Athletics at Astros
Hunter Brown figures to have some better days with Houston. He’s got the stuff and seemingly the makeup to be a standout rotational piece for years to come. But 2023, when it was assumed he’d be breaking out, has been a bit of a slog.
Since a no-decision at Dodger Stadium on June 25 with six solid innings, Brown has gone 4-7 with a 6.63 ERA in 12 appearances (11 starts). The strikeouts are there, but so are the hits – a lot of them. Opponents are batting .316 in that span.
Brown’s first-inning ERA sits at 4.50. Not awful, but not a dominating subset either. He shut down the Athletics twice early in the season when he was dealing well, but did give up a first-inning run in their last encounter.
Those of you who have been with us since the beginning know we sometimes can side with the A’s on the road, where they rank fifth in scoring percentage in the first inning (33.8). That, combined with the fact that they’re slugging .480 during their current 7-4 surge, makes Brown a question mark
Behind Shea Langeliers, Oakland jumped all over Justin Verlander in the first inning of Tuesday’s 6-2 win.
Pete Blackburn was an All-Star in 2022 and has been a tad better this year for Oakland. However, there have been some issues on the road, where he sports a 1.68 WHIP, and there have been loads of traffic on the bases in the first inning this year.
Opponents are batting .358 against Blackburn in the opening frame. That’s not a great number to take into a matchup with the Astros, who also scored in the first inning Tuesday and lead the AL in first-inning OPS (.841).
The MLB lines will lean heavily toward Houston in this matchup of AL West haves and have-nots. For RIFI purposes, we like a bet online in favor of some early runs.
First Inning to Score: YES
Rangers at Blue Jays
There are three teams fighting for the last two spots in the AL wild-card race, which will be the centerpiece of the MLB news cycle in these next two-plus weeks. Two of them are tangling in Toronto this week, and there’s a nice matchup on the mound Wednesday night.
Yusei Kikuchi will take on the Rangers in the top half of the first. He owns a 2.44 ERA since the All-Star break and has been very good at home all year, posting a 5-2 mark with a 3.38 ERA in 13 starts.
Those solid numbers continue when we target the first inning (2.89 ERA), and Kikuchi will be going after a Texas offense that ranks 27th in first-inning scoring percentage on the road (20.3).
It’s been a mixed bag for Jordan Montgomery since he was acquired by the Rangers in a trade with St. Louis. He started out strong, but has been roughed up over his last three outings.
The tall lefty has been pretty solid on the road all year (3.08 ERA). The same goes for his first innings (3.21) and his career at Rogers Centre (3.32). That’s a pretty consistent set of figures that should give you some confidence – along with Kikuchi – in an MLB bet in favor of a scoreless first.
Those of you live betting must remember that the Texas bullpen can be a disaster at times.
First Inning to Score: NO
Reds at Tigers
Eduardo Rodriguez will be making his 193rd career start when he gets the nod in this one for Detroit. Connor Phillips will be making his second career start when he goes for Cincinnati.
Let’s start with Rodriguez, who is quietly having his best season with career lows in ERA and WHIP. A big key to his success has been getting off on the right foot, as the veteran lefty owns a sub-3.00 ERA in each of the first three innings.
Opponents are batting .192 with a paltry .589 OPS in those three frames against Rodriguez. The Reds are often a solid attack early in games, but do most of that damage at home. On the road, they rank 26th in first-inning scoring percentage (21.1).
As for Phillips, he started his big league career in a rough manner, giving up five runs in 4⅔ innings of a no-decision against Seattle. He’ll have had seven full days off to work on a few things and will get to go after the Tigers’ limited attack. Detroit got on the board in the first in Tuesday’s matchup, but that’s a relative outlier; the club is 26th in runs per first at home (0.49).
We’re playing a bit of a hunch on this, knowing that Phillips got that first one out of the way and sometimes an offense seeing a new pitcher can yield some awkward at-bats. The Houston native has incredible stuff, having piled up 415 strikeouts in 290⅔ innings as a minor leaguer.
See what the MLB odds sheet says and consider a no-RIFI event at Comerica.
First Inning to Score: NO