For the second time in four years, both teams with home-field advantage in baseball’s League Championship Series are series underdogs.
In the American League, the Boston Red Sox are plus 120 underdogs to the defending World Series champion Houston Astros (minus 140). In the National League, the Milwaukee Brewers are plus 145 underdogs to the Los Angeles Dodgers (minus 170).
When the same scenario played out in 2015, both underdogs prevailed as the Kansas City Royals upset the Toronto Blue Jays and the New York Mets upset the Chicago Cubs.
Professional handicapper Micah Roberts forecasts a split decision this year. He likes the Red Sox to eliminate the Astros but sees the Dodgers defeating the Brewers and then beating Boston for their first World Series title in 30 years.
“This was a team that was supposed to win the World Series. They were the favorites coming into spring training, even though the Astros won last year,” said Roberts (Sportsline.com). “It’s an easier path to the World Series than it is for either Boston or Houston. The Dodgers offer so much more value to win their first World Series since 1988 than either of the American League teams.”
Besides the addition of All-Star Manny Machado, Roberts noted that Los Angeles also got unexpected big years from Max Muncy (35 home runs, 79 RBIs), Walker Buehler (8-5, 2.62 ERA) and Matt Kemp (.290, 21 HRs, 85 RBIs).
Both NL teams come in on fire. Milwaukee has won 11 straight games and 23 of 29 while the Dodgers have won seven of eight and 28 of 39.
“And they come into Game 1 with Clayton Kershaw, who they’ve won nine straight games behind,” Roberts said. “The Dodgers are going to be favored in pretty much every pitching matchup.”
Kershaw earned the win in a 21-5 rout of the Brewers on Aug. 2. He gave up two runs on five hits in six innings to outduel Milwaukee ace Jhoulys Chacin, who allowed nine runs in 4⅓ frames.
Westgate sports book director John Murray said the main reason the Dodgers and Astros are favored is because of their starting pitching. In addition to Kershaw and Buehler, Los Angeles also features Hyun-Jin Ryu and Rich Hill. Houston has Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Dallas Keuchel and Charlie Morton.
“Starting pitching really wins the day in the series prices,” Murray said.
Dodgers (plus 260) to win World Series
A Westgate bettor placed a $20,000 wager on Milwaukee at plus 130 to win the NLCS. Roberts, a former longtime Las Vegas sports book director, recommends a wager on the Dodgers to win the World Series. Los Angeles is plus 260 to win it all.
“I think they’re unstoppable right now,” Roberts said.
Red Sox (minus 120) and under 7 (even), Game 1
Red Sox (plus 120) over Astros, to win ALCS
Boston ace Chris Sale is a short favorite over Verlander in Saturday’s opener at Fenway Park.
“Game 1 will be low scoring but after that there’ll be bombs blasting in both parks,” Roberts said. “Sale’s going to have a fantastic game, even though Houston hit him early in the season.”
The Red Sox went 3-4 vs. the Astros this season, with projected Game 4 starter Rick Porcello earning two of the wins.
David Price, 0-9 as a starter in the postseason, will oppose Cole in Sunday’s Game 2 in Boston.
“Price is the entire key to that series price and the Red Sox advancing. He’s got to have two (quality) starts,” Roberts said. “If they win one of Price’s two starts, they’ll have a good chance to go to the World Series.
“The bottom line is the Red Sox are a team that had a franchise-record 108 wins. They just win, they just battle and they hit. It doesn’t matter who’s pitching. They’re just a great offensive team. And with four games at their park, I’ll take the Red Sox.”