Play Ball (weather permitting)

By Jeff Fogle  ( 

July 22, 2020 10:24 PM

Though weather in the nation’s capital may not cooperate, the 2020 Major League Baseball season is scheduled to get underway Thursday night when the New York Yankees visit the defending World Series champion Washington Nationals. 

That’s followed by a classic rivalry renewal when the San Francisco Giants visit the Los Angeles Dodgers. Both games will be televised by ESPN. Let’s take a quick look at overnight odds from Circa Sports and key pitching stats... 

NY Yankees at Washington (ESPN, 7 p.m. ET)

Money Line: Yankees (Cole) -133, Washington (Scherzer) plus 122

Run Line: Yankees -1.5 runs (plus 130), Washington plus 1.5 runs (-148)

Over/Under: 7.5 runs

2019 Pitching Stats

Cole: 2.50 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 326 strikeouts in 212.1 innings

Scherzer: 2.92 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 243 strikeouts in 172.1 innings

Forecasts can be dicey on the Eastern seaboard during humid summers. There’s currently a chance for rain Thursday night. Both staffs are throwing Cy Young candidates. The Yankees get the market nod because Gerrit Cole is seen as slightly more dominant than Max Scherzer…and because the Yankees own a clear edge in bullpen depth, even without Aroldis Chapman (still testing positive for the corona virus). 

San Francisco at the Los Angeles Dodgers (ESPN, 10 p.m. ET)

Money Line: Dodgers (Kershaw) -300, San Francisco (Cueto) plus 268

Run Line: Dodgers -1.5 runs (-143), San Francisco plus 1.5 runs plus 125

Over/Under: 8 runs

2019 Pitching Stats

Cueto: only 69 innings combined the past two seasons

Kershaw: 3.03 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 189 strikeouts in 178.1 innings

The Dodgers are favored to win the National League. The Giants are expected to be a doormat. Johnny Cueto must find his past form to inspire any Cinderella stories in San Francisco. Clayton Kershaw still gets serious market respect though he’s less dominant than his career peak. 

Wednesday was busy with baseball news…

*Late Wednesday, MLB owners and players were reportedly close to agreeing on expanding the playoffs from 10 teams to 16. This makes a lot of sense if franchises are able to create safe bubbles for players, coaches, and staff. That would add a lot to the postseason national TV portfolio. And if there’s good news regarding the virus, it’s possible large crowds could attend the games in person.

Of course, this creates a bit of a headache for sportsbooks and bettors who already have action on futures bets. Winning a championship becomes more complicated. Odds to make the playoffs just grew shorter. Baseball’s financial interests are much more concerned about earning as much from this shortened season as possible. They don’t care about your bets!

*Pennsylvania blocked plans for the Toronto Blue Jays to play home games at Pittsburgh’s PNC Park. As with Canada last week, government officials weren’t comfortable with so many games in the area vs. opponents from heavily-infected Florida and Georgia. The Pirates will only play teams from the NL and AL Central divisions. Toronto plays Tampa Bay from the AL East, Miami and Atlanta from the NL East. The season is about to start.

*Pitcher Marcus Stroman of the New York Mets may miss the season after suffering a torn calf muscle. The Mets were already without Noah Syndergaard for the year, out after Tommy John surgery. 

*Utility player Hunter Dozier of the Kansas City Royals tested positive for the corona virus. He played six innings of a summer game vs. the Houston Astros back on Monday. 

*Two states heavily represented in “West” divisions of this season’s MLB’s regional arrangement received bad covid news. Both California (12,137) and Texas (10,528) reported more than 10K confirmed cases in tandem for the first time ever. Wednesday represented a one-day all-time high for California, topping 10,278 the day before. Texas had stayed Under 10K the prior five days. 

Texas reported 202 confirmed covid fatalities, well above its prior record of 167. California’s 156 fatalities were also a one-day high. 

Seven teams will play home games in those two states—Oakland, San Francisco, San Diego, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Angels in California, Texas and Houston from the Lone Star state. (The only other three in that schedule rotation are Seattle, Colorado, and Arizona).

Maintaining bubbles around all MLB franchises will be quite a challenge through the summer and early fall. 


