06/21/2005 11:00PM

AL teams top interleague baseball


This weekend, Major League Baseball conducts its final interleague series of the season. Well, at least until the World Series.

Interleague play has its supporters and detractors.

Some see it as a great gesture by MLB to allow fans to see such regional rivalries as Yankees-Mets, Cubs-White Sox, and Dodgers-Angels. Others see it as a self-serving marketing ploy that, for every one of the aforementioned marquee matchups, is bogged down by the Diamondbacks-Tigers, Royals-Rockies, and Padres-Mariners series that no fans in either league want to watch.

But what about bettors?

Vinny Magliulo, director of race and sports at Wynn Las Vegas, said that interleague play doesn't bring in much extra handle. It's still basically the same regular clientele handicapping the games, but he said it's a nice change of pace for bettors.

"By and large, the fans like it," he said. "It's a challenge for both oddsmakers and bettors. With teams playing teams from the other league, and especially the rivalry games, it adds another handicapping element."

One major factor is that games played in American League parks use the designated hitter, while games in National League parks require the pitchers to bat. AL teams have adapted better to the mix-and-match schedule as they are a combined 118-92 in interleague play this season. The Indians are the best individual team with an impressive 13-2 record, followed by the White Sox at 11-4. Other teams winning at least two-thirds of their interleague games are the Yankees, Nationals, and Cardinals, at 10-5. (Note: Because of the difference in the number of teams in the AL and NL, the Cards face the Pirates in the only non-interleague series this weekend.)

On the other end of the spectrum, the Devil Rays are a woeful 3-12 vs. the NL, with the Rockies and Mets at 3-9 and the Braves and Cubs at 4-8.

The Mets and Cubs both lost 2 out of 3 to their crosstown rivals in their earlier series. Other repeat series were the Marlins 3-0 over the Devil Rays, Rangers 3-0 over the Astros, Angels 2-1 over the Dodgers, Giants 2-1 over the A's, Indians 2-1 over the Reds, Twins 2-1 over the Brewers, Nationals 2-1 over the Blue Jays, Diamondbacks 2-1 over the Tigers, and Mariners 2-1 over the Padres.

Good luck figuring out which teams will win their rivalry series again and which will get revenge.

Boxing advances to Boardwalk

On Saturday night at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, Arturo Gatti puts his WBC super lightweight belt on the line, but he is between a +300 (3-1) and +375 underdog to Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Gatti certainly has a puncher's chance, and, being a resident of Jersey City, N.J., he'll certainly have the home-ring advantage, but he might be stepping up too high in class. I know that sounds weird since he's defending his title in this division vs. Mayweather, so I'll pass.

Instead of the standard over/under 12 rounds of whether the fight will go the distance, oddsmakers have set this "will go/won't go" proposition at 11 1/2 rounds, with the "will go" in the -160 to -170 range and the "won't go" in the +130 to +140 range.

Gordon a short price on road course

If you follow the Nextel Cup series at all, you've probably noticed that the favorites in the races at the major tracks are usually in the range of 7-1 to 10-1. Obviously, that's because there are 30 or 40 cars running in these races, so someone would have to be head-and-shoulders above the competition or a huge public choice for oddsmakers to make anyone any lower. However, this Sunday the Dodge Savemart 350 at Infineon Raceway (formerly Sears Point) in Sonoma, Calif., is being run on a road course, and Jeff Gordon is a solid 3-1 favorite because of his career record of 8 wins in 24 career road races, including winning this race last year. If you look at it, 3-1 is true odds based on his past performances.

"Dale Earnhardt was around 5-2 at Daytona when he and Michael Waltrip were dominating the restrictor-plate races, but you don't often see odds this low much anymore," said Micah Roberts, race and sports book director at Palace Station and the auto racing oddsmaker for Station Casinos. "You'd have to go back to 1997-98 when Gordon was winning just about every race to find odds this low."

Tony Stewart is the second choice at 5-1, with Mark Martin the third choice at 8-1. There's a group of familiar names at 10-1, including Kurt Busch, Robby Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Ryan Newman, and Rusty Wallace, along with lesser-known Scott Pruett. But the names get more obscure at 12-1 with Ron Fellows (mostly unknown to non-aficionados) and Boris Said. Series points leader Jimmie Johnson, who doesn't have a record of much success on road courses, is 18-1.

Wynn-win in Formula 1 fiasco

In other auto racing news, Sunday's Formula 1 race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was a disgrace, as 14 of the 20 cars in the race left the track right before the start because they were using Michelin tires that were deemed unsafe. The other six cars were all using Bridgestone tires (there's a great TV ad for the making).

Wynn Las Vegas, which has a Ferrari dealership on the property, took bets on the race and was faced with an interesting dilemma. Most future bets like this are considered action no matter what happens, and, since most auto racing bets are considered valid once the practice laps start, an analogy could even be made to a horse race when a horse breaks from the gate and bolts or breaks down. It's still considered a valid wager.

"As much as we try to cover all possible circumstances in our house rules, sometimes something unforeseen like this happens," Magliulo said. "Here at Wynn, we went ahead and paid off on the winner and refunded bets on all the drivers who quit. We thought that was the fairest thing to do."

A very classy move indeed.