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MLB Props: Handicapping First-Inning Scoring

Morton-Hill Matchup Ripe for Early Scoring

After a very abbreviated schedule on Monday in the majors, we have 16 games on tap on Tuesday, including the start of some intriguing sets such as Minnesota-Los Angeles (Dodgers), Tampa Bay-Milwaukee, and Atlanta-Boston. Keeping a focus on first-inning scoring wagers, here are some recommendations for you to take to the sportsbook.

Braves vs Red Sox

There are more than 80 years of age between Charlie Morton and Rich Hill, and 33 of those years they’ve spent on a major league mound. Their wisdom and experience haven’t necessarily yielded many clean openings, however.

Charlie Morton #50 of the Atlanta Braves delivers the pitch to Martin Maldonado #15 of the Houston Astros during the second inning in Game One of the World Series
Charlie Morton - Carmen Mandato/Getty Images/AFP

Morton owns a 6.86 ERA in the first inning, when he’s allowed five of his 15 home runs and issued 10 of his 43 walks. He’s been a bit rocky on the road (4.82 ERA) and has let up at least one first-inning run in six of his starts away from home.

The 38-year-old has enjoyed pitching at Fenway Park over the years, but several members of the current crop of Red Sox hitters have enjoyed facing Morton. Xander Bogaerts (11-for-32), J.D. Martinez (10-for-29) and Eric Hosmer (4-for-10) will be licking their chops.

Hill returned from a knee injury earlier this month and promptly gave up four runs in three innings at Houston. Two of those runs came in the opening frame.

The local kid from nearby Milton, Mass., has struggled in his home park this year, allowing 21 runs in 26.1 innings. Atlanta has been steadily climbing the first-inning scoring percentage ranks over the past couple of months and it ranks 11th in that category on the road (27.5)

First Inning to Score: YES

Angels vs Athletics

Everything points to a scoreless first in this one. The MLB odds sheet might reflect that limiting your payout, but there’s enough to be had consider the following trends and numbers.

Shohei Ohtani’s fine season on the mound includes some remarkable consistency out of the gate. He has a 2.50 ERA in the first, second and third innings. Opponents in those three frames are batting .236, .209, and .209, respectively.

He’ll be up against an Oakland team that is tied for 29th in the majors in first-inning scoring percentage at home (18.9). The A’s haven’t scored over their last 10 innings overall.

James Kaprielian has quietly been on a very nice roll for Oakland, which includes him outdueling Ohtani his last time out in Anaheim. The former first-round pick of the New York Yankees allowed one run in 5.1 innings in that one, leaving his ERA since the start of July at 1.89.

Kaprielian is 3-0 with a 1.17 ERA in four career starts vs. the Angels. If betting online on this one, take that into account.

First Inning to Score: NO

Cardinals vs Rockies

It’s hard to predict scoring against an All-Star like Miles Mikolas, but it’s worth considering if the MLB lines are favorable enough.

Mikolas has a 2.86 ERA in the first inning. He has six consecutive scoreless firsts on the road. However, his road ERA overall is a more pedestrian 3.41 and he’s one of many who have been absolutely hammered at Coors Field.

The right-hander, who turns 34 later this month, has allowed a whopping 20 hits (five home runs) in his 10.2 frames in Denver. The Rockies are 10th in the majors in first-inning scoring percentage (30.6) and will at least give him a challenge out of the gate.

Of course, Mikolas is only half the equation here. We still have Ryan Feltner to think about as he makes his ninth start for the Rockies against a Cardinals team that ranks seventh in the majors in first-inning scoring percentage (34.3).

Feltner has allowed seven runs in his eight first innings and seven runs in his eight-second innings, so we know he’s not coming out on fire. He was pounded for six runs in three frames in his last home start.

As you make your MLB picks, think about some early scoring in Denver.

First Inning to Score: YES

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