In the wake of the Cavaliers historic comeback championship win over the Warriors I learned another important wagering lesson the following night. You would think getting spanked by the Cavs in Game 7 would have been enough. Nothing is certain, nothing is a lock. After all, no NBA team up 3-1 in an NBA Final has ever lost. 32 and zip. The Warriors intimidating -150 to -175 line at most preferred offshore sportsbooks to win it all before the series started seemed like an annuity gift. Oops..back to work folks.
Moving off the court on Monday evening it was time to move on to bats and balls. The very next night baseball was alone in the spotlight for a long time. Surely there was a reward or two to soothe the pain. And alas, there it was.
Why was the Over-Under line on the Detroit Tigers/Seattle Mariners game at 11.5? I cannot recall a baseball game total being so high. That's equivalent to an NFL football game at approximately 58 points. We'll say it again and perhaps 1,000 more times. The most powerful statement in handicapping jargon "THE LINE IS TELLING YOU SOMETHING".
In this case most preferred online sportsbooks including Bovada, BetOnline, Diamond Sports and others were firmly on 11.5 for this game. Checking the starting pitchers revealed the easiest clue. Mike Pelfrey at 4-5 for Detroit with a 5.19 ERA against Nathan Karns for Seattle, a .500 career pitcher with a 4.79 ERA. It's a hot June night in Detroit. And a weird thing about Detroit this time of year is the sun stays out till about 10:00 PM. Need any more proof?
Result: Any bettor looking to get cute playing the Under was taught a lesson by the bottom of the 5th when the Mariners took a 6-5 lead over the Tigers. Detroit rallied a few innings later for an 8-7 win and an easy Over the Total. Proving once again on the betting board that if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck it usually is a betting duck.
Pitching Match-Up of the Decade
All focus on Monday evening was supposed to be on the season's most anticipated pitcher's duel, Clayton Kershaw versus Steven Strasburg. Along with the Cubs Jake Arrieta, the two leading NL Cy Young candidates and baseball's richest hurlers. It was like ESPN had ordered it two weeks in advance for ratings right after NBA Game 7. Problem was it underestimated Strasburg's reputation for injuries and over-protection from the Nationals. He was scratched due to an ailing back. But everything from 100 pitch counts to hang nails seems to put this guy on the DL.
IF it would have happened, the line on the game would have been approximately LA Dodgers -120. There are no records for this but it likely would have been the first time in history that an undefeated 10-0 pitcher would have been an underdog, home or away. That's how seemingly unbeatable Kershaw is at 11-1 and a 1.57 ERA. At home, impossible to defeat and why he's the highest paid player in team sports in the neighborhood of about $32M per year.
You had to feel some sympathy for the Nationals Yusmeiro Petit. That's who Washington threw on the mound when they pulled Strasburg. In front of Dodger Stadium people who paid big excess money for this game he did his best. But it's like seeing a great Beatles impersonator show. You want to see Paul and maybe Ringo while they're still alive.
Result: all the major online sportsbooks were somewhat fixated on the same price for the game. An intimidating -300 on Kershaw.
It was an entertaining game that made some nervous as Petit pitched well but was simply outdueled by Kershaw. The Dodgers led 3-0 in the 5th inning but it felt like 13-0 with Clayton in charge. They traded runs in the seventh on the way to the Dodgers winning 4-1. In fact, Kershaw pitched only 7 of the 8 innings with Joe Blanton finishing the game, which likely had bettors squeamish paying that enormous -300 price.
As we learned with the Warriors and must learn forever, there are no givens, sure things or locks in gambling. Therefore, while baseball favorites -240 and above will win approximately 80% of the time, the cost of LOSING is dreadful. Betting even amounts it would take at least three winning bets to break even to make up for such a potential loss. Conversely, betting against them is not the wisest method play either.
Looking back at Monday night offers a potential suggestion. Like football, betting parlays in baseball is not a bad idea when done right and a sound opportunity arises. In this case, isolating an obvious play and parlaying with another game is a decent risk. This is hindsight but the Tigers-Mariners scoring fest was a perfect example. A chance to increase your payoff without costing you. Of course there is a risk. That is, assuming Kershaw and the Dodgers were treated as "a free square".
It's interesting but the Over/Under even with Petit substituting for Strasburg in the Nationals/Dodgers game on Monday night was a low 6.5 in Nevada and at most sportsbooks. If indeed Strasburg had a healthy back and were on the mound that evening, the Runs Total likely would have been at 5 and possibly a record 4.5. And you know what? I would have bet with two fists UNDER THE TOTAL!!
Glenn Greene covers the games from a betting angle every week exclusively at OSGA.com. For weekly betting insights, inlcuding previews and picks from Glenn, click here.