The Boston Red Sox are no strangers to the underdog role this season.
Las Vegas oddsmakers slapped a regular season win total of 78.5 or 79 victories on the Red Sox, which was the fourth-highest total in the American League East behind the New York Yankees (95.5), Tampa Bay Rays (88.5) and Toronto Blue Jays (86.5).
Boston was also as high as 35-to-1 to win the pennant and 75-to-1 to win the World Series back in late March, so a run to the American League Championship Series was far from expected.
But here we are.
The Westgate SuperBook in Vegas actually opened the Sox as a +130 betting underdog in the ALCS against the Houston Astros. Those odds imply about a 43% chance of probability. However, SuperBook traders immediately moved their series price in favor of Boston right around post.
“Our first number was Houston -150, but as we were putting it up, we read about (Lance) McCullers possibly being hurt,” SuperBook senior baseball trader Randy Blum told NESN. “We were wondering why they took him out after four innings. Afterwards, it was announced that he came out with forearm tightness. When we saw that, we moved to -140 right away.”
“A lot of times in baseball, it’s about who gets hot at the right time,” Blum said. “That could be Boston. Even though we had the Sox as a much bigger underdog against the Rays, they’ve shown that they deserve more respect.”
Here are three reasons the Red Sox can advance to the World Series:
1. The Boston bats don’t quit
It’s obviously just a small five-game sample size, but Boston’s offense leads the postseason in batting average (.328), hits (63), home runs (11) and slugging (.547) by wide margins. They absolutely mashed the baseball against the Tampa Bay Rays and the middle of the order has been unconscious.
“They definitely have enough offense to win the World Series,” Blum opined.
2. Houston’s rotation is beatable
Odds are against the Astros winning the ALCS because of their stellar starting pitching. We already mentioned McCullers’ being pulled with forearm tightness and he’s Houston’s clear-cut ace. If he’s nowhere near 100%, that puts added pressure on an otherwise average rotation. Luis Garcia and Framber Valdez got pounded by the Chicago White Sox last round.
3. Alex Cora continues to push all the right buttons
NESN’s Tom Caron pointed out that Alex Cora has never lost a postseason series (4-for-4) as manager of the Red Sox. Again, that’s far from a massive sample size, but it’s still pretty impressive. I’ve also watched Dusty Baker mismanage several playoff games over the years because he either rides his starters into the ground or struggles to manage his bullpen.
“I tend to think some of the older managers haven’t evolved with the game enough,” Blum said. “I would probably give Cora the edge just because of his new ways of thinking and approaching strategy.”
The ALCS will start with Game 1 on Friday as the Red Sox travel to Houston.