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A wild opening weekend

Bettors were taken on a roller coaster ride of emotions in the first weekend of Major League Baseball with big wins and bigger losses which all added up to huge handle at Nevada sportsbooks.

“They (bettors) put a lot of money in the pot over the weekend,” said William Hill head bookmaker Nick Bogdanovich. “Across the board in all sports was really busy. The business is unreal. It’s stupid. MLB action was huge, Golf is way up, and UFC is also way up.

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“Friday we got rocked with all those favorites coming in, but Saturday’s and Sunday’s (MLB) were huge wins for us.”

The first two days of baseball action saw the favorite go 14-2, prompting South Point sportsbook director Chris Andrews to tweet: “If the early results are any indication, I wish baseball would stay out. 2 underdogs in 2 days. Chalk players delight.”

The majority of bettors lay the chalk with favorites because the favored team is usually better and the majority of bettors like to put in multi-legged parlays. Thursday’s two openers had both favorites win and bettors were all over the Yankees and Dodgers and they came strong to the window as if they had been saving up each day of missed baseball action. One William Hill bettor wagered $30,000 on the opening popular two-team parlay and won $65,879.

Bettors may have been thinking, “This is too easy” after Thursday’s win and came back even stronger with cash Friday with all the other teams’ opening games. Again, it seemed too easy as the favorites went 12-2. All you had to do was bet on the best teams and bet against the worst. Bet on the Dodgers, Twins and Cubs and bet against the Mariners, Tigers, Orioles and Pirates. Boom, that’s a winning seven-team parlay on Friday. It was easy for those who bet, and the betting volume was massive. So it’s easy to understand why the two-day losses were so severe for the sportsbooks.

When Saturday’s games were posted for action, bettors came back strong, flush with cash ready to turn the sportsbook again into their personal ATM with the same betting strategy of the first two days with favorites dominating.

But Saturday’s results turned out to be a little different and showed that betting baseball is not that easy and any underdog can win any game against any starter. The Dodgers, who closed as -400 favorites at Station Casinos, would lose 5-4 to the Giants. It was likely the biggest parlay killer of the day with people just throwing the World Series favorites into their parlay to sweeten the payout.

The Nationals changed starters before their game with the Yankees with UNLV standout Erick Fedde replacing Stephen Strasburg and the line shot up to Yankees -220 and of course, the Nationals won, 9-2.

Saturday was the complete opposite of Friday with favorites only going 6-9 with +250 dogs like Tigers beating Luis Castillo and the Reds and the +240 Royals beating Mike Clevinger and the Indians. The -195 favorite Red Sox also got treated rudely by the Orioles but gave us a tip that Orioles starter Alex Cobb might be able to be trusted as a bet at plus-money early in the season.

It was one of the most bizarre two-day contrasting betting experiences I’ve seen with each day intensified more because of the wait for baseball, but also reminding us that anything can happen.

The bettors went back to the drawing board for Sunday’s games with most having given back almost all their money won from Thursday and Friday chasing on Saturday. They reinvested and a solid plan for the day for some was to bet the only 2-0 teams to keep winning which meant betting against the Pirates (+136) at St. Louis, the Mariners (+240) at Houston, and against the Diamondbacks (+116) at San Diego. All three favorites would lose, making it the first time no MLB team has started a season 3-0 since 1954.

Sunday’s favorites would go only 5-10 with four underdogs at +200 or higher winning. The Orioles (+170) would also beat the Red Sox again, and the Tigers (+175) would beat the Reds again.

There was also big news on a couple of fronts Sunday as Astros ace pitcher Justin Verlander expecting to miss some time with a forearm injury. Exactly how much, no one knows. Astros manager Dusty Baker said Verlander will miss a couple of weeks and then be reevaluated. But the regular season is only a couple of months. If Verlander is out any substantial length of time, it damages Houston’s chances for success. Several books adjusted their future World Series odds with the Astros going from 12-1 up to 18-1.

But the biggest news happened Sunday morning after learning a simple Marlins pitching change at 8:45 a.m. with Jose Urena replaced by Robert Duggan was more than a regular change. The Phillies’ price ran from -145 to -230, and the Marlins would still win, 11-6, despite the Phillies jumping out to a four-run first-inning lead aided by Las Vegan Bryce Harper’s first homer of the season.

Urena caught COVID-19, and so did two other Marlins teammates. And then Monday it’s revealed that 11 of their 33 traveling players caught it, along with two other coaches.

The Marlins’ home opener Monday against the Orioles was postponed as was the Phillies’ home game with the Yankees. Is this a sign of things to come? Could MLB be on the verge of forced to close up for 2020? The critics can be harsh and they were chirping loudly on Monday with the “I told you so” joy in their tweets. But MLB knew it would happen, right?

“Baseball opened with huge rosters to be prepared for players catching it,” Bogdanovich said. “There will be a dropoff (in team ratings) with more Triple-A players playing but we’ll adjust to it as it happens.”

However the season turns out, this past weekend of games will always have a fond spot in my baseball heart, and not just the way the games turned out and every team being competitive. For four days, the world seemed almost normal again.