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MLB First Look: Glasnow Takes on Sox in Fenway

Morton, Kelly Lock Horns in Desert

A new set of series begins Friday in the majors and the MLB news pages will be filled with some great divisional matchups (Seattle-Texas, LA Angels-Houston, Tampa Bay-Boston) as well as the big one in LA between the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees. For our purposes, we’re taking a gander at some first-inning scoring wager recommendations to get your weekend started on the right foot.

Rays vs Red Sox

The first- and last-place teams in the American League East lock horns this weekend in Boston, where the Red Sox will try to build off a sweep-avoiding win over Cincinnati on Thursday. They’ll give the ball to Garrett Whitlock in the opener against the Rays as he tries to find a groove.

MLB First Look: Glasnow Takes on Sox in Fenway
Tyler Glasnow #20 of the Tampa Bay Rays - Julio Aguilar/Getty Images/afp

Whitlock has been phenomenal since coming to Boston in 2021, going 14-8 with a 3.06 ERA and a sparkling 1.08 WHIP. All too often, injuries or a change in role (from starter to reliever or vice versa) have prevented him from turning too many heads, but this guy can pitch.

The 26-year-old returned from the IL last week to spin five strong innings at Arizona, serving up only a solo homer. The blast did come in the first inning, however, and Whitlock has had some issues in that frame before. Since the start of 2022, his first-inning ERA is 5.54. He often settles down after that, but the righty can be had early in games and the Rays are among the best teams at taking advantage of that.

Tampa Bay leads the AL in (among many other things) first-inning scoring percentage at 41.4, getting to Whitlock for a tally in the opening stanza in a meeting earlier this year.

The Rays counter with another guy who can really pitch and who also has had his fair share of interruptions over the years. Tyler Glasnow will be making his second start of the season since coming back from an oblique strain, which paused his return from Tommy John surgery. He showed some flashes of brilliance in his return against the Dodgers on Saturday.

Despite his overall dominance, the talented 29-year-old has had a history of first-inning woes. He has a career 5.99 ERA in that inning, issuing 45 walks in 67⅔ innings overall. Sure, a lot of that was when he was trying to find himself as a youngster with Pittsburgh, but the Red Sox – especially at home – is the kind of team that can make Glasnow work through those issues.

Boston, which scored 20 runs in its three-game series with Cincinnati, scores an AL-leading 51.7% of the time in the first inning at home. They also lead the senior circuit with 0.97 runs per first at home, so their MLB odds at an early run are always good on Lansdowne Street.

Both of these starters are very good, but there’s some rust there and they’ll be up against some potent early-game offenses. Consider all of that when making your MLB picks.

  • First Inning to Score: YES
  • First Five Innings: Red Sox +½ (-120)

Blue Jays vs Mets

Those of you digging a bit deeper will see some truly horrific numbers for Chris Bassitt in the first inning. He’s given up a jaw-dropping 13 runs in that frame in his 11 starts, many of them coming on the five home runs he’s allowed in the first.

That might impact the MLB lines at the sportsbook, so we’re here to give you the skinny on everything that’s happened.

All 13 runs came in four of Bassitt’s starts, including six over the first two of the year. So the majority of the time (7-of-11) he has a clean first inning. He also has 15 strikeouts in those 11 firsts while holding opponents to a .244 average, so it’s just a matter of keeping the ball in the park early on.

That’s where the Mets come in. Even with home run leader Pete Alonso, they rank dead last in the majors in first-inning homers with just one. It’s the main reason why they’re also last in all of baseball in first-inning scoring percentage (15.8).

Bassitt has been pretty steady frame-by-frame in his career so this early-season trend is somewhat aberrational. The former Met also has a 2.95 ERA in his career at Citi Field. We expect a strong outing in this one.

On the other side sits Justin Verlander, who doesn’t need much of an introduction. The future Hall of Famer has been a bit up and down since coming off the IL last month, also serving up some early longballs (three in five first innings).

As with Bassitt, we expect that to normalize. In fact, two of the three first-inning home runs came in his very first frame of the season as he was just trying to shake off some cobwebs and find a rhythm.

Toronto is 24th in the majors in first-inning scoring percentage (24.0), so it’s a great time for Verlander to get off to a good start. Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Matt Chapman and Kevin Kiermaier, some of whom the righty will face in the first, are an incredible 3-for-47 with 20 strikeouts against Verlander.

  • First Inning to Score: NO
  • First Five Innings: New York Mets -½ (+110)

Braves vs Diamondbacks

Both Atlanta and Arizona have been formidable offenses in the first inning for much of the year. We’ll see if that trend continues against two quality starters: Charlie Morton and Merrill Kelly.

Kelly is coming off his sixth quality start in the last nine outings, striking out 10 Red Sox hitters in 6⅓ innings. He hasn’t allowed more than four hits in a start since April 27 and opponents are hitting .192 against him overall.

That figure falls to .162 (6-for-37) in the first inning, during which Kelly has struck out 12 batters. He’ll be facing a Braves lineup that leads all of baseball in first-inning scoring percentage (44.6) but has fallen off of late.

Since May 10, Atlanta is averaging just a shade over four runs per contest and posting a putrid .298 on-base percentage. The Braves scored a first-inning run on the road at a 50% clip as of that date. Since then it’s fallen to 40.7% – still quite good but that’s a big drop.

Morton has also been very good from start to finish. He has allowed one run in his 10 first innings while limiting opponents to a tiny .480 OPS. The soon-to-be 40-year-old struck out 10 in 6⅔ scoreless frames in his last road start (at Texas, no less). He’ll be challenged by a solid first-inning offense (7th in scoring percentage) but can survive.

When making a bet online, consider a no-RIFI wager here. Those MLB live betting might want to lean toward the Braves, who had Thursday off and are more rested in the pen.

  • First Inning to Score: NO
  • First Five Innings: Atlanta Braves -½ (+110)

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