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The Daily Sweat: The Rays now have Nelson Cruz and are +140 to win the AL East

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The Tampa Bay Rays are now a really good bet to win the American League East.

The defending American League champions acquired Minnesota Twins DH Nelson Cruz in a multi-player deal on Thursday night to bolster their lineup. The 40-year-old Cruz has hit 19 home runs in 2021 and has an OPS of .907. He’s on pace to have an OPS above .900 for the sixth time in seven seasons.

Cruz immediately becomes the biggest and best bat in the Rays’ lineup. His OPS+ of 153 is 25 points higher than anyone else on the Rays’ roster. Manager Kevin Cash can slot him in near the top of the order every day and build his lineup from there.

The Rays enter the weekend just a game behind the Red Sox in the AL East and have tantalizing odds at BetMGM. The Red Sox are the division favorites at -115 and the Rays are at +140. There’s still plenty of time for the Red Sox to make a move to counter the Rays, but we like the Rays atop that division after the Cruz trade.

Tampa’s odds are also the same as they were after the All-Star break when they were 1.5 games back of the Red Sox. While Boston has dropped from -155 in the past week, Tampa has remained steady. If you’re a believer in Boston — and we understand if you are — then you should jump on the Red Sox too. A drop from, -155 to -115 is significant based on a half-game of movement in the standings.

Another intriguing underdog bet is the Oakland A’s at +500. The A’s are just 2.5 games back of the Houston Astros (-800) in the AL West as they’ve gained a game on the Astros since the All-Star Break. The A’s odds are actually worse than they were at the break (+400). The A’s have a tough series in Seattle this weekend while the Astros are hosting the moribund Texas Rangers. If Oakland can hold serve over the weekend, it's a really good value play.

The other American League division doesn’t have much drama at all. The Chicago White Sox lead Cleveland by nine games in the Central and the White Sox’s odds have gotten incredibly good. Chicago was -1400 after the All-Star Break and is now -5000 to win the division. Cleveland’s odds have nearly doubled as well. It was +650 to win the division at the break and stand now at +1200.

Team USA still at -350 to win men’s basketball

There hasn’t been much movement in the men’s basketball betting odds since Team USA’s odds dropped from -1000 to -350. The Americans are still the favorites over Australia (+750) and Spain (+900). Australia’s odds have dropped from +2000 and is the most popular bet at the sports book. Over half of wagers are on Australia.

The American men open Olympic play on Sunday at 7 a.m. ET against France. The U.S. is favored by 11.5 points and is -650 to win the game outright. We like the U.S. to cover a 3.5-point spread (-110) in the first quarter as the team should come out motivated and rested after its exhibition game struggles.

On the women’s side, Team USA is -1000 to win it all. Australia is again the No. 2 favorite at +1600 and France is +2200. The women’s team hasn’t had the pre-tournament struggles the men have had and should have a fairly easy time over the next two weeks.

Who cashed bets on Thursday?

Just one of our three baseball underdog picks hit on Thursday. The Giants beat the Dodgers while the Cubs lost to the Cardinals and the Phillies lost to the Braves.

Red Sox and Rays bettors were happy after their teams scraped out 5-4 wins in the 10th inning. The Red Sox got the game tied on a wild pitch, and Hunter Renfroe hit a sacrifice fly to win it.

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