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Memorial Day has come and gone and with it the first milepost of the season that pretty much coincides with teams having played the first one third of their schedules.

Cleveland continues to set the pace with its 31-19 record, the best in baseball, followed by Philadelphia’s 33-20 mark, best in the National League. The Indians and Phillies are the only teams to have won at least 60 percent of their games to date.

And while Cleveland’s start has been dominant enough to create a six-game lead in the AL Central, the Phillies’ lead in the NL East is just two games over surprising Florida and 3½ over Atlanta.

The majors’ most competitive division over the first third of the season has been the AL West where Texas starts the week just one game ahead of the Los Angeles Angels and just 1½ in front of both Oakland and Seattle. None of the four teams in the AL West started play on Memorial Day with a losing record.

Arizona, winners of nine of their last 10 prior to Memorial Day, has climbed atop the NL West by a half game over San Francisco. The Snakes, managed by the fiery Kirk Gibson, had won six straight through Sunday and have shown signs they may contend with the Giants and Colorado right through the summer.

Perhaps as big a surprise as any, or more appropriately a disappointment, has been the play of Minnesota. The Twins – frequent playoff participants over the past decade, started this week with the worst record in baseball at 17-34, trailing Cleveland by 14½ games in the AL Central.

It’s not a surprise the only other team winning less than 40 percent of its games and having the worst record in the NL is Houston.

Last week’s column touched upon betting the run line in major league baseball, a topic that shall be continued this week and next. Recall the run line wager can be used to turn a favorite into an underdog (by laying the run and a half) or make an underdog into a favorite (by taking the run and a half).

While many professional bettors have few qualms about taking that run and a half in certain situations, and laying an often hefty price to do so, the more casual or recreational better often can find spots to lay 1½ and get a generous return if his team not only wins but does so by at least two runs.

Recall further the only time taking the 1½ is a benefit is when the favored team wins by EXACTLY a single run. Likewise, the only time laying the run and a half is detrimental to playing the favored team to just win the game is when that favored team wins by just the one run.

Here are some historical tidbits based on research conducted on more than 45,000 games played over slightly more than the past two decades.

For purposes of this study, favorites that were laying at least -110 or more were virtually always the team that was also laying the 1½. That might not always have been the case with favorites priced from pick to less than – 110.

Home favorites of -110 or more win roughly 58% of the time and when they win, the margin is two runs or more 69%. Stated another way, when the home favorite wins, it does so by two or more runs nearly 70% of the time.

Road favorites of -110 or higher win roughly 55% of the time and when they do so they win by at least two runs 79%. Again, this means when road favorites win they cover the -1½ nearly four in five times.

The reason for the higher rates of success for road teams is due to games that are tied heading to the bottom of the ninth inning. Should the home team win in the bottom of the ninth, or in extra innings, it will always be by exactly one run in the absence of a multi-run homer in which all runs count.

Road teams, of course, can score an unlimited number of runs in their half of any extra innings play.

Keep in mind that while roughly just under 30% of all games are decided by exactly one run – which sounds like a high percentage – over 43% of the time it’s the UNDERDOG that wins by that single run.

That means had you played that underdog straight you’d have won more than by laying the 1½. Conversely had you laid the run and a half to back that losing favorite, you’d have lost less than had you played that favorite straight.

More on this topic next week.

Here’s a look at four interesting series this weekend.

Brewers at Marlins: First meeting. This four-game series concludes next Monday. Florida’s ace Josh Johnson remains on the DL. The Brewers have been averaging nearly twice as many runs at home per game (5.5) than on the road (2.8). The Marlins are much more consistent, averaging just over four runs per game both at home and on the road.

Milwaukee’s staff has been bolstered by the return from injury of Zack Greinke, acquired in the off season from Kansas City. Most of the Brewers’ pitching issues have been with the bullpen as starters Randy Wolf and Yovani Gallardo have enjoyed success. The Marlins’ top starters have been Anibal Sanchez and Ricky Nolasco.

Preferred plays:

• Brewers +130 or more in any matchup.

• Marlins -125 or less in starts by Sanchez or Nolasco.

• UNDER 7 or higher in matchups of Shaun Marcum or Gallardo against Sanchez or Nolasco.

• UNDER 8 or higher if one of those four start.

Rockies at Giants: The home team has won the last six games after San Francisco won the first two in Denver, giving the Giants an overall 5-3 edge. Five of those contests went OVER the total. The Giants have the pitching edge having lost catcher Buster Posey for the balance of the season with a broken leg.

Colorado’s ace from last season, Ubaldo Jimenez, has struggled all season and Jorge de la Rosa is out for the year. The Rockies’ all star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki has struggled over the past month after a sizzling start. Veteran Todd Helton is a strong early candidate for comeback player of the year.

Preferred plays:

• Giants -130 or less in any matchup.

• Rockies +150 or more in any matchup.

• UNDER 8 or higher in any matchup.

• UNDER 7 or higher if Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner or Ryan Vogelsong oppose Jhoulys Chacin or Jason Hammel.

Rangers at Indians: First meeting. A four-game series starting Thursday. Cleveland has cooled a bit since its red hot start and Texas actually has the slightly better record going back 20 games. Both teams have gotten pretty decent starting pitching. The Rangers have been buoyed over the past week by the return of key offensive contributors Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz from injuries.

Cleveland’s offense has been much better than expected and is averaging 5.4 runs per game at home where 17 of their games have gone OVER the total while just eight have stayed UNDER. Texas, known for its offense, is, however, averaging nearly two full runs per game less on the road than at home (3.5 vs 5.4).

Preferred plays:

• Indians -125 or less in any matchup.

• Rangers +125 or more in starts by Matt Harrison, Alexi Ogando or CJ Wilson.

• UNDER 9 or higher in any matchup.

• UNDER 8 or higher if Wilson, Harrison or Ogando oppose Justin Masterson or Josh Tomlin.

• OVER 8 or higher if none of those five pitchers is involved.

Yankees at Angels: First meeting. Yanks are concluding a nine-game western road trip before returning home to face hated rival Boston. The Yankees bring the better offense into this series and are actually scoring more on the road (5.7 runs per game) than they are at home (4.8). Unfortunately the same is true for the host Angels.

Los Angeles does have a significant edge on the mound with Jered Weaver and Dan Haren at least the equal of, if not better than, Yankees ace CC Sabathia. Beyond that trio there is a dropoff in the LA starting rotation although the Angels still rate an edge.

Preferred plays:

• Angels +125 or more.

• Angels -125 or less in starts by Haren or Weaver against any Yankee starter.

• Yankees +125 or more against Haren or Weaver.

• Yankees -125 or less against anyone else.

• UNDER 7 or higher if Haren or Weaver oppose Sabathia.

• UNDER 8 or higher if Ervin Santana or Joel Pineiro start against Sabathia.

• OVER 7 or lower if Haren, Weaver and Sabathia are not involved.

• OVER 8 or lower if the Angels’ Tyler Chatwood faces the Yanks’ Ivan Nova.

About the Author

Andy Iskoe

Owner and author of “The Logical Approach,” Andy Iskoe has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football.

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