Summer is officially coming to an end on Saturday, football is beginning to steal some headlines and a few aspens out back have turned. Baseball hardcores know this is when it gets good, and those interested in first-inning scoring bets still have plenty to look for. Let’s take a look at MLB odds Sept. 21 and see what works for Thursday’s action.
Braves at Nationals
There was some uncertainty regarding Max Fried this week after he left his prior start early due to a blister situation. With nearly everything sewn up on their end, the Braves chose to play it safe with their star lefty, who took a few extra days and said he’ll be ready to go for this series opener.
Fried has been his usual self when healthy this year, going 7-1 with a 2.64 ERA in 13 starts. All but one of those involved a scoreless first inning, and that came on an RBI groundout against the Yankees on Aug. 14.
For the season, Fried has limited opponents to a tiny .391 OPS in the first inning, including an eight-pitch scoreless first in his one matchup with the Nationals. That should play well against a Nationals team that hit .188 during a 2-6 stretch (before breaking out against a collection of crappy White Sox pitchers on Wednesday).
Rookie Jake Irvin has been a real nice development for Washington. He’ll take on the Braves for the first time in his young career while trying to keep alive a pretty good stretch at home.
Over his last 11 starts in D.C., Irvin has a solid 3.43 ERA. While the Braves have been a first-inning juggernaut this year, topping the MLB totals in virtually every significant category, their rate of run-scoring in the opening frame has declined of late. Also, they tend to jump on pitchers early more often at home. It’s not much, but it’s something that might help Irvin.
The baseball odds will reflect Atlanta’s early scoring ways, and we’ve cashed in on that many times this year. But if the payout is there to go against them (and against the Nationals versus Fried), then this is a sneaky good time to do so.
MLB First Inning to Score: NO
Blue Jays at Yankees
Remember a couple of days ago when we laid out a wacky way in which the Yankees could still be in the playoff mix in the final days of the season? It involved sweeping six games against Toronto and hoping either Texas or Seattle falls apart. Well, that went up in flames the last two nights in the Bronx, and now it’s just a matter of playing out the string in a sad Yankee Stadium atmosphere.
Gerrit Cole gets the nod for the Yankees on Thursday. With their official elimination just a few days away, Cole will be pitching for personal gain, eyeing a potential Cy Young Award. He enters this one at 13-4 with a 2.81 ERA.
Toronto knows all about it. Cole has spun 11⅔ scoreless innings in his two starts against the Blue Jays this year. The six-time All-Star has been super steady in the first inning, too, as he sports a 2.90 ERA in that frame.
Toronto has won five in a row, and scored 13 runs through the first two games of this set. However, it remains 28th in the majors in first-inning scoring percentage (24.0).
Jose Berrios will be on the bump for the Blue Jays as he continues his solid bounceback campaign. He is finishing strong with a 2-0 record and 1.80 ERA in three September starts, including seven scoreless in a dominating performance versus Boston his last time out.
Opponents can sometimes get to Berrios in the middle innings. Over the first three, however, they’re hitting just .209 against him with limited power.
There have been many quiet nights in the Bronx this year, due mostly to the Yankees’ poor play. Expect another with Berrios and Cole doing battle.
MLB First Inning to Score: NO
Pirates at Cubs
We’re playing a little bit of a hunch here, especially as it pertains to one side of this matchup. But we’ve fired up the baseball predictor machine and feel pretty good about this selection.
The Cubs have severely damaged their playoff hopes by losing six of seven games, but they’ve scored 21 runs their last two contests. The Pirates, meanwhile, put up three home runs in Wednesday’s 13-7 rout of Chicago.
The sides have combined for 35 runs on 44 hits in the first two games of the set. The Cubbies have a great shot at keeping that going – especially early in the game – when they take on Johan Oviedo.
The 25-year-old, who is tied for the NL lead in losses with 14, often struggles to find control when he gets to the mound. He has walked an alarming 21 batters in his 30 first innings, which has led to a 6.30 ERA in that frame.
Oviedo got through a scoreless first in his only prior start at Wrigley this year, but he was eventually tagged with four runs in 4⅓ innings in an eventual 7-2 loss. For his career, the big right-hander is 0-3 with a 6.15 mark at “The Friendly Confines.”
Chicago is seventh in the majors in first-inning scoring percentage at home (37.7). Expect an angry bunch of Cubs to jump all over Oviedo.
Kyle Hendricks goes for Chicago in this one. He’s a much safer bet than Oviedo, but has had some bumps in the road at home this year (4.41 ERA). The veteran has also posted a 4.96 mark in three September starts, so he’s not exactly rolling into this matchup.
Still, this is mostly about Oviedo and his poor first-inning command taking on what should be a motivated Chicago lineup in a park that is playing host to some slugfests.
MLB First Inning to Score: YES