We’ve hit the final two weeks of the baseball schedule, plenty of time to squeeze in several more fruitful first-inning scoring bet. Below are three selections. Keep an eye on the news pages for any weather – or injury–related news for MLB games on Sept. 18
Mets vs Marlins
Excluding the COVID-shortened 2020 season, Miami is trying to get into the playoffs for the first time since its 2003 World Series win. On Monday, the Marlins will put a three-game winning streak on the line behind Edward Cabrera, who is working his way back into the rotation mix.
Cabrera has made two starts since returning from the minors, giving up two runs in 8⅔ innings while striking out 13. He could end up being a much more important rotation piece for a playoff-hopeful squad that recently lost a key cog in the rotation.
Walks are always the issue with the 25-year-old, who issued six of them his last time out. If he has control, he can be very good. If not, it’s another story, and this season has been littered with too many outings in which Cabrera can’t find the zone.
MLB lines on Sept. 18 should reflect that issue. That’s why we think it might make sense to seek that payout and back Cabrera, who has done well in the first inning (2.65 ERA) and is up against a Mets team that ranks last in the majors in first-inning OPS (.295).
We leaned on Jose Butto for a no-RIFI selection last week and it paid off. The 25-year-old from Venezuela worked a 1-2-3 first en route to five solid innings in a win over Arizona, which helped the Marlins’ cause.
The sample size isn’t all that big but Butto has yet to allow a run in four first innings this year. The opponents have just two hits in 14 at-bats in that frame. The Marlins went off at the plate over the weekend against the Braves, including two games in which they scored in the first inning. They remain 28th in first-inning scoring percentage (24.0) and will be seeing Butto for the first time. That can lead to an adjustment period at times.
MLB First Inning to Score: NO
Rockies vs Padres
San Diego is all but finished in the NL Wild-Card race, but it has a tiny pulse (we think). The Padres have won four in a row to get within six of a spot and have the easiest remaining schedule in the NL. Crazier things have happened. Well, maybe not, but play along.
Michael Wacha rediscovering his form over his last three starts would do wonders for the team’s minuscule postseason chances. He seems to have hit a snag in September, giving up 10 runs in eight innings over his last two starts and finishing six frames only once in six tries since coming off the IL last month.
The one-time All-Star has also given up a first-inning run in each of his last four outings. That frame has been uneven all year for him, as opponents are hitting .291 against Wacha with 13 of their 25 hits going for extra bases.
Colorado scores 30.7% of the time in the first inning on the road, the 10th-best figure in the majors. Despite their standing, the Rockies are no pushover in that opening stanza.
Ty Blach has been around the (Ty) block in his career. The soon-to-be 33-year-old has made the most starts (10) since 2018 as he’s assumed a regular spot in the Rockies’ rotation. He’s been pretty solid in the role (3-1, 4.09 ERA) for Colorado, but a bit bumpier in September (6.75 ERA).
Blach has allowed 20 runs in 22⅔ innings in his career at Petco Park. The Padres have been a prolific first-inning attack of late, rising all the way to third in the majors behind only the Braves and Dodgers in first-inning scoring percentage (36.0). This will be a tough test right away for Blach. Take that thought, as well as Wacha’s recent struggles, into account when analyzing the MLB betting lines.
Also, these late-season games between teams still in it (San Diego, sorta) and those out of it (Colorado) offer up some good live betting scenarios late in games. While the Padres will play to win, the Rockies are in full trial mode. They’re more apt to mix and match just to see what might work in 2024.
MLB First Inning to Score: YES
Phillies vs Braves
Kyle Wright will be making his second start for Atlanta since returning from a shoulder injury. The first one didn’t go so well, as the Phillies got to him for six runs in just three innings at Philadelphia last week.
The rematch gives Wright, a 21-game winner in 2022, a chance to try to get a bit closer to that form. But that’s an iffy MLB bet to make, as it might take a little more time before we see the Wright of last year.
The Vanderbilt product carries a 7.48 ERA into this one. The Phillies have risen to sixth in all of baseball in first-inning OPS (.800) amidst a second-half offensive surge. They’ll challenge Wright once again.
Zack Wheeler will take the mound for Philadelphia as it looks to get a step closer to clinching a playoff spot. He was taken deep three times in a start against the Braves on Tuesday. None were in the first and he’s been solid in that stanza most of the year, but anything is on the table against the top of this Atlanta lineup.
The Braves remain way ahead of the pack in first-inning OPS (.977), even with a tiny slowdown in that frame lately. This could be one of the higher-scoring games on Sept. 18.
MLB First Inning to Score: YES