Independence Day would feel empty without a quality day of baseball before fireworks. And, if you're into overindulging, betting on a hot-dog eating contest. We'll get to that.
Let's start with baseball, since it's a rare day Major League Baseball starts before noon. The Washington Nationals have their 11 a.m. game on July 4, a fairly new tradition that has caught on pretty well. This year the Nationals host the Miami Marlins in the final game of a four-game series (to accommodate the 11 a.m. start, the July 4 contest can't be the first game of a series due to travel for the visitors and the early time).
The Nationals are a slight -105 underdog at BetMGM against the Marlins. The Nats are having a rough year and in particular their starting pitcher Patrick Corbin has been a bad bet — among 177 starting pitchers tracked by Covers.com, only Frankie Montas and Hunter Greene have lost bettors more money this season than Corbin — but maybe the Nats can get an emotional bump with a big crowd for the holiday.
The best matchup of the early games on Monday is the Tampa Bay Rays at the Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox have moved up to second place in the AL East and while both Boston and Tampa Bay are hopelessly behind the New York Yankees, it's an important series in the wild-card picture.
At night, the best of the MLB matchups is probably the St. Louis Cardinals at the Atlanta Braves. The Braves have come on strong after a slow start. They're a -175 favorite, which is pretty heavy against a good Cardinals team. It might be a good spot for an underdog.
No matter which baseball games you end up betting, nothing says America like firing up the grill and playing a small three-team holiday baseball parlay.
Here's the first look at the sports betting slate for Monday:
Betting on people eating hot dogs
Joey Chesnut is a dynasty in the world of gluttony.
Yes, you can bet on the annual Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest at BetMGM, and no, you probably don't want to bet against Chesnut. Chesnut has won the event 14 times. In 2020 he ate 76 hot dogs in 10 minutes, for a new record. You don't mess with Chesnut at a buffet.
You don't want to fade him at the betting counter either. Chesnut is -3000 to win the event, and the field is +1000 at BetMGM. If you want to bet Chesnut without taking the field, you can bet on the over/under on 74.5 hot dogs. The over is the favorite at -140. That seems like a lot and the under is probably the better play at +110, but we've already spent too much time handicapping competitive eating here.
Anything else to bet on?
There is a lone WNBA game. The Phoenix Mercury play at the Los Angeles Sparks. Both teams are under .500 so it's not a marquee matchup, but it's something if you don't want to bet on baseball or eating.
What's the best bet?
It's not the sexiest matchup, but the Cleveland Guardians at -135 favorites over the Detroit Tigers is decent value. Zach Plesac is a solid starter for the Guardians, who are 10.5 games better in the standings than the Tigers. And it's an early afternoon start, so you can cash a ticket before heading out to watch fireworks.