Baseball’s shift into a new week features a host of divisional rivalries and no interleague games Monday. Teams very familiar with one another will start a series, including big matchups between the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs, the Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore Orioles and the Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners.
As the intensity ratchets up just a bit, we’ll take a look at some possible first-inning scoring wagers. As always, we’ll try to pick a few matchups that might be tougher to break down as you stare at our MLB lines page. So stay here as we take another look at some RIFI (Runs in First Inning) bets for you to consider with your online gambling at the sportsbook.
Cardinals vs Cubs
The first iteration of this age-old rivalry sees St. Louis head to Wrigley Field for three straight before a trip to Fenway Park in what becomes a pretty cool tour of the game’s oldest ballparks.
The last-place Cardinals enter with a tiny degree of momentum after snapping an eight-game slide in impressive fashion with a 12-6 win over Detroit on Sunday. Paul Goldschmidt went deep three times and a frustrated lineup took advantage of four Tigers errors in the team’s second-best scoring output of the season.
The offense could be better in St. Louis, but it’s not the primary culprit in the team’s miserable start. That would be the starting pitching. Offensively, the Cardinals are tied for first in the majors in first-inning scoring percentage (45.71) and will give Marcus Stroman an immediate challenge.
The righty has been excellent out of the gate, including seven scoreless firsts in his seven starts. His inning-to-inning numbers are wildly up and down and there will be some normalization. St. Louis is the kind of team that can buck the first-inning trend.
Consider that the top three hitters in the Cardinals’ lineup on Sunday – Lars Nootbaar, Goldschmidt and Nolan Gorman – are a combined 15-for-40 (.375) with five home runs against Stroman.
In two home starts vs. St. Louis last year, Stroman gave up 14 runs on 21 hits in only nine innings.
His counterpart on Monday, Miles Mikolas, is one of the many struggling Cardinals starters. He’s posted a 5.79 ERA through his first seven outings, giving up seven runs in the first inning.
Opponents are hitting .406 against Mikolas in that opening frame. He’s been pretty good against the Cubs over the years (2.16 ERA) but hasn’t hit his stride in 2023. Consider a yes-RIFI option here if you’re doing a bet online.
Nationals vs Giants
Every so often, we just play a hunch. In the case of Jake Irvin, making his second career start for Washington, that’s the route we’re going.
Irvin wasn’t off to a great start in the minors (5.64 ERA in five starts) and gave up a run in the first inning of his first major league game last week. But he’s a guy that the Nationals seem to like, and he did well to find a good groove in that outing against the Cubs.
The 26-year-old hit the first batter he faced with the first pitch he threw. A walk came two batters later and a seeing-eye single brought in the run. Irvin was solid the rest of the way, getting the Nationals into the fifth in a 1-1 game, and should be ready for a better opening in this one.
The Giants have been a pretty good first-inning offense this year but mostly away from home. By the Bay, they’re just 20th in first-inning scoring percentage (29.41).
Alex Cobb lowers his ERA to 2.01 after another spectacular start! #SFGiants
7 IP / 5 H / 0 ER / 2 BB / 5 K / 107 pitches
(AP Images/Jeff Chiu) pic.twitter.com/2akEnDIOZL
— San Francisco Giants (@SFGiantsFans) May 7, 2023
Anthony DeSclafani will take the mound first. He’s got much more of a track record than Irvin and what he’s shown in 2023 gives us confidence in a no-RIFI wager. Opponents are batting .143 in the first inning against DeSclafani, during which he’s posted eight strikeouts and no walks.
Washington is 23rd in first-inning scoring percentage (26.47). That number was 33.33 a couple of weeks ago, so the club has been sinking a bit with its early attack.
Athletics vs Yankees
Nestor Cortes is in a little slump, something the Yankees haven’t seen much of in the past couple of years. He gave up seven runs in 4⅔ innings at Texas his last time out after surrendering four in five frames two turns ago at Minnesota.
Perhaps a return home to face lowly Oakland will help. But we think that if the payout makes sense, you can lean toward a yes-RIFI wager here. Cortes owns a 6.00 ERA in first innings this year. While all the damage was done in the blow-up at Texas, it wasn’t his best frame during his 2022 All-Star season, when the 28-year-old had a 3.21 ERA in the first inning before dominating over the next few frames.
Oakland isn’t going to strike fear into Cortes. Consider, however, that the Athletics are coming off their first series win of the season and that they very quietly lead all of baseball in first-inning scoring percentage on the road (52.94).
The A’s also hit lefties much better than righties. It’s no shoo-in that Cortes will roll early.
It’s also not a given that JP Sears will keep New York down in the first inning. The ex-Yankee has given up six runs in six firsts when opponents are 9-for-27 with a pair of homers.
New York won’t get Aaron Judge back until the following day, it seems. The rest of the crew has been somewhat mediocre without him, but the club still ranks ninth overall in terms of runs per first inning at home (0.74).
Expect some early action in this one and if you’re doing some MLB live betting later on you can expect Cortes to settle into a nice groove.