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MLB First Look: Braves, Morton Open Second Half vs White Sox

Bello Leads Boston Into Wrigley

The All-Star break has come and gone and we’re ready for some baseball again. Many of us are chomping at the bit to get in some first-inning scoring wagers. For those of you eyeing early offense (or lack thereof) with your online gambling, here are a few recommendations.

White Sox vs Braves

The Chicago White Sox limped into the break with a 1-5 homestand. Their reward? Opening up the second half on the road against the MLB-leading Atlanta Braves.

MLB First Look: Braves, Morton Open Second Half vs White Sox
Luis Robert Jr. #88 of the Chicago White Sox- Steph Chambers/Getty Images/AFP

Atlanta starts this interleague set with a commanding 60-29 record and 11 straight series wins under its belt. Charlie Morton will start things off for them out of the break as he looks to win his fifth straight start.

Morton has a 3.71 first-inning ERA, so he’s just fine in that frame but not overpowering. It was actually a pretty problematic inning for him last year. He’s also struggled from time to time at home, giving up 15 earned runs in 20 innings over a four-start stretch in Atlanta before holding Miami scoreless at home just before the break.

The White Sox don’t present much of a challenge in the first innings, ranking 26th in OPS in that frame. Those that have faced him do have a collective .293 average (12-for-41, two homers), so there could be some quality at-bats.

The real fireworks should come in the bottom half of the first. That’s when Michael Kopech takes his 5.62 first-inning ERA to the mound to face a Braves lineup that is far and away the best offense out of the gate in games. Kopech has allowed five homers in his 16 first innings, and Atlanta has a league-leading 29 in that stanza, scoring 51.1% of the time at home.

The MLB odds should reflect this season-long trend for the Braves. If you’re making some MLB picks here, though, it’s hard to ignore the likelihood of some early offense.

Red Sox vs Cubs

The Boston Red Sox won five straight going into the break and put their best starter on the mound in an effort to make it six in a row. That would be Brayan Bello. He is enjoying a breakout campaign that saw him post a 1.82 ERA over his final five starts before the break.

A big part of Bello’s success lies in his ability to get the jump on opponents. He’s let up only two runs in his last 13 first innings, including a scoreless first in a win at Atlanta, which we’ve already noted scores all the time in that opening frame.

The 24-year-old has enjoyed his time away from home (2.87 ERA) and in interleague settings (2.91), and he’ll be up against a Chicago Cubs unit that ranks 25th in first-inning scoring percentage (24.7).

Before Bello gets to the mound, Kyle Hendricks has the tall task of taking on a potent Red Sox lineup. That could mean an early encounter with Jarren Duran, who hit .427 with 15 extra-base hits over his last 23 games before the break.

If Hendricks can survive that matchup (if Duran is in the lineup…he still sits in favor of veterans from time to time), he should be able to get through a team that ranks 29th in first-inning scoring percentage on the road (14.0). Boston is loaded with big bats but does much of its damage at Fenway Park.

In fact, the Sox are last in the majors in runs per first inning (0.14).

Hendricks has been very consistent and effective in his comeback campaign. He’s let up three first-inning runs in his nine starts while holding opponents to a .219 average, so there’s no real issue there.

When making a bet online, see if a no-RIFI wager makes sense in this series opener at Wrigley Field, which should command plenty of MLB news attention.

  • First Inning to Score: NO
  • First Five Innings: Boston Red Sox -½ (+115)

Guardians vs Rangers

Jon Gray has had some hiccups in the first inning of late. However, it’s been the Toronto Blue Jays, Houston Astros, and Red Sox who have gotten him early. Before that, he had been mostly clean in the opening frame.

The Cleveland Guardians have been a better offense in recent weeks. For the year, however, it doesn’t offer much in the way of first-inning success, ranking 24th in OPS (.684). Current Guardians are just 7-for-37 (.189) against Gray, who carried a solid 3.29 ERA into the break.

Aaron Civale opposes Gray as he looks to maintain his momentum from the first half, which he ended with seven scoreless against Kansas City last week. The 28-year-old owns a 2.56 ERA overall and has allowed only one run in 18 frames between the first and second innings.

He’s coming out very strong in games, limiting opponents to a .174 average through those first two innings.

Texas was a dynamic first-inning offense early in the season and has a lineup loaded with All-Stars. However, it has fallen off a bit in recent weeks and enters the second half just 16th in the majors in first-inning OPS (.742).

Civale is 2-0 with a 1.64 ERA at Texas. Current Rangers hitters have slugged three home runs against him, but those are all by Mitch Garver and Robbie Grossman, two guys he won’t see in the first inning.

Analyze the MLB lines and consider a scoreless first in Arlington.

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