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The A's have become a safer bet

June 06, 2008|Lonnie White | Times Staff Writer

When General Manager Billy Beane traded Dan Haren, Oakland's best pitcher, and Nick Swisher, its best hitter, during the off-season, the Athletics became a questionable bet for 2008.

Not any more.

Led by a steady pitching staff, the streaky Athletics are 33-27 and in second place in the American League West behind the Angels.

Oakland, which has won four games in a row, has had a roller-coaster-type season. Six times the Athletics have won at least three consecutive games, and four times they have lost at least four consecutive games.

The key for Oakland, which begins a three-game series against the Angels tonight at McAfee Coliseum, has been its 3.48 team earned-run average, which is third-best in the league, and the bullpen's 3.21 ERA, which is fifth-best.

But Oakland will take the field as +110 underdogs for tonight's game because they will start right-hander Joe Blanton, who has a 3-7 record with a 4.27 ERA in 13 starts.

The Athletics are 2-7 in Blanton's last nine starts at home, and Oakland is 1-4 in his last five starts against a team with a winning record.

The Angels, who will start right-hander John Lackey (1-1) and are listed as -130 favorites tonight, are 37-24 and have won five games in a row, which includes a three-game sweep at Seattle.

Although Lackey has made only four starts this year, he has pitched well with a 1.80 ERA to go along with 20 strikeouts and six walks. The Angels are 13-5 in Lackey's last 18 road starts and 5-1 in their last six road games overall.

It also should be noted that the Angels, who did not play Thursday, are 1-8 in their last nine games after an off-day.

And, in updated odds for the AL West title, the Angels are still the favorite at 1-5, followed by Oakland at 5-2, Texas at 9-1 and Seattle at 50-1, according to Sportsbetting.com.

Boxing

Welshman Gary Lockett waited a long time for a championship fight, and as a reward he'll enter the ring Saturday night as an overwhelming underdog against middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik at Atlantic City's Boardwalk Hall.

Lockett, 30-1 with 21 knockouts, is listed at +1,251, while Pavlik, 33-0 with 29 knockouts, is the favorite at -1,751, according to Pinnaclesports.com. The over/under rounds total for the fight is 6.5 with the over at +125 and the under at -135.

According to Sportsbook.com, the odds for the fight ending in a draw are 35-1. The odds for Lockett to win by decision are 28-1, and 10-1 by knockout, technical knockout or disqualification.

The odds on Pavlik winning by decision are 13-2, and 2-13 by knockout, technical knockout or disqualification.

Boxing's other big title fight over the weekend is super welterweight champion Vernon Forrest against undefeated Sergio Mora on Saturday night at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut.

Forrest, 40-2 with 29 knockouts, is listed as a -450 favorite; Mora, 20-0-1 with five knockouts, is a +300 underdog, according to Sportsbook.com.

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lonnie.white@latimes.com

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