is boosting the handle a little.
“I don’t think the handle will be as bad as anticipated. It will be a little above average but not much more,” Vaccaro said. “The Tigers are not what you consider a marquee team. We would rather have the Yankees and San Francisco.
“We’re seeing some two-way action, with a little more coming in on the Tigers. I thought the (series price) was a little high to begin with, but the more I look at it, Verlander is going to get three cracks at it, and if he goes 2-1, that might be good enough to win this thing.”
Vaccaro said William Hill’s futures books are “overloaded on Giants money” to win the World Series. But most Las Vegas bookmakers are seeing a more consistent stream of Tigers money, driving the series price as high as minus-170 at some spots.
The LVH posted 14 proposition bets on today’s game. Verlander’s strikeout total is 7½, and he is plus-105 to be the winning pitcher. Zito is plus-280 to be the winning pitcher. Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera, the AL Triple Crown winner, is plus-360 to hit a home run.
Vaccaro said the baseball handle is likely to dip over the weekend, when World Series Games 3 and 4 go head-to-head with prime-time matchups in college football (Notre Dame-Oklahoma) and the NFL (New Orleans-Denver).
Contact reporter Matt Youmans at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2907. Follow him on Twitter: @mattyoumans247.