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MLB First Look: Kelly, Cobb Matchup Leads Off Weekend RIFI Roundup

Desperate Phillies Aim at Abbott on Sunday

It’s the final weekend of the regular season. There are very important series taking place in Atlanta, Washington, Milwaukee, and San Diego, to name a few. Many of them offer up some intriguing wagers on first-inning scoring. Here are some recommendations for each day of the weekend, but tread lightly and pay close attention to the MLB spreads as pitching assignments might shift.

Let’s check the latest MLB odds, stats, injury reports, and MLB lines. We’ve plenty of Vegas MLB odds for you to consider.

MLB First Look: Kelly, Cobb Matchup Leads Off Weekend RIFI Roundup
MLB First Look: Kelly, Cobb Matchup Leads Off Weekend RIFI Roundup

Diamondbacks vs Giants, Friday

San Francisco pulled into Friday riding a four-game winning streak that has the team still mathematically alive in the NL Wild Card race. The Giants will try to stay afloat behind Alex Cobb, who should give them a nice start to this three-game series.

Cobb owns a sparkling 1.05 first-inning ERA. While walks have been a slight issue in the frame, he’s allowed 20 singles and one double among the 21 hits opponents have managed against him.

The .545 OPS against Cobb in the first is his lowest of any frame. The veteran cruised early against the Diamondbacks his last time out before getting knocked around in the middle innings.

On the other side sits Merrill Kelly, whose first-inning ERA (4.35) doesn’t matter as much here. What does matter is Kelly’s impressive history against San Francisco, a team he will be facing for the sixth time in 2022 on Friday.

Kelly is 3-0 with a 1.53 ERA in his first five 2022 starts vs. the Giants, who are batting .149 against him. He was the winner opposite Cobb last Saturday, finishing with seven solid innings (the first three were scoreless) in a 5-2 victory.

First Inning to Score: NO

Athletics vs Mariners, Friday

Logan Gilbert probably won’t have much of an issue against Oakland’s meager lineup in the opening inning. But it’s no sure thing. The 25-year-old has been slightly more hittable at home, owns a more modest 4.45 ERA since the start of August, and hasn’t been all that smooth versus the A’s.

Gilbert gave up six runs in 11 innings over two earlier starts against Oakland, allowing a pair of homers in the one matchup in Seattle. And the A’s have been a sneaky good first-inning offense all year, currently ranking ninth in the majors in scoring percentage in that frame on the road at 29.1 percent.

A much more viable bet online would favor early offense against Oakland starter Ken Waldichuk, who has given up six runs in his five first innings in the majors. Opponents have jumped all over him with nine hits (four doubles, one home run) in just 23 at-bats in the first.

Seattle, which is currently in a battle to claim the top AL Wild Card slot, is fifth in the majors in first-inning scoring percentage after it scored two to begin the win against Texas on Thursday.

First Inning to Score: YES

Orioles vs Yankees, Saturday

We’ve loved backing Austin Voth with some NRFI (No Runs First Inning) bets, as he almost always comes through. The Baltimore Orioles reclamation project, which was claimed off waivers with a 10.13 ERA and has posted a 2.77 number for the Orioles, has let up only three runs in 16 first innings.

Sure, pitching in Yankee Stadium is a unique situation, but he’ll be facing a makeshift New York lineup as that team gears up for the postseason. Voth can always walk Aaron Judge, a popular tactic of late.

On the other side sits Nestor Cortes, who has established himself as the Yankees ace with a great stretch run. He’s 2-0 with a 1.73 ERA over his last five starts, including a rain-shortened shutout against Boston his last time out.

Baltimore Orioles haven’t scored a run against Cortes in 11 innings this season. All opponents are batting just .190 against him in the first inning. So expect an early goose egg here when making your MLB picks.

First Inning to Score: NO

Red Sox vs Blue Jays, Saturday

Sticking in the AL East, we have Toronto trying to nail down a postseason berth by picking on last-place Boston. The pitching matchup features Red Sox rookie Brayan Bello, who – like Voth above – has been a favorite go-to for some NRFI bets.

Bello has a 1.65 ERA in his five September starts with no first-inning runs allowed. The Las Vegas odds might see his first-inning ERA at 7.20 and set things accordingly, but you now know better and might be able to take advantage of the fact that Bello has figured it out.

You can also ignore the fact that the 23-year-old was hammered in the opening frame by the Blue Jays early in the season. That’s when he was finding his way, and he was much more effective in a rematch in August.

We’ve also leaned a bit on Ross Stripling in some NRFI recommendations, especially in the latter portions of the season. The veteran right-hander owns a 2.73 ERA since the start of June, and he’s been exceptionally clean out of the gate in most games, as his ERA in both the first and second innings is below 2.00.

Boston Red Sox have managed six runs in 20 innings against Stripling this year. Two of them did come in the first inning, but we like his chances to start to clean against a Boston Red Sox team now playing out the string.

First Inning to Score: NO

Rays vs Astros, Sunday

Again, be careful on these Sunday games, as teams may adjust their starters. But, for now, we have Corey Kluber going against Luis Garcia in this series finale.

Garcia has won six straight decisions while posting a 3.46 ERA, a stretch that includes five scoreless at Tampa Bay Rays on Sept. 19. He has allowed three first-inning runs in the span, however, and his ERA in that frame is just a so-so 4.00.

Tampa Bay Rays is a slightly better-than-average first-inning offense, leading the AL in walks in the opening frame with 69. Garcia’s biggest issue early on is his lack of control, as he’s issued 10 free passes in his 27 first innings.

Kluber was brilliant through seven innings against Houston two turns ago but has been up and down of late. He was chased after only four innings against Cleveland in his last start, giving up three runs on eight hits.

The first inning has been a slight problem for the two-time Cy Young Award winner all year, as he owns a 4.55 ERA in the inning. And that’s Houston’s specialty. The Astros rank first in the AL in first-inning scoring percentage at 35.3, a number that jumps all the way up to 40.0 at home.

First Inning to Score: YES

Phillies vs Nationals, Sunday

Zack Wheeler has looked pretty good for Philadelphia in his first two starts back from an elbow issue, and he is scheduled to get one final regular-season tune-up in this one.

Wheeler has dominated out of the gate in most games, posting a 1.44 ERA in the first inning and a 1.80 ERA in the second. One of his many scoreless firsts came in his only encounter with the Washington Nationals this year, in which he allowed only one run in seven frames.

The MLB lines sheet might post odds that suggest wariness of Wheeler’s counterpart, Cory Abbott, who is 0-4 with a 5.11 ERA going into this one. Regarding early scoring, however, Abbott is a pretty good bet.

The Loyola Marymount product, who recently turned 27, has allowed two runs in his eight first innings, one in his eight-second innings, and one in his eight third innings. That’s good for a 1.50 ERA in frames 1-3, during which opponents hit just .153.

Philadelphia Phillies went into the weekend in a major slide, and they’ve been a pretty crappy first-inning offense all year. In fact, they entered Friday ranked 27th in the majors in first-inning scoring percentage on the road (17.6).

First Inning to Score: NO

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