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Kyle Hendricks, Cubs in control of World Series

With the ball in Kyle Hendricks’ right hand, and with the scene shifting to Wrigley Field for the next three games, the Chicago Cubs suddenly are in control of the World Series.

The odds reflect that statement. The Cubs are minus-250 favorites to win the series — slightly higher than the price before Game 1 — and Hendricks is a 2-1 favorite in Game 3 on Friday night. This is the scenario the Cubs wanted.

The best-case scenario for the Indians? Corey Kluber will need to start three times in the series, concluding with Game 7 in Cleveland.

It’s obvious the storyline is a classic, but after two lopsided games, this is not yet an epic World Series. No dramatic home runs. No late-inning suspense. But that is almost certain to change this weekend. It’s only 30 minutes into a slow-starting movie that pits Tom Hanks and Bill Murray on opposite sides.

“I do think it’s going to be a long series,” Sunset Station sports book director Chuck Esposito said. “These two teams are really evenly matched. There’s going to be a lot of pressure on the Cubs, of course.”

The pressure will lessen a little if Hendricks handles his business, as expected. The Cubs right-hander led the major leagues with a 2.13 ERA this season, and in three postseason starts, his ERA is 1.65. I am not betting against him in the first World Series game at Wrigley in 71 years.

But I did bet on Kluber in his Game 1 win and plan to side with him again Saturday on three days’ rest in Game 4. Kluber has been dominant in this postseason — what Clayton Kershaw was supposed to be for the Los Angeles Dodgers — while allowing two runs and striking out 29 in 24 1/3 innings.

For the Indians to win the series, Kluber probably needs to be the Most Valuable Player. Cleveland has the top two pitchers in the series in Kluber and left-handed reliever Andrew Miller. Still, Chicago’s pitching is stronger top to bottom.

The Cubs are better offensively, too, although we are waiting for fireworks to explode from the bats of Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Addison Russell and others. Unfortunately, we will not see a lot of Kyle Schwarber in Chicago because doctors declined to medically clear the baby bull to play the outfield in the middle three games.

Schwarber has been a surprise storyline. He missed all but the first few days of the regular season with torn ligaments in his left knee, returned as the designated hitter this week and went 3-for-7 with two walks and two RBIs. Schwarber is available to pinch hit at Wrigley, and he’ll likely step to the plate in a high-pressure spot.

While the NFL bores us with a lineup of mostly lame games this week, including the Jacksonville-Tennessee blockbuster Thursday, baseball will fill the void.

“The electricity in the book is because of these two teams,” Esposito said. “It’s a great betting series. It’s not just about the Cubs. There are a lot of Indians fans, too. If it goes six or seven games, you’re going to see a record handle on this series.”

At this point, instead of betting the series price, look at the exact-result proposition odds. The Cubs are getting 5-2 odds (plus-250) to win in six games. The Indians are getting 9-2 odds (plus-450) to win in seven, and that’s when Kluber could become the closer.

Hendricks and the Cubs are in control as of now.

But a series in any sport is an icy street, and the direction things are headed can change in an instant — recall Cleveland’s comeback in the NBA Finals in June?


It’s tempting to jump on Michigan State as a 24½-point home underdog to Michigan this week. It’s the largest line in the Big Ten rivalry since 1992. The Spartans have owned the series lately, going 7-1 straight up and 8-0 against the spread the past eight years.

Normally, I would bet the ’dog, but Jim Harbaugh is an abnormal coach, and revenge is a major motivation for the Wolverines after last year’s fluke finish in Ann Arbor. Harbaugh surely wants to make a statement with a blowout.

Michigan State has lost five consecutive games as a favorite. The Spartans might not score more than 10 points against a dominant Michigan defense. I’ll pass.

I will take a shot on two beleaguered coaches — Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly and Oregon’s Mark Helfrich — to get much-needed wins.

After a 3-2 week, I’m batting .500 (22-22-1) for the college football season. That’s a better average than Schwarber, but it’s nothing to brag about for a handicapper. Here are eight plays for Saturday (home team in CAPS):

Maryland (+4½) over INDIANA; FLORIDA STATE (+4½) over Clemson; OKLAHOMA STATE (+3½) over West Virginia; NOTRE DAME (+2½) over Miami; Duke (+6½) over GEORGIA TECH; WYOMING (+13½) over Boise State; UTAH (+10½) over Washington; OREGON (-7½) over Arizona State.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports betting columnist Matt Youmans can be reached at myoumans@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2907. He co-hosts “The Las Vegas Sportsline” weekdays at 2 p.m. on ESPN Radio (1100 AM). Follow on Twitter: @mattyoumans247

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