MLB Weekend Preview: Phillies-Blue Jays Games Postponed Amid Virus Concerns

Call this one an intentional walk.

MLB teams hope to pitch around danger — a COVID-19 outbreak that could scuttle the entire 60-game season — by postponing the Philadelphia Phillies-Toronto Blue Jays series this weekend at Citizens Bank Park.

The decision came Thursday following the results of daily tests the Phillies have administered since Monday. That’s when news first emerged that several Miami Marlins had tested positive for the virus, possibly before even coming to Philadelphia for the season-opening series last weekend.

The Marlins were kept in the city, and the Phillies began testing. All good, until now.

Here’s the full statement from the Philadelphia Phillies organization:

The Marlins and Phillies will lose, at the least, an entire week of games as baseball tries to contain the virus.

This weekend’s postponement looks like an extension of the hope that the virus came from one place, affecting the Marlins and by extension the Phillies. If that theory is correct, the virus can be effectively locked down before it spreads to other teams.

If another one or two clubs get affected in a separate breakout, baseball will have to weigh shutting down a season restart that has uplifted bettors and the sportsbooks.

Avello hails MLB impact at DraftKings

Johnny Avello, the director of race and sportsbook operations for DraftKings Sportsbook, told NJ Gambling Sites that the season-opening New York Yankees-Washington Nationals and San Francisco Giants-Los Angeles Dodgers games were a home run on the handle.

“It was one of our best nights ever,” he said, “and that includes World Series games. The people could not wait for baseball to come back, and now here it is. Baseball is very strong and is doing well for us.”

A PointsBet official mirrored the sentiment Thursday, saying the MLB opening weekend was its best ever in terms of both bets placed and overall handle.

That includes:

  • 25% increase in bets placed vs. last year’s opening weekend (March 28 – April 1, 2019)
  • 19% increase in overall handle vs. last year’s opening weekend (March 28 – April 1, 2019)

Yankees vs. Nationals was the highest handle ever (including playoffs) for the company on a single MLB game. It crushed last year’s World Series Game 7 (and the Yanks-Nats game wasn’t even completed, so it still had in-play potential).

FanDuel Sportsbook officials have expressed similar satisfaction with MLB throughout this week.

That’s what makes the Phillies-Jays postponement, or the figurative intentional walk, a big decision. Much is riding on COVID-19 containment.

Phillies vs. Blue Jays postponed

As MLB weekend number two dawns, the Phillies, Yankees and New York Mets — sentimental favorites of New Jersey online bettors — have given gamblers an interesting sample.

The Yankees have been lights out, while the Phillies and Mets have been entertaining, yet vulnerable.

The Phillies are 1-2 both as a favorite and in the standings. They incurred one unique element last Friday, falling to the Miami Marlins as a huge favorite while getting 96% of DraftKings betting support.

Given a week of postponements, the Phillies and Marlins will usher in a new era of MLB’s 60-game season. Doubleheaders will reign supreme, and the games will occur back-to-back, not afternoon-evening as the system exists now.

That will delight the purists, just as the return of other major sports in clusters (think UFC every weekend) has been highly supported by bettors.

Doubleheaders are a bit more relevant in a 60-game season

This will become a significant betting area, because a majority of doubleheaders are split. Teams often field two different lineups for the games, rest people for the long haul and can live going 1-1.

But now? A doubleheader sweep would be the equivalent of winning five straight games in a 162-game schedule. It will be interesting to see whether teams field virtually the same lineup in both games now that there is more urgency in each contest.

Nonetheless, the percentage will be that whichever team loses the first game will be heavily supported in the second. And there should be more runs, as bullpens will be used heavily.

Mets vs. Braves: Leadup games came down to the wire

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The Mets finished midweek with a 3-3 mark overall. They were 1-3 both at home and as a favorite, 2-0 on the road and as a dog.

The Mets dangled an opportunity for the minority who wanted to go against them Wednesday. Even at a price of -200 at DraftKings, they took 97% of the money with Jacob deGrom on the hill against the Boston Red Sox.

The Boston backers, at +172, had hopes raised when the game became 3-3 in the middle innings and deGrom was gone.

That’s how you beat a big chalk: Extend the game into the bullpens. And the Mets have been vulnerable there.

The in-game wager provided another opportunity and revealed a two-batter roller coaster.

At DraftKings, the visiting Red Sox were +330 in the bottom of the seventh when the Mets had runners on first and second with one out of the 3-3 game — a great price if the Red Sox got out of the inning. But it was a big “if.”

An infield out pushed the runners to second and third with two outs and moved the odds down to +180. The Red Sox got out of the inning and the line shriveled to +115.

Boom, two batters changed a potential monster return into an average bet. That’s the lure of in-game. The big bet had to be made for the Red Sox at the moment of highest risk, while the Mets were threatening to take the lead.

Boston won 6-5, snapping a four-game losing streak.

The Red Sox get to stay in New York all week, next facing the Yankees. The Mets will travel to Atlanta to face the Braves in a rematch. Atlanta took two of three from them last weekend.

Red Sox vs. Yankees: Starting the season on a high note

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The New York Yankees are proving to be money in the bank.

The Yankees were favored in three of their first four games and were 2-1 as a favorite, 1-0 as an underdog, by midweek. They have not played at home yet.

In the betting world, they have been a luxury item: expensive, but classy.

New York is 2-0 when Gerrit Cole pitches, but it was hard to make money in his last start. That came Wednesday, against the lowly Baltimore Orioles, and you had to lay a -380 on him at DraftKings.

One had to make a prop stab at that game or parlay the moneyline with several others.

Even the Yankees at -1.5 runs, the great equalizer in baseball betting, only brought the line to -235 at FanDuel Sportsbook. One had to go prop hunting: Giancarlo Stanton to homer in a Yankees win was +250, and Cole to strike out 10 batters was +114 for the over and -144 for the under.

That’s playable, at least. The under won this prop, as he fanned seven. Stanton did not homer.

The Yankees won 9-3. There are bettors who laid close to 4-1 odds for what was believed to be a near-certain result. But all it takes is a couple of losses at those odds, and one can be playing catchup for a long time.

The Yankees host the Red Sox this weekend and will likely be favored.

But their third and fourth starters will have to pitch, so they will probably be a reasonable price for NJ sports betting fans. There will be plenty of Red Sox action, too.

About the Author

Dave Bontempo

Dave Bontempo, a multiple national award-winning boxing commentator and writer, authors NFL betting columns for the Press of Atlantic City and IGaming Player, among others.