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MLB Props: Handicapping First-Inning Scoring, Aug. 12-14

Early Offense Expected in Anaheim, Miami

The weekend slate in Major League Baseball is loaded with divisional clashes. Eleven different series will feature matchups between opponents from the same division, including high-profile sets between Milwaukee and St. Louis, Philadelphia and the New York Mets, and the New York Yankees and Boston.

As always, it’s a great time to give some attention to first-inning scoring wagers. Focusing on a couple of difficult toss-ups each day of the weekend, here are some recommendations for you to take to the sportsbook.

MLB Props: Handicapping First-Inning Scoring, August 12-14

Twins vs Angels (Friday)

Minnesota newcomer Tyler Mahle has been just so-so in the first inning, giving up eight runs in his 20 opening frames on the year. Opponents are batting .243 in that inning, which is the second-highest number against him among the first six frames.

Mahle cruised through the first in his Twins debut on Aug. 5 against Toronto but he gave up two runs in the first in his previous start for Cincinnati against Baltimore. And the Orioles aren’t nearly the first-inning offense that the Angels are. LA ranks 11th in first-inning scoring percentage at home (33.9).

The Angels will send Patrick Sandoval to the mound. He’s coming off a scoreless outing against Seattle, but that came on the heels of a July in which he went 0-5 with a 6.20 ERA.

The local kid, who went to high school in nearby Mission Viejo, has a 5.00 mark in the first inning. His peripherals are pretty good in that frame, but he’s walked nine while striking out 18 and he’s failed to strand many of those free passes.

A Twins lineup that leads the American League in first-inning scoring percentage on the road (35.2) won’t let Sandoval off the hook. Something to think about when glancing at the MLB lines.

First Inning to Score: YES

Tigers vs White Sox (Friday)

Daniel Norris is making his return to the Detroit Tigers after a year away trying to make something work with both Milwaukee and the Chicago Cubs. He signed a free-agent deal with the Tigers last month and made three appearances in the minors before getting a call to join the team he was with from 2015 through 2021.

The southpaw has been primarily a reliever since 2019, so there isn’t much to go by in terms of first-inning wagers. We do know he threw four scoreless innings in his most recent start in the minors, that he had a scoreless first in his only start for the Cubs earlier this season, and that he has a career 2.55 ERA in the opening inning.

That’s actually his best ERA of any inning, and it isn’t even close. Given the fact that Norris is used to getting three quick outs as a reliever, perhaps he’ll have no issues getting out of the gate against a White Sox lineup missing Tim Anderson and struggling to score runs.

Chicago is averaging 2.9 runs over its last eight contests and it’s tied with Oakland for 24th in the majors in first-inning scoring percentage (23.2). Your bet online should take that into account.

Michael Kopech will hope for a little more support when he goes for the White Sox. He’s had three straight scoreless firsts, owns a 3.14 ERA at home, and will be up against a Tigers lineup that has scored 11.1 percent of the time in the first on the road.

Kopech’s one issue in the first inning this year has been wildness, as he’s walked 15 batters in 19.2 frames overall. The Tigers are 29th in the majors in walks, though. Expect him to avoid that issue and cruise through inning No. 1.

First Inning to Score: NO

Twins vs Angels (Saturday)

We’re making a return trip to Anaheim for another first-inning observation, this one pitting Dylan Bundy against Reid Detmers.

Bundy has been pretty good in the first inning, sporting a 3.32 ERA, his best mark among the first six frames. However, he’s been brutal on the road, especially of late. The 29-year-old has given up 12 runs in his last 13 innings away from home.

Additionally, Bundy has a 6.01 ERA in his career at Angel Stadium and a 7.15 mark in five career games (four starts) vs. Los Angeles. Nothing pretty about those numbers, and they could go up against the Angels’ solid first-inning offense.

Detmers has been on a roll for Los Angeles. He’s 2-0 with a 1.16 ERA over his last five starts, which could sway anyone making some MLB picks. The former first-round pick did have some early-season struggles in the first, however, and owns a 5.29 ERA in that frame.

As mentioned earlier, the Twins like to jump on opponents, especially on the road.

First Inning to Score: YES

Guardians vs Blue Jays (Saturday)

Mitch White will be making his second start for Toronto since being dealt by the Los Angeles Dodgers before the deadline. He worked a scoreless first in his debut for the Blue Jays and has allowed four runs in 11 firsts overall, limiting opponents to a .195 average.

Cleveland is just 16th in first-inning scoring percentage on the road (26.7) and it has gotten on the board in the opening stanza only once in its last eight away from home.

While we like White’s chances to get through his first inning clean, it’s a bit more difficult asking Triston McKenzie to do the same for the Guardians. Not that McKenzie isn’t up to the task, as the lanky right-hander is a marvel of consistency, sporting a sub-4.00 ERA in each of the first seven innings.

It’s just that Toronto loves to jump on opposing pitchers early. The Jays rank second in the AL behind only the Yankees in first-inning scoring percentage (35.5) and they’ll be champing at the bit after not playing the last two days.

If you’re eyeing the MLB odds here and unsure where to go, remember that McKenzie was solid through six innings in his one matchup with Toronto this year.

First Inning to Score: NO

Braves vs Marlins (Sunday)

We predicted in this feature a few days ago that Morton might give up a first-inning run in his start at Fenway Park. He didn’t, but the veteran did allow a run in the second, third, fourth and fifth innings in a pretty dismal outing against the Red Sox.

That scoreless first was somewhat of an aberration, as it dropped Morton’s ERA in the opening frame to 6.55. He’s given up five home runs and issued 10 walks in his 22 first innings. There’s been an impressive 36 strikeouts as well, so it seems as if Morton just unloads on his fastball to start games but doesn’t always have his location.

The Marlins are not a good offense and are among the worst in the majors in the first inning. Perhaps that helps Morton get through a clean opening. His counterpart, Braxton Garrett, will face a stiffer challenge in an Atlanta lineup that is eighth in the majors in first-inning scoring percentage on the road (28.3).

Garrett has a 4.50 ERA in the first and opponents are hitting .314 with a .826 OPS in that inning. The former first-round pick is 0-3 with a 5.87 ERA over his last three starts.

First Inning to Score: YES

Athletics vs Astros (Sunday)

The odds sheet will probably lean heavily toward a scoreless first inning in this matchup between Cole Irvin and Cristian Javier, two guys who are really on a roll.

That’s why we present some alternatives, and a deeper dive suggests that these two can be had in the opening inning. Both of them usually calm down and get stronger in the middle frames.

Irvin has a 5.85 ERA in the first, easily his highest among the first six innings. Eight of the 21 doubles and six of the 14 home runs he’s allowed have come in the opening frame. Additionally, he’s been a bit rocky on the road (4.58 ERA).

The 28-year-old had three solid outings against Houston in July, but the ‘Stros got to him for a first-inning run in one of those matchups and they lead the AL in first-inning scoring percentage at home (40.7).

Javier has lost five straight decisions, but he’s given up three runs or fewer in each of his last five outings. If he gets through the first couple of innings unscathed, the righty can get in a good groove. That doesn’t always happen, however, as he’s allowed 17 runs in 34 innings between the first and second frames.

Opponents have drawn eight walks, hit three home runs and slugged five doubles in Javier’s 17 first innings. Oakland got to him for three runs in five innings in a recent matchup and the A’s are very good in the first on the road, ranking 10th in the bigs in scoring percentage (28.1).

First Inning to Score: YES

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