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MLB Props: Handicapping First-Inning Scoring, August 5-7

Trade Deadline Day Muddies the Waters in MLB

If there was a weekend that truly signaled the start of the stretch run in Major League Baseball, this is it. The trade deadline has come and gone and teams are, for the most part, set with the rosters they’ll take into October. With intensity ratcheted up, we continue to focus on first-inning scoring wagers, the easy one-stop shop at the sportsbook.

Here are some suggestions for each day of what is sure to be a wild weekend in the bigs.

MLB Props: Handicapping First-Inning Scoring, August 5-7

Braves vs Mets, Friday

This National League East clash — a five-game series — started with the Mets taking the opener to build a 4½-game lead in the division, the widest gap we’ve seen since June 26.

The Braves will try to avoid falling further back when they give the ball to Ian Anderson on Friday. In what has been a difficult year for Anderson, he’s given up 11 runs in his 20-first innings while allowing opponents to hit .329.

The New York native is coming off a fine start in which he worked six scoreless against Arizona, but the Mets are a different beast. They are hitting .314 with 18 home runs during their current 9-1 stretch, scoring once in the first on Thursday en route to a 6-4 win.

Nobody scores more often in the first inning at home than New York (46.9% of the time).

Taijuan Walker opposes Anderson as he looks to bounce back from a rare non-quality start. After posting a 1.80 ERA over a seven-start span, he has given up six runs in 11⅔ frames through his last two. Three of the seven home runs he’s allowed all year have come in those two outings as Walker’s gone over 100 innings for just the second time since 2017.

Walker’s first-inning ERA of 4.00 is his worst of any frame.

Both pitchers are aiming for their 10th win. One of them might get there, but they may need to overcome some early scoring.

First Inning to Score: YES

Rockies vs Diamondbacks, Friday

Some inflated ERAs on the part of Colorado’s German Marquez and Arizona’s Madison Bumgarner might cause the MLB odds sheet to lean toward some early scoring here. If the payout is there, consider going the other direction in a bet online.

Marquez has posted a pretty solid 3.80 ERA over his last seven starts as he gets past some early-season issues. Included in the run is a seven-inning, two-run outing in a win at Arizona on July 10. He did give up one of those two runs in the first inning, but he’s only allowed two first-inning runs in his last nine starts.

The veteran has enjoyed pitching in Arizona (career 3.58 ERA) and has been pretty good away from Coors Field this year, limiting opponents to a .228 average.

Bumgarner’s a big risk here. He’s traditionally had first-inning struggles before settling down, and that problem has been more pronounced in 2022. The former World Series MVP has given up an alarming 16 earned runs in 21 first innings while allowing seven of his 15 home runs on the year.

Bumgarner has been good at home, though, sporting a 3.03 ERA, and he carved up the Rockies in their one encounter, although one of the two runs he gave up did come in the first inning.

There’s been a bit of an every-other-start thing going on with Bumgarner, who recently said he feels his stuff as is good as it’s been in years. If that pattern holds, and if his stuff remains sharp, he could be in line to buck the trend of first-inning hiccups and cruise past Colorado. But tread lightly when clicking on this one.

First Inning to Score: NO

Pirates vs Orioles, Saturday

JT Brubaker is in danger of losing his 10th game for Pittsburgh against two wins, but he hasn’t been half bad. His first-inning results are a great example, as opponents have produced only a .690 OPS, no home runs, and 23 strikeouts against only six walks in that frame vs the righty.

Somehow 12 runs have come across in those 20 firsts against Brubaker, but the Orioles have been at the bottom of the rankings — or close to it — all season in terms of first-inning scoring percentage. They entered Friday tied with Miami in last place (17.1%) and should allow Brubaker’s solid peripherals to yield a scoreless first.

