For the first time this season, the American League pennant favorite is minus money, which could lead the value-minded bettor to start looking down the board.
The Houston Astros are now the -125 betting favorite to capture the American League championship at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com, while the New York Yankees’ price as the second favorite has jumped to +225. The Cleveland Indians (+750) and Minnesota Twins (+800) are farther down the board at betting sites, followed by the Tampa Bay Rays (+1300), Oakland Athletics (+1800) and Boston Red Sox (+3000).
Two weeks ago, on the eve of the trade deadline, the Yankees were a narrow +160 favorite followed by the Astros at +170. Then Houston, of course, acquired six-time all-star and two-time league earned-run average leader Zack Greinke in a deadline deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks, integrating him into a starting rotation that already has two bona fide aces in Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole. Pairing pitching with an enviable offense gives Houston a strong shot at its second pennant in three years.
The Yankees’ odds are back in the 2/1 range for the first time in two months. A 10-game lead in the AL East means they’re in a prime position to be no worse than the No. 2 seed in the playoff bracket. That bullpen with Zack Britton, Aroldis Chapman, Tommy Kahnle and Adam Ottavino could also be an X-factor in October, so at this point the Yankees are more of a value play.
For bettors looking for a chancier value play, the choice could come down to the characteristics of the two contenders out of the AL Central. In other words, riding with Cleveland which has had the huge second-half surge and also has a pitching staff with the league’s second-best ERA, or betting that the Twins can take the division and get a better shot at winning the pennant on the margin of their stronger offense and easier schedule over the final seven weeks of the regular season.
The Cleveland-Minnesota race might leave the Rays and Athletics battling it out for the other wild-card spot, since both are well back of their respective divisions’ first-place teams. It’s a longshot to go in on a team whose only avenue to the ALCS starts with the “best of one” wild-card game.