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MLB Playoffs Betting Preview

It took all season – literally until the final Sunday – to determine all the Major League Baseball playoff matchups. But the dust has finally settled; the postseason begins this week.

Here’s a look at every series (check in with online shops such as Bovada OR Sportsbook.ag for playoff series odds, which will be posted later today.

The Tampa Bay Rays (96-66) have unfinished business after reaching the World Series two years ago. Their core is very much the same but they’re a little bit older and wiser. More specifically, their young pitchers have really started to mature.

David Price had a Cy Young-caliber 2010 season, going 19-6 with a 2.72 ERA; he’s joined by Matt Garza and Jeremy Hellickson in one of baseball’s best young rotations. They are the third betting choice on the latest World Series odds list at {URL=http://affiliates.5dimes.com/tracking/Affiliate.asp?AffID=AF0002320&medi...}5DIMES.COM{/URL}.

Tampa’s American League Division Series opponents, the Texas Rangers (90-72), are loaded with explosive talent as well - but more on the offensive side. Josh Hamilton and Vladimir Guerrero lead the high-octane attack. Can they help the Rangers pull off an upset in their first playoff appearance since 1999? Texas is currently a +1050 underdog at {URL=http://affiliates.5dimes.com/tracking/Affiliate.asp?AffID=AF0002320&medi...}5DIMES.COM{/URL}.

The other ALDS matchup pits the Minnesota Twins (94-68) against the reigning World Series champion New York Yankees (95-67). The Twins will have to make do without slugger Justin Morneau, whose concussion symptoms have sidelined him since July.

Oddsmakers make Minnesota a definite underdog against the Bronx Bombers – but is there a chink in the armor?

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The Yankees’ pitching isn’t the sure thing it was last season. CC Sabathia is the unquestioned ace but Phil Hughes tired as the season progressed and Javier Vazquez struggled to keep the ball in the park. Maybe crafty vet Andy Pettitte will elevate his game in crunch time? The Yankees are the second betting choice at {URL=http://affiliates.5dimes.com/tracking/Affiliate.asp?AffID=AF0002320&medi...}5DIMES.COM{/URL}, coming in at +335.

The biggest sportsbook dog: the young Cincinnati Reds (91-71), who face the powerhouse Philadelphia Phillies (97-65) in the NLDS. With a three-headed monster of Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels leading their rotation, the Phillies could be the team to beat.

After falling to 48-46 earlier this season, they ended 2010 on a 49-19 run. MVP frontrunner Joey Votto and the Reds hope their bats and outstanding defense can help them pull off a shocker. They are +1165 to win it all.

The San Francisco Giants (92-70) and Atlanta Braves (91-71) didn’t know their fates until the Giants eliminated the San Diego Padres on Sunday. Now, they battle each other in what might be the toughest divisional series matchup to predict on paper.

The Giants are offensively challenged but have a dominant pitching staff featuring Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, and the underrated Jonathan Sanchez. The Braves counter with flamethrower Tommy Hanson and the efficient Tim Hudson.

Offense could make the difference in this series – and the Braves probably have the edge in that department thanks to Brian McCann and the athletic, powerful rookie Jason Heyward. Atlanta is the biggest longshot, coming in at +1250 odds at {URL=http://affiliates.5dimes.com/tracking/Affiliate.asp?AffID=AF0002320&medi...}5DIMES.COM{/URL}.