Austin Voth, who goes for Baltimore, is unscored upon in seven first innings this year. He’s given up three hits — all singles — in 24 at-bats while issuing just two walks. The sample size isn’t huge, but Voth has always shot out of the gate in fine fashion – his career 3.10 first-inning ERA is his best of any frame.

Like the Orioles, the Pirates present few challenges in terms of first-inning scoring – they rank 28th at 19.1%.

First Inning to Score: NO

MLB Props: Handicapping First-Inning Scoring, August 5-7

Astros vs Guardians, Saturday

Both Houston’s Luis Garcia and Cleveland’s Cal Quantrill have had some ups and downs of late and will try to find the groove when they match up at Progressive Field.

Garcia is coming off a solid outing in which he gave up three runs in seven innings in a hard-luck loss to Boston. He held the Red Sox scoreless in the first and owns a 3.79 ERA in the opening frame, during which opponents are batting .214.

Those numbers drop to 1.89 and .139 in the second, so it’s clear Garcia is sharp to begin games. He held the Guardians scoreless over the first two in an earlier matchup before Cleveland got to him in the middle innings.

Quantrill has given up 10 runs (nine earned) in 11⅓ innings over his last two starts but he yielded three earned runs or fewer in 15 of his first 18 starts. He’s been very good out of the chute by allowing just five runs in 20 first innings.

The former first-round pick held Houston scoreless through the first four innings of a quality start earlier in the year. The Astros are a pretty solid first-inning offense, but a bit more toward the middle of the pack on the road (28.6%).

First Inning to Score: NO

Yankees vs Cardinals, Sunday

Frankie Montas is expected to make his debut for New York in this one after an 11-day layoff. There are a few peripherals that suggest he could struggle out of the gate, and you might consider some of those when making your MLB picks.

Montas has thrown just nine innings since the start of July due to a shoulder issue. Rust will certainly be a factor. Additionally, his ERA usually rises with the more rest he’s given, as it sits at 4.29 for his career when afforded six days off or more (it’s 2.66 on traditional rest).

The former Oakland Athletic has a 3.79 ERA in the first inning this year. Opponents are batting .280 with a .779 OPS in that inning, both of which represent the highest marks against him over any of the first seven frames.

Behind MVP front runner Paul Goldschmidt, the Cardinals are a prolific first-inning offense, producing a run at home over 40% of the time. They’ll immediately challenge a potentially rusty and jittery Montas.

Adam Wainwright goes for the hosts. He’s been brilliant when throwing to longtime batterymate Yadier Molina (2.59 ERA in 13 starts) and it stands to reason those two will be paired up again. Wainwright has been pretty good in the first inning, but opponents’ .810 OPS is easily the highest among his first five frames and the Yankees do plenty of damage early on.

The payout might be nice if you think one or both of these standout hurlers gives up an early run.

First Inning to Score: YES

Nationals vs Phillies, Sunday

This finale in Philadelphia pits Cory Abbott for Washington against Aaron Nola for the Phillies.

Abbot has one start this year and two for his career, so there isn’t much to go by here. But he spun five scoreless as a starter against the Mets his last time out opposite Jacob deGrom, so he’s not going to be flummoxed by any particular matchup.

The Phillies entered Friday ranked 22nd in the majors in first-inning scoring percentage (25.7%) so they can be had early on.

Nola has been brilliant out of the gate. Opponents have scored three runs against him in 21 first innings and one run in 21-second innings. They’re batting .184 in those frames with zero home runs off of Nola.

The one-time All-Star tossed eight scoreless in his first matchup with the Nationals this year and held them to three runs in 7⅔ innings in a rematch. And that was against a Washington team with Juan Soto and Josh Bell.

The early-season Nationals were strong offensively in the first innings. They’ve plummeted down those rankings, however, going from first in the majors on June 1 in terms of first-inning percentage (41.2) to 11th (29.9) as of Friday.

Consider the makeshift batting order Nola will face when staring at the MLB lines for this one.

First Inning to Score: NO

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