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Check house rules before betting

“I didn’t think it would happen so quickly” was written last Thursday as the opening sentence for this week’s column.

I had intended that statement to refer to the immediate impact on baseball betting related to the “action” vs. “listed pitchers” topic I discussed last week. But developments with the Miami Marlins give that statement new context.

A few hours before game time, Clayton Kershaw was scratched from last Thursday’s start due to injury. If you listed Kershaw on your ticket you had no action. If you just played “Dodgers over Giants” or vice versa, your ticket stood as written.

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But with the announcement Monday morning of 11 Marlins players and coaches testing positive for the coronavirus over the weekend in Philadelphia, baseball is already facing its first major challenge related to the pandemic. As of Tuesday morning that number had increased to 17. On Tuesday, the Washington Nationals expressed reluctance about traveling to Miami for their weekend series against the Marlins.

In Monday’s owners conference call the subject of pausing or canceling the season reportedly did not come up. But a quick repeat of a significant outbreak within one team could cause cancellation to be seriously discussed.

Should the season not play to its full completion there are several wagering aspects to consider. Rules differ by sportsbook but the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook’s rules are typical.

For both Season Win Totals the team bet on must play at least 59 regular season games. There is a question that could come into play with a realistic chance of occurring. In the event of forfeits (due to cancellations rather than postponements) do those wins count?

Technically a forfeited win would not be a game “played” and we still don’t know the status of those Orioles/Marlins and Yankees/Phillies games.

Division winner bets also require at least 59 games to be played by the winner and that the regular season concludes by February 1, 2021.

For pennant and World Series tickets to be cashed, the pennants must be decided by February 15, 2021 and the World Series by March 1, 2021.

As to the scratching of starting pitchers and expected use of openers rather than starters, two thoughts come into mind regarding day-to-day betting.

Might we see more books simply stop allowing listed pitchers in an effort to be more efficient and consistent with the “what you bet is what you get” policy that effectively eliminates “no action” when a prospective starter is changed?

Could we begin to see the elimination of “overnight lines” as a result of the increased uncertainty? That elimination would not be needed if books don’t offer listed pitchers. Compared to other sports, you can’t list goalies in hockey and you can’t specify a starting quarterback in football or that a key player be in the lineup in basketball.

Perhaps it’s time for baseball to join the other sports in universally offering only “action” bets. Especially with the decline in the importance of starting pitchers over the past three decades.

Here are three plays for the weekend. Make sure to check the pitchers I am selecting is starting before making your bets:

Rays at Orioles: Baltimore started 2-1 before its early-week series at Miami was postponed. Former Tampa starter Alex Cobb was brilliant in his first start for the O’s and is a pitcher on my “go with” list this season. He has battled injuries the past half-decade, including Tommy John surgery, but when healthy, Cobb has top of the rotation talent. He should be a decent-sized underdog in his start against the Rays. ORIOLES

Padres at Rockies: San Diego has built a solid roster over the past few seasons with talented young pitching and a beefed up offense. In starting 3-1 the Padres outscored Arizona 21-9 with their top three starters allowing 1 run, 10 hits and 5 walks over 16 innings while striking out 18. I’ll be looking to back the Padres as underdogs throughout this three-game series but especially when Garrett Richards starts. PADRES

Mariners/Astros at Angels: One Angels pitcher I seek to back this season is Dylan Bundy. Highly touted when he first reached the majors in 2012, injuries slowed his development. Still only 27, he’s been a pretty good early-season pitcher. He was sharp in his debut and moving from Baltimore to the Angels and playing under Joe Maddon he has a chance to finally reach his potential.

If Bundy starts Thursday’s game he’ll be favored against the Mariners. Look to play the Angels in Bundy’s start at -150 or less. At a higher price, lay the 1.5 runs. Bundy likely comes in as the underdog if he starts in the series against the Astros on Friday. ANGELS

Last week: 0-2

Season: 0-2