Lee Sends Phillies Past Yankees as Series Favorite

Pitcher Cliff Lee
Cliff Lee #33 of the Texas Rangers pitches during the MLB World Series. Photographer: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Philadelphia Phillies moved past the New York Yankees to become bookmakers’ favorites to win the 2011 World Series, following reports that the team signed free-agent pitcher Cliff Lee, a two-time All-Star.

The odds on the Phillies winning the Major League Baseball title shifted overnight to 9-5 from 6-1, making Philadelphia the lone favorite, said Jeff Sherman, the assistant general manager at the Las Vegas Hilton’s sports book. The Yankees’ odds widened to 6-1, same as the Boston Red Sox, from 5-2.

“The Lee news drastically changed the landscape of the World Series odds,” Sherman said in a telephone interview. “The Phillies have become the favorite at better than two to one, followed by two teams at 6-1 and then no one else better than 15-1.”

At those odds, a winning $5 bet on the Phillies would yield a payout of $9.

Lee, who spent the final two months of the 2009 season in Philadelphia, agreed to a five-year, $120 million contract with the Phillies that includes an option for a sixth season, ESPN said, without revealing where it got the information. Lee, 32, was pursued by the Texas Rangers and New York Yankees.

The odds on the Yankees dropped to 6-1 from 5-2 when it became clear Lee would not sign with New York, Sherman said. The news also moved the Rangers’ odds to 20-1 from 15-1.

Yankees Odds

While the Hilton adjusted the Yankees to 6-1, tied with the American League East-rival Red Sox, Las Vegas Sports Consultants advised that the Yankees be moved to 7-2.

“The Yankees are the Yankees,” Tony Sinisi, an oddsmaker for the service that helps bookmakers set betting lines, said in a telephone interview. “They will remain our second favorite.”

The Antigua-based gambling website Bodog.com is offering wagers on whether Lee will win more or less than 17 games and if the Phillies will win more or less than 96 games. Last season the Phillies were 97-65, the best record in the National League.

The 2008 AL Cy Young Award winner, Lee has a career 3.18 ERA and is 7-2 in 10 playoff starts. Last season he led the AL in complete games (7), fewest walks per nine innings (0.76) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (10.28-to-1), while helping the Rangers reach the World Series for the first time.

The Hilton made the adjustments at 9 p.m. Las Vegas time and will not take action until today, Sherman said. He said it was too early to know how the news would affect betting volume.

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