Atlanta Braves' Eddie Rosario,
Atlanta Braves' Eddie Rosario, right, celebrates after hitting a two-run triple against the San Francisco Giants in the sixth inning of a baseball game Sunday, Aug. 29, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)


The Dog Days of Summer are winding down and the stretch run is about to begin. This year’s World Series will be hotly contested – every playoff team is genuinely capable of winning the whole thing and it will feature an intriguing combination of perennial favorites from the big markets and a few new teams that haven’t been part of a deep postseason run in years. Astute fans will be looking for good bets on a team that can give them the most substantial return. Here is a close look at five teams that may not be the first that come to mind when discussing Fall Classic contenders because they don’t play in L.A. or New York, but may offer lucrative profit opportunities, nevertheless.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX (+800 at FanDuel, +650 at BetMGM, +750 at DraftKings).
The Southsiders have been in control of the American League Central for the entire season, so they can ensure their players are rested and ready for an October run. They have also recently added several key, difference-making players from both the trade deadline (Cesar Hernandez, Craig Kimbrel) and returns from injury (Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, Yasmani Grandal). They have the deepest rotation in the American League – 2015 Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel may not even crack their postseason roster, they feature a bullpen full of hard-throwing bullies and a lineup that is athletic and can swing the bat with almost any team. They will line up their rotation exactly how they want to for the playoffs because they have sealed their division title and don’t have to concern themselves with appearing in a risky wild card game.

ATLANTA BRAVES (+1300 at FanDuel & Bet MGM, +1100 at DraftKings).
When superstar outfielder Ronald Acuna was lost for the season due to a knee injury in early July, it appeared that the season was over in Atlanta. They had already lost key pieces like Mike Soroka and Marcel Ozuna for the season and the Mets and Phillies were already ahead of them in the crowded National League East. Give G.M. Alex Anthopolous credit, though – instead of trading away pieces for the future, he acquired an all-new outfield of Adam Duvall, Joc Pederson and Jorge Soler. Max Fried has begun his ascension into being a top-flight starter, Charlie Morton has returned to form and premium young lefthander Ian Anderson is just back from injury. Closer Will Smith walks a tightrope seemingly every night, but he does still have 29 saves and Tyler Matzek and Luke Jackson have been excellent preceding him and don’t underestimate what a return from catcher Travis D’Arnaud means for the pitching staff. This is a team that came one game from reaching the 2020 World Series and is now playing with no expectations on them and nothing to lose.

TAMPA BAY RAYS (+800 at FanDuel, +900 at Bet MGM, +1000 at DraftKings).
I’ll fully confess to not quite understanding how the Rays are doing it. Last year’s World Series team has lost key starting pitchers Charlie Morton, Tyler Glasnow and Blake Snell and traded closer Diego Castillo at this year’s deadline, and yet they still never seem to lose. A recent stretch saw them have a different pitcher earn a save in 9 consecutive games (yes, you read that correctly.) They continue to recycle flame-throwing arms through their bullpen, rarely allowing teams to see the same pitcher twice in a game, making sure opposing hitters never get comfortable. Here’s the nugget that will surprise you (and that makes them a genuine threat to win it all this year) : Tampa Bay currently leads the American League in runs scored. Their pitching strategy and a stronger offense (which just added veteran slugger Nelson Cruz) could create real problems for opposing teams, especially in series where they can give key bullpen pitchers frequent days off.

BOSTON RED SOX (+2400 at FanDuel, +2500 at BetMGM, +2200 at DraftKings).
The Red Sox sat in first place in the American League East from mid-April until late July. They struggled in August (especially in the bullpen) and now find themselves fighting for a playoff spot. Their current betting odds reflect a lack of confidence that they can turn that around before the beginning of October. However, perhaps the biggest X-factor in the entire playoff discussion might be lanky Boston starting pitcher, Chris Sale. Having just recently returned from an 18 month absence while recovering from elbow surgery, he has won each of his first three starts with a 2.35 ERA and 21 strikeouts in just over 15 innings. The Red Sox’ offense is formidable, led by MVP candidate Rafael Devers, and if Sale is indeed back to previous form, the Red Sox have exactly the type of pitcher who can take over an entire postseason, much like Madison Bumgarner and Orel Hershiser have in years past. It’s not impossible to imagine, and the payoff makes the possibility very appealing.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS (+900 at FanDuel, +850 at BetMGM, +800 at DraftKings).
The Brew Crew have only won four division titles, only reached the World Series once and have never won it all in their 50+ years of existence, so they’re hardly a ‘reputation’ bet where Vegas can have some confidence in their winning culture. They are however all but assured of winning their division title in 2021 (avoiding the risky one-game Wild Card) and feature a young rotation built around three excellent young starters (Woodruff, Burnes and Peralta) and a deep bullpen that is certainly capable of shutting down opposing offenses for several innings. Their offense has improved with the additions of Willy Adames, Rowdy Tellez and Lorenzo Cain’s return from injury. The key is whether former N.L. MVP, Christian Yelich can return to the form he showed in 2018/19. There have been signs lately of him breaking out of a year-long slump. If his bat heats up in the middle of that lineup, Milwaukee is as good a team as any in the MLB at a number that may look like a steal at the end of October.

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