Thursday is the final day of group play in the “MLS is Back” tournament being held in Florida. Teams stay in a bubble in Orlando. Games are played in nearby Kissimmee. 

The morning game makes up an earlier postponement from Group B. Both Chicago and Vancouver are alive for the knockouts, though the Whitecaps will have to post an impressive goal differential as a big dog

Chicago vs. Vancouver (ESPN, 9 a.m. ET)

Three-way: Chicago -175, Vancouver plus 446, draw plus 335

Goal Line: Chicago -1 goal (-109), Vancouver plus 1 goal (-112)

Over/Under: 2.75 goals (Over -123, Under plus 101) 

Group B Standings: San Jose 7 points, Seattle 4 points, Chicago 3 points, Vancouver 0 points. (San Jose and Seattle have already clinched spots in the knockouts.)

Thursday night’s doubleheader is from Group F, and will feature current tournament favorite LAFC in the nightcap.  

Houston vs. LA Galaxy (FS1, 8 p.m. ET)

Three-way: Houston plus 138, LA Galaxy plus 157, draw plus 316

Goal Line: Houston pick-em (-120), LA Galaxy (-103)

Over/Under: 3.5 goals (Over -116, Under -105) 

LAFC vs. Portland (ESPN2, 10:30 p.m. ET) 

Three-way: LAFC -160, Portland plus 390, draw plus 310

Goal Line: LAFC -1 goal (even), Portland plus 1 goal (-120)

Over/Under: 3.5goals (Over plus 110, Under -130) 

No odds posted for the nightcap at our publication deadline. We used what will likely be very comparable numbers from Circa Sports.

Group F Standings: Portland 6 points, LAFC 4 points, Houston 1 point, LA Galaxy 0 points. Note that the winner of Group F will draw surprising Cincinnati in the knockout opener, a team getting no respect in betting markets.

Let’s update our estimated “market” Power Ratings on a goal supremacy scale given Thursday’s odds. 

Group B: Seattle 2.3, Chicago 2.1, San Jose 1.9, Vancouver 1.1

Group F: LAFC 2.8, Portland 1.9, Houston 1.7, LA Galaxy 1.6

Here’s a review for the other groups…

Group A: NYCFC 2.1, Philadelphia 2.0, Orlando 1.9, Miami 1.8 (out)

Group C: Toronto 2.3, New England 2.1, D.C. United 1.8 (out), Montreal 1.6

Group D: Minnesota 2.1, Kansas City 2.0, Colorado 1.8, Salt Lake 1.7

Group E: Atlanta 2.2 (out), Columbus 2.2, NY Red Bulls 1.9, Cincinnati 1.3

Knockouts begin Saturday. We already know that doubleheader will feature Philadelphia (2.0) vs. New England (2.1), and Orlando (1.9) vs. Montreal (1.6). 

Other Stories of Interest

*NFL will require fans to wear masks at games  (Houston Chronicle and WDSU New Orleans)

*Pitt AD asks Senate Judiciary Committee to ban betting on college sports (ESPN)

*Mack Brown asks what happens if head coaches must quarantine for season (The Athletic)

*NBA Betting in the Bubble (The Atlantic)

*NBA’s Aron Baynes explains his hard road to corona recovery (Stadium)

*Covid surge overwhelms testing labs (NY Post)

*Mississippi reaches highest seven-day case average (Biloxi Sun Herald)

*Las Vegas takes steps on virus after warning from White House (Las Vegas Review-Journal) 

VSiN Clips/Tweets on Betting Restarts

*Mitch Moss, Pauly Howard, and Matt Youmans look at MLB divisional races (Follow the Money)

*Sweeny Murti and Danny Burke ponder MLB home field advantage in empty stadiums (A Numbers Game)

*Byron Kerr and Danny preview Thursday night’s Yanks/Nats opener (A Numbers Game)

*Bobby Marks talks to Michael Lombardi about the Boston Celtics (Lombardi Line)

*Patrick Meagher and Mike look at the Tampa Bay Bucs (Lombardi Line)

*JVT makes his divisional and wildcard selections (The Edge)

*Josh Appelbaum discusses MLB betting strategies (Market Insights Podcast)

Back with you Friday morning as our countdown coverage continues.

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