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We’ve got about 16 games to go in baseball’s 2012 regular season with three very good divisional races in the AL plus a fantastic finish in store for the final NL wild card slot.

We were all taught last season that anything can happen in baseball as the Red Sox and Braves faltered down the stretch while the Cardinals and Rays took advantage. 

The Cardinals improbable run wasn’t improbable for a few bettors that hit their 300-to-1 odds to win the World Series tickets. Most of the sports books in Las Vegas got clobbered on that one. The books also learned a valuable lesson about not falling asleep at the wheel, which is easy to do with football taking over as the most important sport being booked. 

So much changes from day-to-day in baseball. For the last two weeks it was the Phillies making a wild card run and their odds dropped from 200-1 last Monday to 50-1. The Phillies got cooled off in Houston, but the new hard charger coming fast on the outside lane is Milwaukee, a team that traded away Zack Greinke in July because they thought they had no chance.

Since Aug. 20 no one is playing better baseball than the Brewers, having won 20 of 26 through Sunday. Last Monday the Brewers were 300-1 to win the World Series. This week 40-1 and only 2½ games out of the final wild card position the Cards currently hold. 

For the last month, most of us have been paying more attention to the Cardinals, Dodgers and Pirates for the final wild card berth but, as last season taught us, anything is possible.

The Dodgers, one game out of the final wild card slot, had their odds raised from 12-1 up to 25-1, even though they have one of the largest liabilities of all the teams. The reasoning behind the odds hike is because of Clayton Kershaw who has a nagging hip injury that could shut his season down. 

Without Kershaw, even though he’s struggled over his past five starts, the Dodgers’ chances of advancing – even if they make the playoffs – seem unlikely.

What’s up Johnny?

The Reds are co-favorites with Washington to win the NL at 13-5, but if their ace Johnny Cueto doesn’t start getting his act together it may be a short playoff run. Cincinnati has lost four of Cueto’s past five starts and he taken the loss in his last 3. Cueto has given up 14 runs combined in those outings in by far the worst stretch of his season. Just last month he was in the conversation with R.A. Dickey and Gio Gonzalez as one of the top voted pitchers for the Cy Young Award. Now, he can’t even get out of the fifth inning.

Zito in a Groove

The Giants are 3-1 to win the NL pennant despite not having the big bats some of the other contenders have. You have to like their chances just because of the pitching. One of those pitchers in a groove is Barry Zito. The Giants have won his past eight starts, with Zito getting the win in four. He hasn’t been dominant in any of the starts, but for some reason San Francisco’s bats come alive when he’s on the mound. Three of the wins in Zito’s streak have been by scores of 9-8, 9-6 and 8-7.

O’s are winners

The Orioles chances of making the playoffs are still up the air, but one thing is for sure – they are winners in 2012. For the first time since 1997, the O’s will finish the season with a winning record. Their win Sunday at Oakland assured them of a winning mark with 82 victories on the season. The Orioles odds to win the World Series were raised from 25-1 to 30-1 Monday at the LVH Super Book.

Micah Roberts is a former race and sports book director, and longtime motorsports columnist and sports analyst at GamingToday. Contact Micah at [email protected].

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